education explained

Education Explained

Education within the nail, beauty & hair industry can vary hugely in quality and as a lay person entering the industry there are so many options that it can be confusing.  Even for industry professionals with many years’ experience bad courses can still be taken, and it’s not until you get there or even get home afterwards that you realise you’ve booked or even attended a course that wasn’t what you were expecting. Whilst we can’t promise to wave a magic wand and make all educators fantastic, we hope that by explaining a little about what to expect from each type of training we can give you, the Learner, the information you need to make a good decision. We want to help lessen negative experiences and give our industry a higher quality therapist, technician or stylist to employ or provide space to within their business.

With all education it is a buyer beware situation.  Until you begin learning you do not know how well you learn in your chosen environment.  Any course, be it a college-based full time NVQ or a one day facial course will only be as good as the person delivering it, so it is important that they are qualified, experienced, commercially aware and insured.  For Further Education Colleges this is more difficult to check, but the awarding body’s internal observations and assessments mean there are some checks to ensure criteria are being met.  Within private accredited education there are no checks and so please check the course, the educator and ask for credentials, testimonials and insurance certification if you wish.  Any good educator should be happy to provide you with this.

If you don’t want to attend Further Education College or can’t commit to full time learning, then what other options are there and what are the implications?  Here’s a guide to what each type of training is and how it can be used to advance your career pathway. 

  • Check for pre-requisites
  • Who do you train with? 
  • What’s the best route for you? 
  • How do you know they are reputable? 
  • How do you know you’ll get the best outcomes? 
  • Who do I trust? 
  • How much is it going to cost?

Undergraduate Qualifications and Beyond

For experienced industry workers there is the opportunity to advance your skills to degree level in some areas such as complementary therapies, education and more. 

Vocational Qualifications

This type of qualification is provided by local Further Education Colleges as well as independent academies.  The awarding bodies include VTCT, City & Guilds and ITEC.  Providers of vocational qualifications are subject to internal and external verification to assess education provision, assessment methods and consistency.

There are several types of vocational qualification:

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs)

NVQs are built upon national occupational standards. These standards are performance indicators that describe what competent people in a specific job role should be able to do. They cover all the main skills of an occupation, including best practice, the ability to adapt to future requirements and provide underpinning knowledge and understanding to enable competence in the skills learnt.

NVQs are usually completed within an academic year or a prescribed time by the Education Provider, however they do not have to be completed within a specific timeframe. They can be taken by all types of people be they full time Students or people fitting in with their full or part time job.  They are not tied by age limits and have no specific entry requirements.

They are available in Levels 1-6 dependent on skill and knowledge level required.

These courses are recognised nationally and internationally (if you are planning to work overseas check that the country you wish to work in will accept your qualification).

Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs)

are the exclusively Scottish version of an NVQ.

Vocationally Related Qualifications (VRQs)

VRQs are like NVQs and provide practical knowledge and the skills required for a particular job through structured study-based training programs. The candidate takes written tests and is assessed on work-related activities.  They provide certification and are a “preparation for work” qualification.  They will begin your journey into your chosen field of work.

Accredited Courses

Accreditation has become one of the most popular ways to enter the industry and add skills to Level 2 and 3 education.  Providing varied pre-requisites and criteria for certification, you will need to ensure you are selecting your Education Provider wisely to gain the result you need to progress your career. 

Accreditation bodies include The Guild of Beauty Therapists/Nail Technicians/Holistic Therapists, ABT, BABTAC, Professional Beauty and more.  These courses can be anything from 4 hours through to 5 days or more, these accredited courses taught in small classes enhance your education. Check that the provider meets National Occupational Standards (NOS) as prescribed by Government.  Also look for HABIA approval as this indicates that NOS are being met and that the provider is giving you an accepted standard of education.

To become accredited, Education Providers must evidence how they will deliver their courses, learning resources, case study requirements and assessment methods.  The accrediting bodies do not meet the Education Provider and it is a paper only transaction to become an accredited training academy.  Ensure that you have carried out your due diligence when you are booking a course.  This is particularly important if you are using an accredited course to begin your journey in the industry.  For experienced therapists looking for CPD, skill building, skill updates or additional learning the quality of education should still be important and investing your funds in an inexperienced or poor-quality provider will mean potentially having to retrain or never building your business in that area for lack of confidence.

NOTE: Accredited training may not be accepted by some employers as a foundation qualification.  The industry standard for many areas is the NVQ Level 2 and/or Level 3 so if you are looking to work in a commercial environment such as salon or spa do your research before you train.  If you are wishing to work for yourself on a mobile or home basis you will need to check that your insurance provider is happy with this level of qualification as your foundation.

Non-Accredited Training (Attendance Certificate)

This style of training is not generally suitable for entry to industry as a professional.  It is best for Students that are adding or enhancing skill to areas where they have underpinning insurable qualifications.  For example, adding an art skill to their underpinning/foundation nail art skill taken in NVQ Level 2 Nail Technology.  This is not to say that this is the only purpose, but before taking Non-Accredited Training check with your insurer if you’ll be covered to work on the public with the new or updated skill.

These courses can sometimes be used towards your CPD points if you require them for your professional memberships. 

They are great for skill building and troubleshooting to enhance already learnt skills. 

Some insurers may take these as suitable for insurance purposes for new skills too so do check with your insurance provider as you may not always require an accredited course.  You may find many brand conversion training courses are attendance only certification as they will have the pre-requisite of underpinning knowledge and will require evidence of qualification.

Product Company Training

Many brands within the hair & beauty industry provide complimentary training when you take on their products or equipment.  Dependent upon the provider this may or may not be accredited.  You should check with your insurer as to whether they are happy to provide cover if this is not approved by an awarding or accrediting organisation.  Check for HABIA approval for the highest quality courses.

Within the nail industry you will find that complimentary training is far less common and that you will be required to pay in whole or in part for the training as part of an introductory kit.  Nail product companies usually provide accredited training and in many cases are HABIA approved. 

How to Fund Your Course

Good education does not come cheap!

When looking for your initial courses there are a variety of options and costs to choose from.  Try to be led by the course content and the provider rather than the cost.  The price is obviously a major factor for most Students and there are ways of funding this to ensure you get the best start.  Of course, if you are a school leaver or under 19 you can benefit from Government funded training, but if you are 19+ there are still options available to you to make learning from an approved HABIA provider possible.  You just need to spend a little time researching and looking into funding options.


nabuno E-Vouchers can be purchased towards courses allowing gifts from friends and family to go towards your education.


Once an opportunity only for school leavers,  you can now enter an apprenticeship if you are 19+.  This is great news for mature Students and if you can locate a salon that accepts apprenticeships, it’s worth having a conversation with them.  Many independent colleges offer the apprenticeship route and you will find larger organisations such as Saks that offer in-salon apprenticeship schemes for over 19’s.  You can find more information at

19+ Learner Funding

This is available through some independent colleges and academies.

Payment Plans

Some providers will allow staged payments and if you’ve found your dream academy or provider ask them if this is possible. 


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