Jobs in the hair and beauty industry: Direct Line for Business asks an expert
There are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the UK hair and beauty industry, making it a popular choice for young people and others considering a new career.
We spoke to Jo Clarke, Founder of Jobs In Beauty, who shared her knowledge on some of the more common jobs in the industry, as well as the rarer positions that are out there, and most importantly, how to find them.
Jo originally trained as a hairdresser and makeup artist before pursuing a career in digital services. Her passion for the beauty & wellness industries meant that she got to work with a number of brands in the industry.
‘I launched the site because the industry has changed so much in the last few years and I saw the opportunity for a central hub that served both candidates and employers, with the opportunity to network in one digital location. My research showed that employers and candidates prefer to work with industry specialists or within industry specialisms.’
Her research also revealed that the hair and beauty industry is fairly recession-proof.
‘Even in difficult economic times we found that the economic climate didn’t hit the industry too hard.’ Jo says, ‘In fact, it continued to grow. The demand for training for beauty therapy and massage — including new skills in aesthetics, Botox, skin rejuvenation — has become important to people seeking alternative streams of income or a second career that can fit flexibly around other work.’
Let’s take a look at some of the jobs that are available in the hair and beauty industry.
What are the most common jobs in the hair and beauty industry?
The hair and beauty industry is large and ever evolving, with new treatments arriving every year. Meanwhile, technologies and trends continue to transform existing jobs regularly.
Still, the most common positions, such as hairdressers, beauty therapists and tattooists are likely to remain mainstays of the industry. So let’s take a better look at each of them.
With over 40,000 hair salons in the UK according to the Hair Council, there’s a big need for hairdressers and barbers.
Most hairdressers follow a set career path, beginning as apprentices before becoming junior stylists once they have secured their NVQ2. From there, they will progress to a bona fide stylist role and then become a top or lead stylist. Eventually, a salon management role is likely to be the next step.
‘We’ve found that most hairdressing roles tend to be managed in-house - it’s often a work-based training environment, so it’s easy to train existing employees to take on new roles and responsibilities,’ says Jo.
However, freelancing, either in a salon or on the move, is another common move for qualified stylists. Find out more about hairdressing career paths here.
Some hair stylists are beauty therapists or makeup artists as well, allowing them to secure other jobs, such as bridal hair and makeup jobs. Although it is possible to just focus on being a beauty therapist. ‘There are lots of multi-talented people out there, says Jo. ‘Someone might easily broaden from being a hairdresser to incorporate skills as beauty therapy.’
In many cases, the job of a beauty therapist is divided into a range of specialist roles. So the treatments they provide to their customers will depend on the training that they choose to take, the nature of their workplace. Nail artists, for example, are often dedicated professionals, as are waxing or tanning specialists in some cases. But in other salons, beauty therapists will still perform a range of treatments.
As with hairdressers, some beauty therapists remain in salons while others become mobile freelancers.
Moving into a salon management role is common once enough experience has been gained, and from there you could consider switching to management in another industry.
‘Obviously it’s necessary to develop new skills to make the transition to different fields’, Jo says. ‘We’re noticing that employers are looking for skills beyond the practical, like being confident about going to events, or perhaps selling products. As some of the roles are physical in nature, such as massage, we also find that many people will ultimately gravitate towards other roles within the therapies, such as education, sales and management.’
Body piercer and/or tattooist
Some body piercers and tattooists are sometimes dedicated to one of the two roles, while others do both.
Body piercers will usually need a level 2 certificate, and tattooists often complete apprenticeships, but the entry routes vary.
Importantly, there are environmental health regulations that must be adhered to, and tattooists are legally obliged to register.
Unusual beauty roles
But there are other, less common roles in the beauty industry. Jo takes us through some of the more unusual beauty roles below.
‘The jobs market as a whole is evolving. In the future there will be more lifestyle work in which people can work flexibly and the hair and beauty industry is an attractive career path for many because it can accommodate those lifestyle changes,’ says Jo.
Influential people from celebrities to business leaders and politicians often pay for the services of an image consultant. This person advises clients on colours and styles of clothes, hair and (where applicable) makeup, which both suits them and makes the right impression.
