Choosing the Right Beauty Course

How to pick a course that is right for you

If you are new to therapy you will no doubt feel snowed under with which course to go for; you may have seen words like accreditation, nationally recognised, NVQ, ITEC and many more leaving your head swimming! Let’s break this down for you a little.

You need to ask yourself what kind of route you wish to take into therapy and that will be largely reliant on how you see you therapy career panning out.  

For example, if you wish to work from home you may well choose a very different path than if you were looking to work internationally on board a cruise ship.

If you are looking at offering therapies in a professional way then you will need to attend some kind of practical training that will allow you to obtain insurance to practice.

Although therapy isn’t yet regulated, we are currently regulated voluntarily by being a member of a professional body such as the Federation of Holistic Therapists or the Guild of Beauty Therapists if we so wish to be. If we have a certificate to practice and gain insurance it would also allow us to be a member of a governing body which would certainly allow us to look more professional to our clients and peers.

This is where things get a little tricky as there are courses around that are one year long, yet other courses that offer the same certification in a few days. You may be wondering what the difference is and how this will affect you.

All professional training has a place. Most courses are broken down into practical and written elements to build up a portfolio of evidence to show your tutor or assessor that you have completed a certain amount of training and understanding of your chosen subject. This may be backed up with case study work or ongoing mini assessments to show your tutor that you have digested the knowledge well.

You may find that you are desperate to get into therapy quickly, so choose a course that is a few days long. This is fine providing you can work well on your own and are confident enough to practice on potential clients outside of the classroom. This is often how short/intensive courses work which is why you may be able to do a shorter course. The year-long courses may include the case studies and written work within the classroom time, making the course the length and bulk that it is.

As a new student to therapy you may find a short, intensive course great for allowing you freedom but not so great if you feel the need for lots of tutor back-up to check your work and help you feel industry confident.

You may feel that you want to immerse yourself in the whole college experience to allow you time to find your feet and really feel part of a community. This is another advantage to longer training. 20 years after my initial training I still have links with my therapy tutors and peers. I have many cherished memories and also have a good insight into just how far I have come in my career since my nervous beginnings!


These may be qualifications that you have seen advertised and wondered which is better. They are both equally professional courses and are both generally set in college environments.

NVQs are a national benchmark and seen to be a qualification to aim for at the very least; this is where you may start to remember seeing private institutions offering a level 2 or a level 3 qualification and wonder what that is. Basically it is a qualification from a private training establishment that is running their course along the same guidelines as a nationally recognised qualification such as an NVQ.

Most beauty courses such as facials, lash tinting, manicures or pedicures are a level 2 qualification, whereas something like body massage would be deemed a level 3 qualification due to the extent of its syllabus.

ITEC qualifications are recognised worldwide, so if you are thinking of going on board cruise ships or want to work abroad where some countries have licensing for therapists, then a qualification of this nature would be expected.


You may have seen a lot of the word accredited being bandied about in the marketing place for therapy. Some courses may be accredited with ITEC again, some with City & Guilds, some with VTCT and some with a governing body such as the Federation of Holistic Therapists or the Guild of Beauty Therapists.

This isn’t so much of a worry for you, it is just an assurance that your qualification is professional. If you have studied an ITEC massage course, once you have passed all required practical and written exams, you would be issued an ITEC (International Therapy Examination Council) certificate that could take your career around the world. You may have attended further education, studying for an NVQ. This may be issued by a national further education body such as City & Guilds or VTCT. Again this is a benchmark that you have passed at a national level that is recognised to be a professional industry standard.

You may have attended a private college where the certificate is issued by the training provider but the training school/provider has been assessed by a governing body such as the Guild of Beauty Therapists or the Federation of Holistic Therapists, so you can be safe in the knowledge that your course is of a nationally recognised industry standard.

CPD for qualified therapists

As a qualified therapist you may well be familiar with the term CPD; this stands for Continuing Professional Development and  is usually the term coined for one or two day courses (sometimes longer) that allow us to extend our skills. For example, if you already have a body massage qualification and have attended an advanced massage course or have obtained a manicure/pedicure certificate and wish to extend your knowledge with training in nail art or gel nails.

If you are a member of certain governing bodies you will be expected to undertake an amount of further training each year to keep you at the top of your game and show your clients just how serious you are about your career. CPD can also be something as simple as reading an article or watching a training DVD, providing you make notes on it should your governing body wish to see how you came to learn your new skill.

Distance learning

Distance learning has its place but the general consensus within the industry is that it can’t be effective enough for students with no prior therapy experience. After all this is a very practical career choice and nothing beats hands on experience with real clients to help round you as a therapist. Having said that the health and beauty industry is definitely utilising distance learning to its advantage, with courses such as anatomy studied online to run alongside the practical element of your learning. There are fantastic e-courses that bring the subject to life much more effectively than trying to learn the science of our industry from a text book.


All training has its place and you may feel that a long course isn’t for you or vice versa. What I would suggest is having a think about where you wish to go with your career. You don’t want to complete a course and then find that you haven’t completed a high enough level of study for your required work place.

I would also suggest that you research your intended training provider and ask as many questions as you like, having been in training for many years it is vital that you are on the right course for you and any decent trainer won’t have an issue spending time helping you decide on your best path. Let’s face it you are probably going to be investing a large amount of your own, your parents or your employers money, so it is important for you to be content with your choice. It is going to be how you pay your bills and on top of that your future passion!

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