What qualifications do you need to be a hairdresser?
Want to be a hairdresser? Here’s the best way to gain the skills and qualifications you need for lasting success.
So what qualifications do I need to be a hairdresser?
According to the National Careers Service, there are no set requirements when it comes to becoming a hairdresser.
In some cases you’ll be able to simply learn on the job, perhaps starting at a local salon as a general assistant. By going down this route, you would likely start with basic duties like sweeping up and making tea, before becoming gradually more involved in cutting and styling.
However, the Hair Council says the vast majority of those training to work as a hairdresser will get a National Vocation Qualification (NVQ). If you don’t do the same then you may be less employable in the long-term. So doing the right training at the start of your career can be a great long term investment in your career prospects.
There are four levels to an NVQ:
This is a basic introduction to hairdressing. It’s generally not considered a standalone qualification, but will allow you to move onto NVQ Level 2.
An NVQ Level 2 gives you the basic and essential skills to practise as a hairdresser. It’s generally considered the minimum qualification for a salon role.
An NVQ Level 3 will equip you with the technical and supervisory skills to be a professional hairdresser, which means that you will be considered to have a solid skillset by potential employers. This is highly desirable for all hairdressers, and essential if you’d like to move into a management role.
If management is your goal, an NVQ Level 4 is key. Earning this qualification shows you have plenty of self-motivation and can cope with a high level of professional responsibility. To get it, you’ll need to show that you can apply your wide range of technical and professional skills in the real world.
Other hairdressing qualifications
The apprenticeship route
A popular way to gain your NVQ is to become an apprentice. This will mean working in a salon for four days a week, and spending the other day at a college or other education provider.
Apprenticeships are popular because they combine classroom-based learning and on-the-job training to give you a valuable set of skills. They also enable you to earn as you study.
To get a place on an apprenticeship, simply apply to your local college and they will endeavour to find you a placement. Or click here to find out more about getting a hairdressing apprenticeship.
If you've started working at a salon, perhaps in a weekend role while studying at school, you may have the option of taking a full-time job while gaining an NVQ via workplace assessment. Speak to the salon manager if you’re interested in this option.
Other courses for hairdressers
After your NVQ, there are a number of different courses that are available for you to take to progress your skills even further. These include the Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Higher National Diploma (HND). You could even look into a foundation degree or honours degree. These options are increasingly offered in part-time, flexible ways, including distance-learning programmes. So you may be able to study for and complete them around your day job.
Salon management courses
If you’re looking to move into salon management, there are a range of courses that are available to help you to prepare for successfully establishing your own hairdressing business. These include foundation (FdA) and bachelors’ (BA (Hons)) degrees in salon management, both of which are offered around the UK.
Again, these are often offered on a part-time basis, so you can complete them without cutting into your work schedule too much.
Alternatively, you could look to gain general business management skills by completing a business administration programme with education providers such as the Open University.
Continuing professional development
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is an essential part of making sure your skills and knowledge in hairdressing keeps up with the changing industry. Trends and technologies move on quickly, and there are lots of courses around to help you stay up to date. Take a look at the CPD courses offered by HABIA to get an idea of what’s around.
Are you looking to run your own salon or to own a business within the beauty industry? Take a look at our small business knowledge centre for some tips to help you get started on your own.
To find out more about the different career paths available for hairdressers, take a look at our article on hairdressing career options.
Looking to take the next step in your career but don’t know where to start? We’ve created an interactive tool to give you the information you need to style your own pathway to success.