Starting A Career In Hairdressing

Getting Started: Your First Year

Qualifications / Experience: NVQ Awards and Certificates
Duration: 1 year, full time
Entry requirements: These can vary, but you usually need at least two grade Ds at GCSE level (including English Language), or a Hairdressing NVQ level 1 for more advanced courses. 
Attending hairdressing courses at college and opting for the more traditional approach to getting qualified means you can take time learning everything you need to know about your chosen career – from salon health and safety regulations to selling your unique services and products to maximise profit. Not every course is the same, though, so think about what field that you’d like to specialise in, as this could influence your decision. You’ll need to take separate courses if you want to specialise as a barber or African Caribbean hairdresser, for example, and if later down the line you decide to become a colourist, well there’s a course for that too!

What you’ll need:

It’s pretty essential to own a good hairdressing kit to get you started. We’ve got a full Level 1 kit available – check out what’s included to get an idea of the things you’ll need. This hairdressing kitis designed for complete beginners to allow you to practice on a mannequin head and other (willing!) participants:


NVQ Hairdressing Courses

NVQ qualifications are the UK standard, and are recognised by industry professionals – if you’re a complete beginner, you’ll usually need to take levels 1-2 to be considered proficient. And, once you start to get to level 3, this is where to opportunity to specialise comes into play (both the colouring and African Caribbean courses are at level 3, for example) and even where you can train to become a more senior stylist. If you train in Scotland, you’ll receive an SVQ instead.
NVQs are designed to test your workplace abilities, and are specially designed to work in tandem with real workplace experience. So, if you’re worried about the fees, contact colleges to chat about options that would suit you – it’s common to work alongside gaining your qualification.

From the Experts:

“It’s always important to research what’s involved, ensuring that the course meets your qualification needs and will allow you to progress in your career,” says Andy Heasman, international creative director of Rush Hair.
Make yourself employable through work experience
If you’ve decided on a college course, it’s a good idea to get salon experience for the CV. “Experience in your chosen field will benefit you in so many different ways, and prepare you for real salon life. Those who work Saturdays in salons as assistants or receptionists are gaining vital experience, which prepares them for their hairdressing life,” says Mia Dellicompagni, director of hairdressing at the Francesco Group. Gaining some work experience while you’re learning will put you ahead of your college peers when it comes to applying for your first job or apprenticeship – even if it’s just one day a week!


Moving Beyond your First Year: Hairdressing Apprenticeships

Qualifications: It’s common to have an NVQ level 1 hairdressing course to move into an apprenticeship.
Duration:  Usually 18+ months with 30 hours in the salon and time at college
Salary: Find out more at the site around your Apprenticeship Pay & Conditions
Continuing full time education not quite your thing? As with most vocational careers, after an initial stint in college you can start working straight away while continuing your education in a more practical setting.
Unlike the very well behaved mannequin heads, you’ll get to see the situations (both amazing and not so amazing) that occur in hair salons every day. Check out the websites of your local salons to find out about their apprenticeship schemes, or academies such as the Rainbow Room International Academy, which says: “We teach to SVQ Levels 2 and 3, through a mix of hands-on training and theory. Every client and every day are different, so to progress in this industry you want as much experience as possible.” Apprenticeships are highly beneficial to beginners as they offer a very involved and intense approach to learning, working in a real salon as opposed to your college space, and you’ll generally split your time between real work experience and developing your newly gained practical skills back at college.
What you’ll need:
Often, you’ll be provided with everything you need to work as part of your apprenticeship, including a uniform. Check out our beauty tunics section for the kind of outfit you might end up wearing. One of the great things about a hairdressing career is that you’re allowed to look stylish, too!
From the Experts:
Sean Hanna, managing director at seanhanna salons, says: “A hairdressing apprenticeship, with salon-based training, gives you the chance to earn while you learn. Expectations can be quite high, though, as the salons will be aware that you’re interacting with their clients.”

Getting the Best of Both Worlds

If you can’t decide between a college diploma and an apprenticeship, why not take advantage of both?
Hair industry icon the Francesco group teams up with lots of colleges so students can gain salon experience as well as learning the theory side. If you take advantage of college and work experience, you’ll benefit from developing basic practical skills as well as getting used to the daily work of a hairdresser. Bonus: if you do well at your apprenticeship, you could be called back to your salon as a qualified hairdresser!
From the Experts:
“We offer this to people of all ages, as we believe that it is never too late to learn and embark on a new career path,” says Craig Davies, the group’s director of education. “We work with local colleges in order to provide real-life training within a salon-based learning institute.”

Continued learning: Hair styling and cutting courses for qualified professionals

Option 1: Training/refresher courses

If you’ve had a break from hairdressing, but you’re desperate to get back into the salon, boost your confidence and skills with a refresher course. Salon Services offers various hair styling and hair cutting courses including the Classic Cutting Course [hyperlink to] covering longer layered, shorter layered and graduated cuts.

Option 2: Developing additional skills

Perhaps you want to take your career into a new direction, or you’re looking to advance in your current salon. Maybe you’re even ready to open your own place, or want to move into freelancing? Whatever your reasons, just like any industry the world of hairdressing is always changing. You’ll need to stay creative, focused and ahead of the latest trends so even seasoned hairdressers can benefit from continued learning. The great thing about hairdressing is that you really never stop learning!
NVQ levels 3 and 4 offer highly specialised skill sets to add to your repertoire, something which can be very attractive to both prospective employers and enticing new clients to your salon. Here’s just a few examples of what these can teach you:

Level 3 – senior qualifications


Colouring hair using advanced techniques (becoming a professional colourist)
Salon management and financial planning for the beauty industry
Marketing skills and experience to boost your revenue as a freelancer or senior stylist

Level 4 – specialist qualifications


Colour correction and other advanced styling services
Consultation skills and experience for common conditions
Dealing with specific hair types

What you’ll need:
Hairdressing kits are available for not only the beginners, but for more experienced stylists to practice with too. We’ve got a level 2-3 kit available – you can see there’s a lot more included as you’re expected to become involved with a larger number of treatments and appointments. Of course, if you decide to specialise in a specific type of hairdressing, you may need to purchase additional styling aids (like barbering supplies or Afro hair care) so it’s wise to keep your eyes on how much new equipment you’ll need. If you’re working in a salon, there’s a good chance it’s supplied for you, but sometimes hairdressers prefer working with their own personal tools.
From the Experts:
Even established hair stylists still research and practise their trade to stay ahead of the ever-growing trends, and for beginners in the industry it’s absolutely essential. “Watch videos for any new trends and techniques,” says Leigh Kerr, the Rainbow Room International Academy’s director. The internet is a brilliant place to keep an eye out for new trends, so watch influential beauty and hair bloggers and get familiar with the spaces online where new hair trends develop.


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