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Why Hairdressing is a cut above the rest – by Linda Whitney

 Why Hairdressing is a cut above the rest – by Linda Whitney

Hairdressing is frequently seen as a glamorous career these days. Once considered a dead end job, it is now attracting graduates and top hairdressers can rake in handsome salaries.

‘After 3 years training our, hairdressers are earning more than £50,000 and within 5 years can be on 6 figure sums’ says Michael Van Clarke, whose West End salon includes graduates among it’s trainees and stylists.

There are 50,000 vacancies in hairdressing, and it’s a happy profession, which regularly turns up in surveys of the most satisfying jobs.

But to make it to the top rather than just the salon on the corner, you must be focused on success from day one. ‘First, get some work experience. Arrange a Saturday job in a salon, says Dee Pilgrim, author of the Real Life Guide To Hairdressing (

If you are still keen after sweeping the floor, sterilising scissors and handing curlers to stylists, it may be for you, and the experience will help at interviews for courses or jobs.

Remember hairdressing involves long hours on your feet, and dealing with chemicals (bad news for allergy sufferers). You must be able to keep smiling while dealing with problems and to chat amiably with clients, so it’s not for the shy.

Be prepared to fight negative stereotypes. ‘So often I have heard of people who wanted to be hairdressers but were dissuaded by parents and school career advisers,’ says Charlie Taylor, three times Scottish Hairdresser of the Year, who runs four salons in Scotland.

British hairdressing training is considered the world’s best, but choose providers carefully. There are apprenticeships, and your training should lead to at least an NVQ level two, but many salons demand NVQ level three. You can then go onto Higher National Certificate or Diploma qualifications and foundation or honors degrees.

You can train at college or at a salon, where you combine work with day release. Choose a salon that offers accredited training and has been OFSTED inspected and graded. Good technical skills are essential, but clients paying up to £50 a cut expect a lot more.

‘You need to be creative and confident enough to make intelligent conversation with clients who have high expectations who have high expectations at the upper end of the market,’ says Charlie Taylor. ‘We insist on good manners among our trainees,’.

Forging relationships with clients is a large part of the job, best learnt in a salon, says Michael Van Clarke, ‘Our apprentices work closely with a mentor. What they pick up unconsciously about how to build relationships with clients cannot be learnt in a classroom.’

To make a name for yourself, do not restrict yourself to working in the salon. Many top stylists gained recognition for photographic work, which involves styling models for photo shoots. This means devising more eye-catching styles than most salon clients want.

You can raise your profile by styling for fashion shows and at industry exhibitions, as well as entering hairdressing competitions.

‘Most top hairdressers run their own salons, so get the business skills you need,’ says Sarah Collinge from Andrew Colinge, which has nine salons in the North-West, and an academy training 200 people at any one time.

NVQ level four in hairdressing and foundation degrees provide salon management training, but pick up entrepreneurial tips from top hairdressers too.

Pay in hairdressing starts at the minimum wage, but established stylists can earn £20,000 to £50,000, including commission on sales of hair products.

  • The Hair and Beauty Authority produce a careers leaflet, Careers in Hairdressing and Barbering free from
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