How to become a beauty therapist

How to Become a Beauty Therapist is our ultimate career guide for anyone who is serious about a career in beauty therapy. Let us walk you through the entire process to becoming a beauty therapist from college to salon work; apprenticeship to salon manager. We will show you how.

The UK beauty industry is currently worth over £17 billion. With images of celebrity, beauty and style being broadcast to global audiences on a daily basis, people want a quick fix. The industry itself is ageless. Young people want to look young for as long as possible, and older people are trying to prevent ageing. As a beauty therapist, it is your job to continue this trend.

Sometimes deciding which option to take can be confusing. Should you specialise in massage? Perhaps you want to work as a mobile therapist, or work from home. You could teach beauty, run your own salon or work on a cruise ship. The opportunities are limitless. In our guide, we will show you how to achieve all of these and more.

If you have recently finished your GCSEs, now is the perfect time to begin your career. There are two fantastic options available, in beauty college and beauty apprenticeships.


The first thing you’ll need to do is fill out an online application form. These can be filled in via the college website, and will then be passed over to the admissions team. Usually you’ll have to fill in your personal details, and then you will be asked some competency based questions. Once you’ve completed the application form, you’ll be invited to attend an interview with one of the lecturers at the college. First, you’ll be asked to fill in a questionnaire, and finally you’ll interview face to face with one of the lecturers. You will be marked based on your appearance, oral expression, written expression, enthusiasm, personal hygiene and language. The lecturer may ask you questions on any number of topics. Below we’ve provided you with a potential question, and sample response to this question:

What makes you a good candidate for this course?

This is a question you should expect to hear in every interview. It is also a great question for you, because it allows you to sell yourself to the asker. While you should try to come across as confident and enthusiastic, don’t be afraid to flatter the institution a little either.

When enrolling for a place on a college beauty course, there are many things to consider. Generally colleges base their initial decision on your predicted grades. All current courses require candidates to have at the very least a 3 in GCSE English and a 3 in GCSE Maths. If you do not possess these grades then you will be required to take further classes in the subject. These classes will run alongside the beauty modules, and will often be taught by the beauty lecturers themselves.

“I am not just a great candidate for this course, but as a beauty therapist in general. I am a really social, friendly, outgoing person who loves to meet new people, and help them to feel good about themselves. I’ve always loved helping friends and relatives with their hair and makeup and now I’d love the opportunity to test these skills in the workplace. I still have a great deal to learn however, and this course will really benefit me in that respect. I really believe this college is the best place for me to study.”


According to your GCSE results, you will be sorted into 2 possible categories:

Level 1 Diploma in Beauty

Requirements: 5 GCSEs, D to F or equivalent. including English or Maths at grade 2 or above..

Level 1 Beauty is a very basic programme, which mainly involves assisting, with less studied content. Candidates will learn and assist with basic skills such as the application of day makeup, basic facial, basic manicure. This generally doesn’t involve pedicure, advanced makeup, eye treatment or waxing. Candidates good enough to progress will move onto Level 2 in the following year.

beauty therapist

Level 2 Diploma in Beauty

Requirements: 5 GCSES, Ds and above, including English or Maths at grade 3 or above.

Level 2 Beauty is a regular programme that involves more content than Level 1, and less assisting. Candidates will learn and assist with everything included in Level 1, and this will also involve pedicure, advanced makeup, eye treatment and waxing. You will learn about removing unwanted facial and body hair, spray tanning, eyebrow alteration and skin cleansing.

Following the completion of Level 2, candidates who are strong enough will move onto Level 3. This level can only be reached with both high results and attendance during Level 2. Level 3 is an advanced programme that involves more content than either Level 1 or Level 2, and more individual treatment work. This can include regular massage, Indian head massage, aromatherapy, electro therapy, non-surgical skin improvement treatments, and hot-stones treatment.

Each level counts as a standalone qualification, with candidates who are good enough, staying on to move up to the next level. Your progress will be determined by both observational and online assessments, and your attendance over the course of the year, with 90% generally the minimum required. The observational tests will usually take place at the end of each module, and will decide 50% of your grade.

Below we’ve laid out some typical beauty exam questions, which you might expect to find at the end of a module:

1 What is the function of the nail plate?

The nail plate acts as a shield for the tissue underneath the nail bed.

2 What is the function of the nail matrix?

The nail matrix is responsible for the production of cells which produce, and help to re-grow, the nail plate itself.

3. List 3 changes that can affect the nail as a result of ageing?

3 changes that can affect nails are a result of ageing are: Nails may become dull and brittle, tips may begin to fragment, and nails will grow more slowly.

4. How many carpal bones are there in one hand and where would you locate them?

There are 8 carpal bones in each hand, and they can be found on the wrist.

5. How many bones are there in each foot?

There are 26 bones in the human foot.

6. What is the name for the knee bone?

The name for the knee bone is the patella.

7. What is the function of the cuticle?

The cuticle is a thin layer of skin that covers the nail plate and the nail root, just before the nail surfaces. It brings the skin and the nail plate together to provide a waterproof barrier.

8. Name the two bones in the lower leg?

The two bones in the lower leg are the Fibula and the Tibia.



In order to apply for a salon apprenticeship, candidates are required to send in a CV. The salon will then contact and invite the candidates who are suitable to an interview. If you are someone who has recently finished their GCSEs, at the age of 16, this can be an incredibly daunting process. The first step, is to draft up a CV. If you are a younger candidate, you may not have any relevant work experience or training to fall back on. This is okay, since salons will expect this, and are looking for applicants who are eager to learn and develop. In our guide you will find a comprehensive run through of all the details needed to complete your CV, and filling in application forms.

