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The Definitive Guide: How To Become A Hairdresser

Published on: 21 Jul 2017
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Think back to when you were a child for a second or two and ask yourself this: ‘what did you want to be when you grow up?’. Alongside astronaut, chocolate taster and teacher, we bet hairdresser or stylist featured quite highly.

As a kid, everyone’s had a go at either cutting their own hair or having a bash at styling their sibling’s – and it’s because there’s just something so tempting about picking up a pair of scissors and snipping away.

So, if you’ve ever considered actually picking up a pair of scissors a little more often – and getting paid for it – you’ll definitely want to check out this guide. Containing everything you need to know about ‘cutting it’ (sorry, we couldn’t resist) in the hairdressing industry, it’s your bible to a new and rewarding career move.

What is a Hairdresser'sSalary?

Hairdressing isn’t the most lucrative of professions, particularly at an entry level. In fact, trainees should prepare themselves for a few years watching what they spend, as many newcomers won’t earn much more than the basic living wage.

Once you’ve completed your NVQ Level 2 you can start earning between £9k and £16k, while NVQ Level 3-qualified senior stylists can earn up to £30k.


What is a Hairdresser?

So what exactly is a hairdresser – and what exactly does the jobentail?

  • Job Description

    So, what does a hairdresser do in terms of day-to-day duties?

    Now we’re fairly sure everyone knows what a hairdresser does, but did you know there’s so much more to the role than simply cutting hair? From learning about hazardous substances and chemicals to discovering how to create all manner of hair styles and colours – and ensuring they suit a client’s face shape and complexion – hair stylists have a challenging and daunting task on their hands daily.

  • Hours of Work

    Hairdressers typically work up to 40 hours a week, between 9am and 6pm. While you’d generally get a day off during the week, you may be expected to work a Saturday.
    Part-time hours are available though, for those who can’t fit in a full-time role around their other commitments.

  • Main Responsibilities

    So, what about a hairdresser’s main responsibilities? We’ve split them into a couple of sections so you can better understand what you might be doing in both a junior or senior hair styling position:

    Junior Hairdresser

    • Shampooing hair
    • Simple cuts
    • Mixing hair colour
    • Replenishing towels and other supplies for the team to use
    • Cleaning the salon and keeping it tidy
    • Chatting to and greeting customers

    Senior Hairdresser

    Senior hairdressers have quite a few more day-to-day responsibilities, as they’re in charge of talking to clients about their hair and what they’d like done, while offering friendly and helpful style advice. They might also:

    • Shampoo and condition clients’ hair
    • Create a brand new look for a client via colour, cut, perming or straightening
    • Advise on scalp and hair problems
    • Make appointments
    • Handle payments
    • Order stock
    • Ensure products containing chemicals are handled and used properly by all staff.

Key Hairdresser Qualifications

So, what do you need to become a hairdresser?

The most desirable qualification is an NVQ – Level Three, with some salons offering to train you up via an in-salon training academy system.

You might also choose to do a foundation degree in hairdressing, or an apprenticeship.

hairdress education

Vital Hairdresser Skills

As a qualified hairdresser, you’ll need to possess several key skills. These include:

  • Creativity
  • Customer service and 'people' skills
  • Great practical skills
  • An awareness of fashion and trends
  • A willingness to learn new techniques
  • An awareness of health and safety issues and a willingness to learn more

How To Become A Hairdresser

There are several routes you can take to become a hairdresser, from starting at the bottom rung of the ladder as an apprentice, to undertaking an NVQ in the subject.

  • Apprenticeships - Giving you the chance to practically learn your trade as well as studying to gain the theory and enable you to receive your qualification, apprenticeships are aimed at people aged 16 and over. Revolving around working in the salon every day, minus one or two where you’ll be attending college, apprenticeships can take up to five years to complete, so patience and determination is key.

    To become an apprentice, you can simply call The National Apprenticeships Helpline on 08000 150600, who’ll provide you with more information as to what to do next.

