Hair & Beauty: What are your options?

Hair & beauty is unique. There are salons, barbershops and freelance professionals in every city, town and village. It supports both male and female entrepreneurs, however over 82% of salon owners are women, and age is no barrier. 

Whilst almost half of those employed are aged 16-34, the flexibility of the sector allows practitioners to balance their personal and work life, by choosing to continue or return to work, whatever their life situation.

About the hair and beauty sector

The hair and beauty sector has one of the biggest turnovers in the UK.

The British Beauty Council estimates a whopping £28.4bn total contribution to UK GDP from the beauty industry over the year 2018. This translates to 1.3% of the UK’s entire GDP. 

Additionally, the National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF) cited an annual turnover of over £8bn in the UK in 2019-20, and there were nearly 45,000 hair and beauty businesses in the UK.

What can I do?

Hair & beauty offers rich and varied career opportunities. 

Hair Professional 

  • Stylist
  • Colour Technician
  • Artistic / creative director 
  • Barber
  • Men’s hairdresser
  • Educator/trainer 
  • Hair Extensions
  • Wig specialist 
  • Session Stylist 
  • Brand Ambassador 
  • Salon Manager 
  • Trichologist
  • Business Coach 
  • Journalist/broadcaster 
  • Public Relations/Digital 
  • Political lobbyist 


  • Beauty therapist
  • Beauty and make-up consultant 
  • Facialist 
  • Eyelash technician
  • Nail artist/technician
  • Salon owner
  • Aesthetic practitioner ( non surgical cosmetic )
  • Massage Therapy 
  • Wellbeing and holistic therapist 
  • Make Up Artist 
  • Educator/trainer 
  • Brand Ambassador 
  • Journalist/broadcaster 
  • Public Relations/Digital 
  • Political lobbyist 

Most professionals have a mix of several skills but may choose to specialise in one area. You can choose to be employed or self-employed, and you can work wherever you want:

  • Salon 
  • Spa
  • Barbershop 
  • Leisure complex 
  • Retail shop 
  • Freelance
  • Session 
  • TV, films, media 
  • Anywhere in the world!

Pathways and qualifications

All hairdresser and beauty therapists require a  a relevant regulated qualification  as detailed in the NHBF qualifications and age restrictions document to start their career and there are several routes into the industry:


An apprenticeship is the preferred route for employers within the sector.

An apprentice learns their trade or profession through a combination of:

  • on-the-job training with an employer; and
  • study with a training provider.
  • Apprenticeships are genuine jobs that enable individuals to learn as they earn. 

Hair and beauty apprenticeships typically last between one and two years for each level studied. They are available at levels 2 and 3. In Wales only they are also available at level 4.  In England apprenticeship standards are available via the institute for apprenticeships and technical education, whereas in the devolved nations,  Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales apprenticeship frameworks are available

Apprentices who successfully complete an apprenticeship are certified as having reached a level of competence that meets current industry standards. 

Anyone over the age of 16 can become an apprentice, including existing employees. (In some cases, there is an upper age limit, for example, in Northern Ireland). 

T Levels

T Level is short for ‘Technical Level’. T Levels are new technical qualifications for those aged 16 -18. They will become one of three major options for students to study at Level 3, alongside apprenticeships and A Levels.

  • T Levels are designed with employers to give young people the skills that the industry needs. They will provide a mixture of:
    Technical knowledge and skills specific to their chosen industry or occupation.
  • An industry placement of at least 315 hours (approximately 45 days) in their chosen industry or occupation.

Hair, beauty and aesthetics is one of these technical routes. The T Level content comes from the occupational map and includes hairdressing, barbering and beauty therapy.


A traineeship is a skills development programme that includes a work placement. It can last from six weeks to a year, although most last for less than six months.

Traineeships help 16-to-24-year-olds – or 25-year-olds with an education, health and care (EHC) plan – get ready for an apprenticeship or job if they don’t yet have the appropriate skills or experience to start one. 

In addition, some salons offer independent or their own training or apprenticeship schemes that help you gain your qualifications while on the job, but you should usually be prepared to continue working for the salon for some years after your training is completed or pay back the entire cost of your studies. Be sure to understand exactly what is required from you before entering any such schemes.

College Course

You could also study hair and beauty at Level 2 or 3 at your local college, who may offer a range of qualifications. The entry requirements for those courses vary but may typically include 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent for a Level 2 course or between 4-5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a Level 3 Diploma. hair and beauty courses can sometimes be combined or included with other subjects for those who’d like to develop a broader area of expertise.

Extra skills

Aside from official qualifications, a great hair or beauty professional will possess additional key skills, which include a willingness to stay on top of industry trends and learn new techniques, awareness of the ever-changing fashion trends, great customer service and social skills and perhaps above all, creativity.  

Caring about people, enjoying being with them and getting a great sense of fulfillment from making someone feel amazing will also help.

Meet Brooke Evans, who owns her own salon, B.E Ironbridge

Brooke Evans on set 2

Brooke Evans is 27 and owns her own salon, B.E Ironbridge in Telford. She started in the industry at Tim Scott Wright as an apprentice where she worked her way up. She worked in the salon as an apprentice going to Reflections Training Academy in Birmingham one day a week, qualifying for her Level 2 NVQ in Hairdressing. 

She says, “Being an apprentice was the best way for me to learn. I got to be hands on in the salon learning day to day what tasks I would need to take on as a fully qualified hairdresser but going to college allowed me time out of the salon to concentrate on learning. 

I not only learnt about salon work but also show and freelance work. This gave me a real insight of what the industry can offer and how I now run my salon and the education I can now pass on to young people coming up in the industry.”

Katie Cook is Brooke’s 19 year old apprentice. Katie has just finalised in the industry’s two biggest awards:

  • Rising Star in the Most Wanted/IT List Awards 2021
  • Apprentice of the Year in the British Hairdressing Business Awards 2021.

She’s not yet fully qualified but already has her own clients desperate for her amazing balayage and colour work. 

She says, “The best part about this industry is that you can never stop learning. In-house training is amazing but travelling to London with different stylists to learn new things is always exciting.

In the next five years I can see myself actually looking more towards the business side of hairdressing. Maybe opening my own salon and to give other people the education Brooke has given to me. The most important part about being new in the industry is to realise you can never stop learning. Once you qualify, the education doesn’t stop – you need to keep pushing yourself to learn.”

Over the next few years Katie is also looking forward to doing more stage work.

The NHBF education hub has a wealth of information about apprenticeships across the UK,  including Blogs , YouTube videos and links to government recruitment websites.

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