Sector overview: getting into beauty and hairdressing

Most of us enjoy a little pampering from time to time and the world of personal and beauty services appears to be faring well in the recession for that very reason.  For some, a new haircut every so often is as far as it goes, whereas for others, a pedicure, eyelash tint or spray tan might be on the list of essential treatments each month.  As well as hair and beauty, holistic complementary services such as reflexology, aromatherapy and spa therapy are also continuing to increase in variety and popularity.

Just as the range of personal and beauty services is wide and varied, so are the types of job roles within the sector and there may just be something to suit you.  Here are some options…

Beauty Therapist

Ways of qualifying as a beauty therapist include:

  • Gaining a Level 3 NVQ Certificate in Beauty Therapy or equivalent, such as a BTEC National Diploma, ITEC Diploma or Foundation Degree.
  • Undertaking an Apprenticeship in Beauty Therapy, a vocational qualification involving on-the-job training in a salon, often whilst working towards a qualification.

The HABIA (Hair and Beauty Industry Authority) website contains plenty of information on qualifications and career paths available.

Personal attributes you will need include:

  • Excellent communication skills, a pleasant and personable approach;
  • An awareness of health and safety issues;
  • The ability to create a calm environment where clients can relax and feel at ease;
  • A professional attitude, understanding the need to treat client information confidentially.

Opportunities include:

  • Once qualified, the list of areas to specialise in is huge (some requiring additional qualifications),  including: spa therapy; nail technology;  Holistic treatments, e.g. reflexology, Reiki, aromatherapy, massage; make-up artistry for theatre or television;
  • Work in the luxury market at a day spa or health farm;
  • Work in an independent salon or one attached to a gym or leisure club;
  • Set yourself up as self-employed, running your own salon or mobile beauty business – there are many factors to consider before doing this, a good website to visit for more information, is;
  • Become resident beauty therapist on a cruise liner or at a holiday resort.

Future prospects:

  • Learn advanced techniques, e.g. as an Electrologist, removing thread veins and warts;
  • Take additional training to become a Salon or Spa Manager;
  • Qualify as a Beauty Therapy Tutor or Assessor.



A newly qualified beauty therapist can expect to earn around £13k per year.  Once you have a few years’ experience under your belt, this will rise to around £17k per year, while managers can earn around £25k per annum.

Holistic Therapist/Spa Therapist

Once qualified, Beauty Therapists often choose to specialise in holistic therapies, which include reflexology, massage, aromatherapy and Reiki.  However, it is also possible to qualify as a holistic therapist from the outset, without completing a beauty therapist course first.

The same applies for spa therapy, for which there are also BTEC, ITEC and NVQ courses available, as well as an apprenticeship  scheme.    Spa Therapists provide a variety of heat and wet body treatments, from facials to electrotherapy.   They also offer relaxation treatments, such as flotation, steam and sauna, as well as focusing on health and fitness by working alongside nutritionists.

Visit the HABIA website for further information on holistic and spa therapy courses.


Although you aren’t legally required to have any qualifications to work as a hairdresser in the UK, you would find it difficult to get work without any training.  The most common route to becoming a hairdresser is therefore:

  • Through gaining an NVQ Certificate in Hairdressing, to a minimum of Level 2, a Foundation Degree or a BTEC / ITEC National Diploma;
  • Undertaking an Apprenticeship in Hairdressing, a vocational qualification involving on-the-job training in a hair salon, often working towards a qualification.

The HABIA website contains plenty of information on qualifications and career paths available.

Personal attributes you will need include:

  • A sociable, friendly and diplomatic approach;
  • Creativity, a good sense of style and an interest in fashion and current trends;
  • A hard-working attitude and stamina to remain on your feet all day.

Opportunities include:

There are plenty of progression routes in hairdressing, including:

  • Colour Technician;
  • Salon Manager (NVQ Level 4 generally required for this);
  • Set yourself up as self-employed and either hire a chair from a salon, become a mobile hairdresser or run your own salon business;
  • Hairdressing Tutor or Assessor;
  • Stylist for theatre or television.


Once NVQ qualified, a new hairdresser can expect to earn between £9k and £16k, while NVQ Level 3 or 4 qualified senior stylists can earn up to £30k.

Interested but want to know what it’s really like?

Hear personal and inspiring icould stories from people with first-hand experience of working in the beauty and hairdressing businesses: