Job roles in a salon: Direct Line for Business investigates
Every company, from the smallest independent outfit to the largest salon chains, will use their own preferred terms to describe their staff's roles.
But despite the different naming preferences, there tends to be a fairly clear and uniform career structure common to all of them. This is particularly true of hair salons, so let's start there.
Typical job roles and responsibilities within a hair salon
Shampooists are often part-timers, in many cases working just on weekends.
The role tends to be more general than the title suggests, involving sweeping up, greeting customers, making tea and coffee, and possibly answering the phone and booking appointments.
Shampooists don't need to be qualified and don't necessarily intend to have a related career, so this is usually the first step on the career path for newcomers into hair and beauty, but it can also be a way for more experienced hairdressers to make a little extra money. It can also be a good way for someone considering a career in hairdressing to get to know the salon environment, and decide if it's for them.
Assistants tend to be trainee positions and it's likely they'll be working towards a full qualification to become a stylist. This means that there will usually be a lot of learning on the job as part of this role.
Assistants perform some of the same roles as a shampooist, including sweeping the floor, serving tea and coffee, and generally making clients feel comfortable. They'll also help with more technical tasks like colour formation and blow-drying.
In many salons, the term 'apprentice' can often be swapped with the term 'assistant'.
But there's actually quite a big difference between an apprentice and an assistant.
An apprentice is called so, because he or she must be part of an approved hairdressing apprenticeship scheme. The same isn't true of an assistant.
These apprenticeship schemes combine college days with practical experience at a salon.
We've put together a guide to getting a place on a hairdressing apprenticeship scheme. Click here if you'd like to find out more.
Junior stylist/Graduate stylist
A recently qualified hair stylist will be given a title like 'junior' or 'graduate stylist'. Typically, a junior or graduate stylist will be working towards their NVQ level 3 or only recently finished their level 2.
These stylists are new to profession and, so they'll usually command a lower fee from clients for their services.
A fully-fledged stylist will be able to work independently, having the gained the qualifications and experience they need to show they can perform the role. A stylist will usually need to have an NVQ level 3 to work in a salon.
With a few years' experience of cutting and styling hair behind them, a senior stylist will have the skills to deliver the highest quality of service. Which means that they'll also be able to command the highest fees for their work.
In larger salons, a specialist colourist will usually take care of all the hair colouring.
In smaller salons, where a wider range of skills will be required for each role, this could be part of the job of a stylist.
The salon manager will be responsible for ensuring that all of the salon's finances and administration are all in order. They'll also need to ensure that the right salon insurance is in place and that all employees are covered. So although they could have a background in hair and beauty, it's not the main focus of their role.
The salon manager can also be the business owner as well, but this isn't a requirement for the role.
Barbershops tend to have a much flatter structure than hair salons, as the services they offer are usually less varied.
Most staff will perform a similar role, although assistants and managers are also present to make sure that the 'behind the scenes' aspects of the business, such as the finances and administration, are all in order.
Roles in other beauty salons
As the beauty industry is so diverse, there are a huge number of roles available and the skill levels required for each role will vary. Let's look at some of the most common.
Medium and larger-sized salons will usually have a dedicated receptionist to keep track of appointments, make sure that clients are comfortable and help to keep the salon clean and tidy.
A salon receptionist doesn't always need to have any hair and beauty qualifications or skills, but to be successful in the role they'll need to be well organised, presentable, and, most importantly, good with people.
Nail technicians give manicures and pedicures, apply extensions and also give massages. Usually, a nail technician will be at least part qualified, and if they're performing any specialist treatments they'll need to have taken the relevant course(s).
Good people skills are essential as well as attention to detail. Creativity and artistic flair are also key.
Makeup artists consult with clients and hair stylists on an agreed target look, and apply makeup accordingly.
With the popularity of waxing for men and women on a seemingly unstoppable rise, it's no surprise that the role of waxing specialist has also become more widespread.
As with many of the other beauty salon roles available, waxing may be carried out by staff who are also qualified to perform other treatments such as hair styling or makeup artistry, but it can be a dedicated area of focus for some professionals.
Career progression in salons
Despite the huge variation in salon types, the career progression across all of them is fairly predictable. Usually, this is how a career in a salon will progress:
- Junior stylist
- Senior/top stylist
Some top stylists will also go on to become a salon manager, open up their own place or even move into teaching hair and beauty at colleges or academies. So there's a lot of room for a career to grow, even when you get to become a senior stylist.
Despite there being a good structure in place for career development, promotions won't usually be automatic. In fact, they'll depend almost entirely on how the customers that you work with rate your abilities, which means that having strong people skills will be crucial to moving to the next step in your career.
How do freelancers fit in?
Freelancers and mobile hair and beauty professionals who rent a chair in a salon, cannot usually move up the ladder in exactly the same way as we've detailed above. The reason for this is that they won't be employed by a salon.
However, a hard working freelancer will typically be able to negotiate a better contract with the salon owner as time goes on and they build their reputation for providing quality service. If the salon manager sees their star freelancer bringing in more paying customers, they'll want to keep the tills ringing, which could work to the freelancer's advantage when it comes to re-negotiating their contract.
If you're thinking of opening your own hair and beauty premises or you'd like to take the freelance route, either on the move or based in a salon, you'll need to make sure that you have the right hair and beauty insurance in place to cover you against some of the mishaps that can happen in a salon environment.
We've also put together an interactive tool to help you take the next step in your hair and beauty career. With information on everything from getting a place on a hairdressing apprenticeship to starting up your own salon and even tax and VAT tips, there's sure to be something for you. Click here to take a look.