Hairdressing is both exciting and rewarding. You’ll come into contact with people from all walks of life, and no two days are ever the same. It’s also one of the few careers that lets you unleash your creativity, while helping others to feel more confident about their appearance.
There are two routes to becoming a hairdresser – apprenticeships or private courses. In this guide, you’ll find out more about what it’s like to be a professional hairdresser, the skills you’ll need, and how to launch a career in the industry.
What’s it like to be a hairdresser?
If you love fashion, or want a career that lets you express yourself creatively, hairdressing is ideal for you.
It’s energetic and fast-paced, so you’ll need plenty of enthusiasm. Good social skills are vital too, as you’ll be chatting to customers throughout the day. Some days you might be busy until the evening, so it’s also important to have a flexible, ‘can-do’ attitude.
As a trainee hairdresser or apprentice, you’ll be expected to take on a range of tasks, such as:
- Washing clients’ hair
- Welcoming clients at reception
- Booking appointments
- Tidying up and sweeping the floor
- Checking none of the hair products have run out
- Restocking towels
When you qualify as a hairdresser, you’ll take on more responsibility. This might include:
- Offering consultations with clients
- Cutting, styling or colouring hair
- Taking payments
- Ordering stock
- Extending your repertoire – e.g., learning how to cut the latest styles and carrying out the latest colouring techniques
It’s likely that you’ll work in a hair salon to begin with. However, some hairdressers choose to work on a mobile basis, travelling to people’s homes. Other options are:
- Working in a department store
- Working in a health spa
- Working on a cruise ship
- Working on a TV / film set
To gain more insight, visit The National Careers Service website, which has a wealth of information about what to expect when you become a hairdresser.
Other key skills
The good news is that you don’t need to have too many existing qualifications to be accepted on an entry-level hairdressing course or apprenticeship. If you’ve only got a few GCSEs, that’s not a problem – this is still a viable career for you.
However, there are some key skills you’ll need if you want to succeed in the industry.
A great hairdresser should have the following:
- Dexterity and focus
- Ability to keep up with the latest trends
- Good organisational skills
- Excellent communication skills
- Motivation and drive
- Creative vision
- Ability to work independently
Regardless of whether you choose a hairdressing apprenticeship or a work-ready private course, you’ll be expected to be dedicated to your learning. All programmes require you to be punctual, to attend all lessons / days of work, and to focus during classes. Hairdressing is a rewarding career, but patience and dedication is required, in order to master all the necessary skills.
To work as a hairdresser, you’ll need a specialist qualification, which is taught via a private course or apprenticeship.
There are many different accreditations, such as:
- NVQs, Diplomas & Certificates
The standard qualification in the UK is a level 2 NVQ Diploma in Hairdressing. NVQ courses have both coursework and practical elements; and cover all the key skills required to work in the industry. You’ll be assessed via an exam, coursework, practical observation, plus an end-point-assessment as you’ll be on an apprenticeship programme.
Once you’ve obtained your level 2 NVQ, you might decide to progress to a level 3 qualification. This covers a greater range of proficiencies, including precision cutting, colouring and other specialist skills.
What’s right for you – a private course or an apprenticeship?
Both private courses and apprenticeships offer a range of benefits, and you’ll need to decide which option works best for you. Here’s a quick run-through of both.
Private Hairdressing courses
There are many advantages to taking a private course.
- All the key skills are covered. Private courses are designed to give you all the necessary knowledge to succeed in your chosen hairdressing career.
- The pressure’s off. You won’t be ‘learning on the job’; you’ll be mastering your skills in a safe, nurturing environment.
- It’s quicker. If you want to earn your qualification swiftly, a work-ready private course is the way to do it. The average length of a course can be anything from five to 26 weeks.
- You can learn part-time. Many courses are part-time, which leaves you free for the rest of the week – perfect if you need to work while learning.
If you’re completely new to hairdressing, a foundation course is ideal to start with. The Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Hairdressing is also a popular option. Private courses are particularly popular with career-changers, or those who don’t have easy access into an apprenticeship.
An apprenticeship means you’ll be working while you learn, and it usually takes around 18 to 21 months to gain your qualification. Here are some key benefits.
- You’ll be paid while you learn. You’ll be given a wage during your apprenticeship. The exact wage you’ll receive depends on your age, and whether or not you’ve completed your first year of your apprenticeship.
- You’ll get the ‘real experience’. Learning on the job is the best way to experience what it’s really like to work in a hair salon. You’ll be working alongside talented hairdressers, and have the chance to watch them in action.
- A combination of lessons and learning on the job. Most apprenticeships offer one day a week / one week a month in one of the Alan d Schools, where you’ll also have the chance to learn key skills. It’s also a good chance to chat to other apprentices.
- You’ll have the support of a highly skilled educator. They will mentor you throughout your apprenticeship, and ensure that you’re learning in a safe, supportive environment.
- This is a gateway into your chosen career. Many apprentices go on to be stylists in the salon they’re apprenticed at.
A Ladies Hairdressing Apprenticeship is a great place to start, if you’re keen to learn the ropes while earning a salary.
If you require financial support with getting qualified as a hairdresser, an Advanced Learner Loan might be an option for you subject to certain terms & conditions.
Taking things further
After completing your private course, you’ll probably start applying for jobs. However, the learning doesn’t have to stop there. There are plenty of opportunities to develop your skills, or to learn new ones.
For example, many people choose to take a Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Hairdressing. Alternatively, you could enrol in a specialist course and learn how to apply hair extensions to your clients. The more qualifications you have, the more desirable you’ll be to employers – so it’s something that’s well worth doing.
You might also benefit from enrolling with an online education site, such as MyHairdressers.com. This provides access to thousands of tutorial videos, showcasing everything from updo hairstyles to balayage techniques.
How to apply for hairdressing jobs
Many hair salons advertise their vacancies on sites such as Indeed and Totaljobs. You might also find hairdressing jobs on the government’s Find a Job page, or via your local newspaper’s online career-portal.
Don’t be afraid to be proactive. Once you’ve obtained your hairdressing qualification, visit your nearby hair salons and ask if they have any vacancies. Even if they don’t, they may offer to keep your details on file, and let you know if any opportunities come up in the future.
Hairdressing Courses in London and Ipswich
If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in Hairdressing, we have a wide range of hairdressing courses from foundation level to Level 3 NVQ diplomas. All our courses can be taken at either our London Hair Academy or Ipswich Hair Academy. For more information about our courses and hair academies, contact us today via our online form or call 0800 500 3147.