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Beautician explained


The beauty industry is thriving in the UK. Consumers spending billions of pounds each year on grooming products and beauty services.This is no longer solely a women's domain – the number of male customers and therapists are increasing too.

For anyone thinking of becoming a beautician, this is everything that you need to know.

What is a beautician?

Beauticians are trained professionals who use their knowledge and specialist skills to provide a range of beauty treatments and therapies.

What does a beautician do?

Some beauticians combine their skills with hair styling, cutting, colouring, styling and blow drying. Other beauticians offer only beauty treatments, including some specialist treatments.

Beauticians, salons and clinics may focus on a range of beauty treatments, such as:

  • Hair removal (e.g. facial waxing, leg and body waxing)
  • Manicures and pedicures
  • Nail art services, including nail extensions, acrylic nails, gel nails
  • Eyebrow shaping, including threading, tinting and plucking
  • Spray tans and sunbeds
  • Massage, aromatherapy, hydrotherapy and reflexology
  • Facials that include cleansing, massaging and toning a client’s skin
  • Makeovers, including make up for brides and their bridal party
  • Specialist treatments, such as electro-therapy to improve body tone and shape
  • Non-surgical skin improvement treatments

As well as beauty treatments, if you choose to work in a busy salon or as a self-employed beautician, you will also need to:

  • Answer the telephone, respond to emails and greet clients
  • Manage the booking system, either in a diary or online
  • Check and order supplies
  • Keep notes of clients and their treatment preferences and allergies
  • Refer the client to a doctor if necessary

Beauticians will normally start their careers with an overarching qualification that gives them the skills to provide a variety of treatments and use certain substances safely (such as hot wax and nail varnish remover).

As part of this beauty therapy course, you will also learn what to look for when the skin reacts to treatment. More importantly, you will be taught what actions to take should a customer have a reaction to a treatment. Your course will also cover a variety of other health and safety issues.

Many beauticians will go on to complete standalone courses that certify them to use the latest skills or technique for their clients.

This could be a special type of massage, such as a hot stone massage. Or it could be the latest in eyebrow threading, or to offer semi-permanent make-up.

What skills will you need?

Being a beautician means working in a person-centred environment. This could mean that you are employed as a beautician in a salon or in a self-employed capacity.

You will need to possess the following attributes:

  • Be friendly and welcoming in your manner and attitude, and have a great personality
  • Have a passion for and interest in beauty
  • Have some level of artistic skill, as beauty treatments can be intricate and require excellent manual dexterity and precision
  • Have the ability to make clients feel relaxed
  • Be able to explain treatment options and procedures clearly to your clients
  • Be tactful and diplomatic
  • Be understanding – some people seek beauty treatments to deal with an aspect of themselves they don’t like. Your treatment will make a big difference to their self-confidence.
  • Be able to sell the treatments that you offer, as well as suitable products
  • Stay up-to-date with trends in hair, nails and beauty treatments
  • Work as part of a team in the salon
  • Complete basic administrative tasks e.g. use the appointment system, stock control and ordering, and other administrative tasks
  • Have business awareness if you plan on being self-employed

Working hours

Your working hours will vary depending on whom you work for or if you are self-employed – you manage your own diary and appointments.

As well as standard 9 to 5 working hours, salons may offer late-night opening hours at least one or two days a week. You should also expect to work during the week and on Saturdays.

As well as working for high street salons, beauticians can be found in hotel spas, health spas or in the hospitality industry (such as aboard cruise ships).

If you are self-employed, clients may come to your own home-based clinic or to a space you rent in another salon or clinic. You may also offer a mobile service, visiting customers in their own homes.

You will spend a lot of your time standing and you may also need ‘normal’ colour vision, as colour blindness can affect your ability to apply cosmetics.

Becoming qualified

To be a qualified beautician you will need a level 2 or level 3 qualification in beauty therapy, at minimum.

This is the minimum requirement that most employers seek. It is also the minimum qualification that insurers will look for when offering you Public Liability insurance.

Before you pay for and start a physical or online beauty course, it is important to ensure that it is accredited by a recognised body. If it is not accredited, insurers and employers may not recognise the qualification.

Most beauty therapy courses do not have prerequisite requirements, although this will vary from one college or course provider to another. Most course providers will ask that you have a good level of education at GCSE level.

Some beauticians start their careers by working as an assistant in a spa or clinic. Some people complete their training on the job, studying at college for one day a week. Other beauticians complete their course full time before starting work in the industry.

See courses related to this career

How to become a Beautician

  1. Research the beauty industry


    As an industry, the beauty sector is ever-changing. New and innovative techniques and treatments are constantly being developed.

    There are several big-name manufacturers and brands that dominate the industry.

    Like any career choice, understanding the market place (including the changing demands of the consumer) is important.

    Being a beautician means that your clients will trust you to offer a range of services, information about which they will expect remains confidential.

    You will provide a range of basic and staple beauty treatments – hair removal, waxing, skin care, eyelash and eyebrow treatments, nail care for hands and feet, and many other essential beauty treatments.

    There is also opportunity to expand into providing more specialist treatments such as electrolysis, laser therapy, and permanent or semi-permanent make up.

    You could also provide medical cosmetic treatments such as derma fillers, and some beauticians will also inject Botox (although the substance itself will need to be prescribed by a medical practitioner).

    Beauticians can also offer advice on related topics such as skin care, hair care, make up, and possibly health and fitness too.

    You will need to enjoy working with people and have a passion for make-up, skin care, nails and helping people to look and feel their best.

  2. Research educational opportunities


    There are many beauty therapy course providers and educational establishments that offer a range of beauty courses.

    It is important that you check the level of the qualification, and that the accreditation of the course is recognised by employers.