As with the more conventional job roles available in hair and beauty, training is crucial to enter this line of work. ‘A lot of beauty brands offer internships, which is something to consider if you want to take your beauty career out of the salon and move it into new directions,’ says Jo.
Special effects makeup artist
A relatively rare but particularly popular role is makeup artistry for film, television and theatre.
The work is often temporary and insecure, with freelancing being by far the most common route, but it’s not hard to understand why so many people are attracted to this field.
Jo emphasises how being a trained makeup artist can allow for genuine career diversity and rich experience, ‘There are so many jobs in the field of makeup, there is something for everyone.’
Find out more about becoming a special effects makeup artist here.
High-paying beauty jobs
We’ve written an article on the average salaries in hair and beauty, but, like many sectors, there is considerable variation. Salon management is a common role that can pay extremely well.
It’s worth pointing out that many salon owners come from business backgrounds and do not have hair and beauty qualifications. So you could complete business management qualifications and enter salon or spa management, even if you have no experience of providing treatments yourself.
Becoming a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon are other high-paying options for those looking to make more money. But be warned - you’ll need to put in many years of unpaid education before getting a job.
Of the more specialised beauty work bordering on the procedural, Jo remarks, ‘Aesthetics is massive; in particular Botox has become a huge industry.’
Moving into cosmetic sales from a hairdressing or beauty role could also see your earnings rise, but you’ll need to be comfortable with challenging sales targets.
Finding jobs in the hair and beauty industry
There are a number of different ways that you can find a job in the beauty industry, including:
- Applying for advertised vacancies
- Making speculative applications
Let’s take a look at each.
Applying for advertised vacancies
Look in local newspapers, job sites, websites of potential employers and salon windows for job advertisements.
If a job at a salon chain is what you’re after, it’s worth looking at their sites, even if there aren’t any branches currently in your area. That way, you’ll know what the company looks for in their employees.
When it comes to getting an interview, Jo has a few tips. ‘Although there are lots of jobs out there they are often quite competitive, so it’s important to tailor your application to the job and check it over carefully for accuracy, making it as easy to read as possible. Big brands get hundreds of CVs, so they can afford to be a little more ruthless. It’s worth finding out what you can do to polish your CV and enhance your chances of being selected for interview.’
Another route to getting a job is to make a speculative application. These involve getting in touch with companies (usually with your CV) to enquire about vacancies and to promote yourself. Many will keep your details on file and get in touch if a job comes up. But you may need to wait a while for this to happen.
‘Big brands can offer great opportunities for hair and beauty professionals to build their careers in management or education, such as a field education manager,’ says Jo. ‘Having a talent for hairdressing doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll spend your life in a salon, so speculative applications might be the way to go.’
Having an up to date portfolio that showcases your skills (and includes before and after shots with good quality photography) will help to show employers what you can do, and can be a big influence on whether a prospective employer wants to find out more about you.
‘As you would expect in the beauty industry, attention to detail is everything. One of the problems employers find is that some candidates don't tailor their applications to the role,’ says Jo. ‘In some cases, their applications refer to the wrong vacancy or even employer! So make sure to spend some time tailoring your application to each employer that you contact.’
A high proportion of jobs are never advertised, so don’t be shy about approaching friends, friends of friends, old classmates and others who work in the beauty industry.
Although it might seem a bit strange at first, networking is the norm in many other industries, and is becoming more and more popular through websites like LinkedIn.
If your search for employment is unsuccessful, perhaps it’s time to consider freelancing - approaching customers directly to promote your services. Setting up as a mobile beauty therapist or hairdresser could be a good option, as the startup costs are relatively low.
Once you’ve established a reputation, it might be a bit easier to find a job in the beauty industry, if that’s the way you want to go.
‘Whilst being your own boss can be fantastic, hotel groups can offer great benefits and progression opportunities that you might not have access to if you are self-employed, as well as discounted accommodation, childcare support and training opportunities.’ says Jo. ‘There are also opportunities for you to relocate and some remotely located hotels will even advertise hair and beauty vacancies with free accommodation. These jobs can be a great way to move temporarily and really boost your skills and experience.’
Read our article on freelancing in the hair and beauty industry for more information.
Or to find out more about taking the next step in your beauty career and style your own pathway to success, check out our interactive tool here.