    Instead, why not consider contacting employers directly to discover whether they’re taking on an apprentice? Take advantage of the Internet and find out who takes on apprentices in your area, before making the move and enquiring about how you get your foot in the door.

  • National Vocational Qualification - If you don’t fancy going down the apprenticeship route, consider doing an NVQ. Standing for National Vocational Qualification (or in Scotland SVQs), an NVQ is a work-based qualification which is achieved by learning on the job. Via on-the-job assessment, the qualification is relatively achievable for anyone who has the passion to succeed in this competitive industry.

    Once you’ve completed your NVQ, you can become more competent by taking your NVQ Level 2. Promoting you to a junior position, this is the minimum level that you need to be able to work within a hairdresser’s.

    Want to be successful? You’ll want to gain your NVQ Level 3, which gives you the chance to perform technical skills like fashion cutting.

    Later, NVQ Level 4 enables you to effectively become your own boss. Of course, this requires a substantial amount of personal responsibility. It also means that you’ll have to apply any knowledge you’ve gained into more complex activities, but it’s all part of the fun of taking the course and bettering yourself.

  • Foundation degree - Failing that, a foundation degree in hairdressing is an option for you. Designed in partnership with employers to ensure students gain the knowledge they need to enter the industry, foundation degrees can be taken full-time or part-time.

    For those who’d simply like to enter the industry as quickly as possible, it might be a good idea to look into your options when it comes to studying on the job. Significantly helping your progress through a foundation course, working on the job allows you to gain the full support of your employer and get yourself on the ladder to your dream career.

    In terms of hours, full-time and part-time hours are available. Should you decide to opt for a full-time role – usually undertaken by people going straight from doing their A-Levels into college – you’ll find this is a challenging but ultimately rewarding time. Lasting around two years, a foundation degree could be a good option for you.

    If you have other commitments, however, then signing up for the foundation degree on a part-time basis may be the best option for you. Usually taking around three to four years to complete, this route is a good idea if you feel you have more time on your hands.

How To Develop Your Hairdresser Career

A lucrative position once you’ve worked your way up in the salon you work in, hairdressing is certainly a good option for anyone who wants to feel fulfilled in their job yet still earn a good wage. And the good news is people will always need hairdressers, which means you’ll probably never be out of a job too.

  • Once you begin working as a hairdresser, you’ll need to ensure you stay up-to-date with new techniques and products. Manufacturers sometimes run short courses on their hair care products and it’s with hair stylists in mind, as they know they’re able to sell directly to clients.

  • Once you’ve honed your craft as a hairdresser or stylist, you could train in the use of more advanced techniques in several areas. For example, you might choose to learn more about colouring, bridal hairstyling, extensions, wigs and other creative hair designs.

  • Want to develop your skills even further? Consider completing higher level qualifications, such as a foundation degree, HNC/HND or degree if you haven’t already and make yourself even more indispensable. Courses like these normally incorporate further specialist skills with training in salon management and once you achieve a certain level you’ll be able to take your talents anywhere.

  • Did you know there are also courses which combine hairdressing with fashion and make-up, aimed at those wishing to work in theatre, film and TV? This is another route to go down should you fancy a career in hairdressing – simply search the UCAS site for course details.

  • Offering training on planning, setting up and managing a hairdressing business, as well as ongoing training and Continuing Personal Development (CPD), the Freelance Hair and Beauty Federation (FHBF) could well prove to be your bible. Why? If you’re thinking of going self-employed it gives you all the information you need to make your mark in the hairdressing world.

So, there you have it; everything you need to know about entering this highly-competitive industry – ready, steady…snip!

Did you enjoy this guide? Don’t forget to check out our other informative jobs-focused guides – from how to become a dietician to how to become a psychotherapist. We’ve compiled a few to help anyone looking for a career change enjoy their first steps into a brand new industry and role.

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