    It is just as important that you check that insurers recognise the qualification so that you can operate as a professional and insured beautician.

    You will need to enjoy working with people and have a passion for make-up, skin care, nails and helping people to look and feel their best.

    There are various education options, including full and part time study:

    Local private beauty schools – check out local beauty school courses, as these can be a suitable place to start with either a level 2 or 3 qualification. Some beauty schools and colleges will insist that you complete the level 2 beauty therapy course first, and then progress onto the higher-level course.

    College courses – there are a range of part time and full time beauty therapy study options at colleges. This is a fantastic and affordable opportunity, providing you have a college close by and transport to and from the venue. Some full-time courses may include a work placement for part of a term so that you gain the experience of working in a local salon.

    Online, self-study courses – it is possible to study for a beauty therapy level 2 or 3 course with an online course provider. As well as online & distance learning beautician courses, online providers will have a range of additional, specialist beauty therapy courses. This means that you can offer a greater range of treatment options to clients. For example, you can study nail art and nail extension courses separately online after completing your Beauty Therapy level 2 or 3 course.

    If you decide to run your own beautician business, you may want to learn more about how to set up, run and promote your business. These are all courses that reputable online and distance learning centres provide. These online courses can be studied at your own pace and in your own time. You can study them full time or part time, whichever works best for your schedule and current commitments.

  3. Apprenticeships and other on-the-job training


    Some larger salons offer on-the-job training opportunities. It may also be possible to secure an apprenticeship.

    An apprenticeship is a combination of practical training on-the-job alongside studying for a relevant qualification.

    As an apprentice, you will:

    - Work alongside experienced staff

    - Gain skills that are specific to the role of being a beautician

    - Earn a wage (the minimum wage for an apprentice)

    - Be entitled to holiday pay, with 20 days paid holiday per year

    - Be allowed to time to study a course related to your role, usually one day a week

    Apprenticeships take one to five years to complete, depending on their level. Apprenticeships have equivalent educational levels:

    Name Level Equivalent educational level
    Intermediate 2 GCSE
    Advanced 3 A level
    Higher 4,5,6 & 7 Foundation degree and above
    Degree 6 & 7 Bachelor’s or master’s degree


    If your apprenticeship application is not successful, it may be suggested that you gain more work experience. There is help available with the application process, and you can apply for another apprenticeship.

    The process is different in ScotlandNorthern Ireland and Wales.

  4. Consider the best employment options


    Once you have qualified as a beauty therapist, you will have a range of employment options open to you. You may choose to apply for paid employment in a local spa, clinic or hotel.

    Many beauticians choose to run their own business, finding that this allows them to work flexibly around other commitments.

    If this is the case, as a self-employed beautician with your own business, you will need a set of business skills that will help you run your business. These include:

    Business administration and management skills – administering your businesses means doing the paperwork and other tasks that are essential in starting and maintaining your company. You will also need to make sure you are working within the law, which includes following health and safety regulations and making sure you have the correct insurance that is needed to be a self-employed beauty therapist.

    Business planning – you may decide to grow your business, and this means investing in your own spa, clinic or salon and employing other beauticians. You may need financial investment or a business loan. This means writing a business plan that clearly sets out the goals for your business in the short, mid and long term.


    Marketing and promotion – to gain customers and to grow your business, you will need to build a customer base. This means identifying your potential customers and promoting your business to them.


    Financial planning – depending on the size of your business, you will need to practice financial planning. This could include forecasting investment needs and profits, and running payroll. You also need to price your services correctly so that your prices remain competitive but earn you a profit.


    Social media and website savvy – to build a thriving business, you need to understand how social media can be a powerful marketing tool. You may also decide to invest in a website. You will need to be confident in how to update and maintain your website. Some beauticians have websites that include an online booking system, perfect for busy clients.


  5. Become qualified


    Once you have decided on the right qualification route for your needs, you need to be bold and take the next step forward!

    For all courses, you will find that friends and family are more than willing to help you practice your manicuring skills and other beauty treatments. That said, it is important that people know you are not yet fully qualified, and are offering only basic techniques. You cannot be paid, as you are not yet insured.

    Check with the course provider about when you can start ‘practicing’ your new skills.

    Course providers will also make sure that you have all the support you need to complete your studies. As well as a student support team, you will find other students helpful and supportive.

Career Development Options


The beauty industry is a fast paced one, with new techniques and treatments being developed and used on a regular basis.

If you are employed as a beautician, you could work your way up to become salon manager or to own your own business. 

It is also a competitive marketplace, and that is why many beauticians tend to focus on general beauty services, and on two or three specialist areas of beauty work.

For example, semi-permanent and permanent make-up has become popular in recent years, as has offering beauty treatments for men.

As well as specialising in new techniques, developing your career into a thriving business with employees of your own is a possibility for your future.

In Summary


Being a beautician is a rewarding career. You will help people, making a difference to their confidence as well as helping them to look good.

You will meet many different people in your career, as you will have a set of skills that will be in high demand.

As well as the working in the UK, you may find that your new beautician skills secure you work all over the world.

  • Education required - good level of GCSE level qualification, followed by level 2 or 3 in Beauty Therapy.
  • Average UK salary - beauticians can earn £15,000 to £17,000, with salon managers earning around £20,000, although this will vary depending on the employer. For self-employed beauticians, earnings will vary.
  • Job growth - beauticians can be employed in a variety of settings, with the possibility of becoming a salon manager after years of experience. Self-employed beauticians can be sole traders or expand their business to become salon owners.
  • Key skills - customer-focused, tactful, diplomatic and able to talk through treatments.
  • License/qualification requirements - Minimum level 2 or 3 Beauty Therapy essential for most employers and for insurance requirements.