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How to become a hairdresser

Become an apprentice in a salon
Gain an NVQ
Foundation Degree in Hairdressing

Become an apprentice in a salon.
What is an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships enable you to practically learn your trade as well as studying to gain the theory and enable you to receive your qualification. They are aimed at young people aged 16 and over to enable them to earn money whilst gaining experience in a hairdressing environment. An apprenticeship in hairdressing will normally involve you working in the salon every day bar one or two when you will be attending college. It can take up to 5 years to qualify as a hairdresser so if you have the patience and the commitment to keep at it then an apprenticeship would be for you.

Why do an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship enables you to earn money whilst working and gaining qualifications. You can use an apprenticeship to gain NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) levels which is what you need to become a qualified hairdresser. In addition to that you will also gain how ever many years experience in the practical environment as opposed to all that time studying just the theory at college. Employers like to see that their future employees are keen to learn and because of this salon owners are usually very keen to take on apprentices.

Will I enjoy an apprenticeship?
When thinking about undertaking a hairdressing apprenticeship, you should be certain that this is the career path you wish to take. You need to be really focussed to be successful and know that you will need to put in the work and organise your time really well. You must be prepared to be responsible for balancing your time at work with studying in order to get the most out of it; you can’t just work in the salon and not go to college because this doesn’t meet the requirements of partaking in an apprenticeship scheme. You should also be prepared to be able to work as part of a team and as an individual.

How long does an apprenticeship take?
This can vary from 1 year to 5; it is dependent on the contract you have drawn up with your employer and on your own ability also.

How do I apply to become an apprentice?
You can call the National Apprenticeships Helpline on 08000 150600. They will provide you with information as to where your nearest opportunities are and advise you on the career you wish to take. They will have access to many employers and be able to advise you on where learning providers are in your area.

You can also get in touch with employers directly and ask them if they take on apprentices or would be interested in doing so. If they do, then they will probably arrange to meet you as they would a proper employee and interview you to ensure you would be a good investment for them to make.

Use the internet as a tool to help you find where takes on apprentices in your area. Additionally, look in your local newspaper and visit your nearest job centre. You have to make sure you choose the right apprentice scheme to embark upon as well so look upon it as finding a job. Make sure you do your research before applying to ensure that you would be happy working there if you got offered the apprentice.

Gain an NVQ.
What are NVQ’s?
NVQ stands for National Vocational Qualification (or in Scotland SVQ’s). They are work-based qualifications that are achieved effectively by learning on the job. The Level represents what progression stage the candidate is at and these range from levels 1 to 5. They are competence based and so cover all the main aspects of hairdressing and your progress is measure and assessed throughout.

How are they achieved?
They are achieved through on the job assessment. You will be required to answer questions and demonstrate that you are competent in the criteria you will be being marked against. An NVQ comprises of different units and when the candidate has displayed that they can meet the requirements of the unit, it will be signed off by the assessor and this process continues until all the units in the level are completed.

The first step is to gain your NVQ Level 1. This shows that you have the competence to apply your knowledge doing a range of varied activities, mainly ones which are routine. For example, shampooing and assisting the technicians in the salon. This is aimed to be an induction to the industry and primarily undertaken by young people at school gaining their work experience.

To then become a competent hairdresser, you would take your NVQ Level 2. This would promote you to a junior position and is really the minimum level that you need to be able to work effectively within a salon.

Gaining your NVQ Level 3 is normally the most desired level to be at by hairdressers who want to be successful. This enables you to perform technical skills, for example, fashion cutting, and expands greatly on the skills and knowledge that would have been acquired whilst undertaking Level 2. Level 3 needs to be gained if you would be looking to manage a salon or have your own.

An NVQ Level 4 enables you to effectively become your own boss. This level requires a substantial amount of personal responsibility and involves applying your gained knowledge and experience into a large range of technical, complex and professional activities

Foundation Degree in Hairdressing
Foundation degrees are Higher Education qualifications that are designed in partnership with employers to make sure that students gain all the relevant knowledge and skills to enter into the industry of hairdressing. A foundation degree can be taken as a full time course or part-time to enable you to still work. If the latter is the case, the degree then enables you to develop the skills that are required and the whole issue of flexibility is brought into the equation. Embarking on a foundation degree means that you can continue to work and fit in your studies around your job and you gain the ability to be able to work from a distance and even online.

Studying at work
As foundation degrees are designed by the industry for the industry, working in the same environment as the course you are taking is highly advantageous. For some partnerships with salons and the education authority, the courses will be specifically developed to ensure that you gain all the skills that meet with their needs. Working in the industry can significantly help your progress through the course as the practical aspect would undoubtedly help when you come to be assessed. If you take up a foundation degree within your job, this also enables you to gain the full support of your employer, as opposed to having to ask for time off, for example when exams are creeping up and the job you are in bears no relevance to your chosen career path.

Full Time
This option is usually take by people going straight from doing their A-Levels into college. Taking a foundation degree full time usually takes 2 years to complete. The benefit of taking a full-time degree is that then the student is ready to enter the industry fully prepared with the knowledge and required to be successful.

Part Time
If you have other commitments, for example, you work full-time, then taking the foundation degree on a part-time basis may be more suitable to your needs. This usually takes about 3 or 4 years to complete if you do it in this way.

Foundation degrees are good for the hairdressing industry because, as they are designed in conjunction with the potential employers of the students, they are capturing everything that needs to be learnt, and the having the course so specifically tailored to meet the industry’s needs means that by whatever means you gain your degree you are will enter the sector fully equipped with the correct, and more importantly, relevant skills and knowledge.

There is the option after completing a foundation degree to go on and work towards gaining an Honours degree, and this can take you just 12-15 months further study as opposed to the normal 3-4 years it would take if you began a Bachelors degree from entry level.