What is a beauty therapist? Everything you need to know

Thinking of becoming a beauty therapist? Oaklands' guide has everything you need to know before embarking on your journey.


There are few feelings better than walking out fresh from a beauty treatment, feeling truly revitalised and ready to face the world again. If you’re a natural people person and you’d like to spend your career conjuring up that unique magic that comes from a visit to the salon or spa, then a treatment in beauty therapy could be just the thing for you. You’ll be in the business of making people feel better, which makes it not only a highly rewarding job but a challenging one too. 

Beauty therapists, or beauticians, provide a highly specialised service which combines expertly honed techniques with a real understanding of how the skin and body work. From manicures to makeup, whichever area you choose to specialise in you’ll have the opportunity for lifelong learning. Your professional service, friendly manner with a wide range of people and ability to adapt your services to people’s needs will help cement your reputation. With this in place, you can build a successful career, whether you choose to start your own beauty therapy business or work your way up in an existing one. 

It’s a demanding role, and every salon or spa might have its own definition of what a beauty therapist actually does – so you can be sure that a wide variety of jobs will await you day-to-day. At some companies you might be expected to specialise in a certain area, while at others you might find yourself doing a bit of everything. Passion for this area and real commitment are the keys to becoming a beauty therapist – but here’s everything you need to know about the role before you start, and exactly what will get you qualified as a beauty therapist.

What does a beauty therapist do?

As a beauty therapist at a typical salon or spa, you will perform a huge range of duties, including but not limited to:

  • Booking appointments

  • Discussing treatment options with new customers

  • Manicures and pedicures

  • Body and facial hair removal treatments

  • Applying specialist makeup

  • Spray tanning 

  • Facials

  • Shaping eyebrows and eyelashes

  • Advising customers on skincare, haircare and how to use different cosmetic 

  • Spotting and treating minor skin problems

  • Non-surgical skin treatments

  • Massages and therapeutic treatments

What skills do I need to be a beauty therapist?

Work as a beauty therapist combines administrative and customer service duties with performing many specialist treatments. These can be physically demanding and require an excellent ability to work with your hands. In addition, you will need:

  • An in-depth knowledge of cosmetics and an understanding of the layout of the human body

  • Enthusiasm for keeping on top of the latest advancements in your chosen field

  • The stamina to carry out physical tasks for long periods of time

  • A positive attitude and outstanding customer service skills

  • A passion for making all kinds of people feel better

  • Time management skills

  • Business acumen

  • An ability to listen to people and maintain a high level of professionalism

  • Teamwork and cooperation skills

One of the most crucial aspects of beauty therapy is being able to tailor your treatments to suit a customer’s specific needs, rather than always following a textbook approach. This adaptability and personal touch is what will set your business apart and ensure that you get great reviews.

What salary can I expect to earn as a beauty therapist?

On average, a beauty therapist earns between £8 and £10 per hour, which makes for an annual salary of up to £20,000. However, there is scope for this to increase as you progress to beauty management positions and further.

What qualifications do I need to become a beauty therapist?

You can take a college course or apprenticeship in order to qualify as a beauty therapist, or start out as a beauty therapist’s assistant and work your way up while studying on the job. What’s crucial on whichever route you choose is gaining as much hands-on experience of beauty therapy as you can. 

College courses are the most common route, and you could find the right course at Oaklands.

Foundation Diploma in Hair & Beauty Skills

Learn the basics of beauty therapy in our fully equipped salons and discover where your passion lies on this one-year full time course. With no formal qualifications needed, you can get a feel for working in a professional environment – and gain practical skills from modules covering a wide number of areas including manicure, pedicure, eyebrow shaping, health and safety and much more. Practical and written assessments will ensure that your learning is consolidated and you are ready to progress further.

Level 2 Diploma in Beauty Specialist Techniques

At Oasis, the fully functional beauty salon on our Welwyn Garden City campus, you can perform treatments on real clients and gain first-hand experience of the industry on this one-year full time course that focuses on practical learning. Our highly qualified teaching staff have the experience to guide you through areas including eyelash and eyebrow treatments, waxing, anatomy and physiology and much more. You’ll produce an assessed portfolio of work that reflects what you’ve learned and sets you up for a Level 3 qualification.

Level 3 Diploma in Beauty Treatments

Get ready for employment in the beauty industry with extensive practical training and experience on this one-year full time diploma course. You’ll learn not only the essential techniques but customer service and retail management skills too. Our highly experienced tutors oversee modules including client consultation, body and skin analysis, electrical treatments and much more. You’ll be assessed with a range of practical and written work, and at this level you can choose to specialise in your chosen field within beauty therapy – meaning that everything you learn will be directly relevant to your future career.

What specialised beauty courses can I take?

There are a number of more specialised courses available at Oaklands, to set you up for the career that you’re truly passionate about.

What can I do with my beauty therapy qualification?

You’ll leave the Level 3 Diploma ready to start working professionally in the beauty industry, and one of the great things about beauty therapy is that it doesn’t have to be salon-bound or spa-bound – you can set up a local beauty business based in your own home. Alternatively you could set up a mobile beauty business where you make appointments to visit clients and treat them in their own homes.

How long does it take to train as a beauty therapist?

This can vary depending on the extent to which you want to specialise, but typically training for beauty therapy takes two years as long as you have left school with relevant GCSEs. If not, you can take a foundation course in order to gain the equivalent qualification.

Career progression as a beauty therapist

Whether you choose to be your own boss or work for a beauty company, you’ll find that there are excellent opportunities for career progression in beauty therapy. There are always additional skills that you can learn, and you can progress to salon management, running a chain of salons or working in unusual places such as on a cruise ship.

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