In order to apply for a salon apprenticeship, candidates are required to send in a CV. The salon will then contact and invite the candidates who are suitable to an interview. If you are someone who has recently finished their GCSEs, at the age of 16, this can be an incredibly daunting process. The first step, is to draft up a CV. If you are a younger candidate, you may not have any relevant work experience or training to fall back on. This is okay, since salons will expect this, and are looking for applicants who are eager to learn and develop. In our guide you will find a comprehensive run through of all the details needed to complete your CV, and filling in application forms.

The other option, if you have recently finished school, is to take an apprenticeship. This involves going straight into the workplace, and learning on-the-job. By the end of this process you will have achieved exactly the same results as you would have from a standard college course, but on top of this you will also have valuable workplace experience. Some salons will have a training scheme, whereby a member of staff will spend 1 day a week of your apprenticeship, teaching you the same anatomical material as you would learn in college. Others may require you to spend 1 day a week in college, and the rest of the time performing practical theory as a junior member of staff. At the end of your apprenticeship, you will sit a very similar examination/series of tests to those we listed in the previous chapter.

What are your strongest qualities?

Prior to your interview, make a list of your strongest qualities. Not only will this prepare you for the question, but it will work as a confidence building tool. Then take the most important qualities from that list, and order them in terms of importance to the role you are applying for. Find examples of when you have used these strong points, and structure them into a response which tells the employer that you are someone whom they should have working for them.

‘Well firstly, I’m extremely sociable. I know that it’s important to have a friendly and relatable personality in this industry, and that is one of the reasons I believe I’m so suited to the role. While I was at college, I volunteered as a member of the college counselling team. I’m a great listener and it was highly rewarding to make a difference. I’m also really interested in the industry as a whole. I regularly post on hair and beauty forums, purchase magazines and keep up to date with the latest trends and treatments. I really enjoyed taking my Level 3 at college, because it gave me hands on experience with some of the treatments I had read about. I just love the way the beauty industry is always changing and there are always new things to learn. Working at a restaurant has taught me great customer service and teamwork skills, so I’d like the chance to apply these to a job I’m interested in.’

Qualified Beauty Therapist


Salon workers typically work up to 5 days a week, dealing with clients who come into their shop. They must perform a variety of different treatments, and maintain a friendly and positive attitude at all times. We have used a typical day in the life from one of our inside experts, to help give you a better idea of what working in a salon is like.



At 8am, Sandra arrives at the salon. Her day actually begins at 9, but it is important that she arrives early, in order to help get the salon prepared and ready for the day’s treatments. Her first treatment is a short, fifteen minute eyebrow wax. In order to prepare for the day, Sandra must perform activities such as:

  • Heating towels
  • Turning on the heating so the salon is warm for clients
  • Lighting candles
  • Making fresh coffee
  • Checking the answer machine, and ringing people to confirm their appointments

As Sandra’s first treatment is a waxing treatment, she must also turn on the wax in advance to make sure it is in the right condition to perform the procedure.


At 9am, Sandra has her first treatment. She welcomes her client into the salon, offers her a drink and then takes her into the treatment room. After communicating with the client to ensure she has all of the correct details, and affirming the details and type of procedure that will take place, Sandra begins. The treatment involves an eyebrow wax and shaping, which should take a maximum of fifteen minutes to complete.

During this treatment, Sandra begins a discussion with her client. Sandra’s client has recently undergone a fairly messy divorce, and as the conversation develops, gets fairly upset. Sandra speaks to her in a calm and soothing voice, acting as a therapist with whom the client feels comfortable to talk. She fetches her a drink, finishes the treatment and then allows her time to sit and talk about her issue. All of this means that while the procedure should have taken 15 minutes, it in fact took 40. The treatment ends at 09:40, instead of 09:15.

You can find out more about Sandra’s day in our comprehensive beauty therapist guide.

Mobile Therapist

Mobile beauty therapists travel to client’s homes, delivering treatment that would normally be found in a salon. They work independently, within the confines of a particular area. In order to work as a mobile beauty therapist, you will need to have some knowledge of how to set up your own business. Here are two of our top tips that you should consider:

Market Research:
Before beginning your mobile beauty business, it is extremely important to research the area you will be conducting your business in. You also need to set yourself guidelines on how far you are willing to travel. Timing is a crucial factor when working as an independent therapist, and therefore it is a good idea to keep your target area local and small. If you are travelling huge distances every single day then you will not only lose money on fuel, but there are likely to be delays between clients. After you have decided upon your locational boundaries, you must assess the competitiveness of the area in which you are operating. Look at the type of treatments that your competitors offer and the price they charge. As a mobile therapist, you need to find a unique selling point which differentiates you from your competition.

Types of Treatment:
Once you have performed your market research, you need to decide which types of treatment you will offer. When starting out, it is a good idea to keep your treatment bracket fairly small. Whether you trained in a salon, or achieved your qualification through a college course, think about what types of treatments you performed best at, and which ones you enjoyed doing the most. You should use your market research to gage the popularity and competitiveness of treatments in the area. For example, if your research shows that there are large amounts of nail salons and independent nail technicians/specialists within the area, then it would be unwise to specialise in this yourself. Initially, you should try to find a treatment that is unique, stands out from your competitors and will therefore attract customers to your new business. Consider more advanced treatments that you are qualified to perform, such as Indian head massage or reflexology, and make them an integral part of your service list.

For more business tips, tricks and information on other beauty related careers, please purchase our fantastic guide.

How to become a beauty therapist

Chapter 1: Why should I become a beauty therapist?

Chapter 2: College Application

Chapter 3: College Interview

Chapter 4: Taking the course

Chapter 5: Apprenticeship

Chapter 6: Salon Interview

Chapter 7: Salon Worker

Chapter 8: Mobile Beauty Therapist

Chapter 9: Other Options

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