Hairdressing Pathways

Hairdressing Careers

Working in a salon as a stylist is just one of the countless pathways that a hairdressing career can take you. From film to fashion, education to business ownership, the variety of options are many and will ensure you a colourful and creative career where no two days are the same.

salon hairdresser

A hairdresser is someone who specialises in cutting, colouring and styling hair in order to enhance or maintain a person’s appearance. Hairdressing is attractive to many because it is creative, social and often flexible when it comes to working hours.

Gaining a hairdressing qualification is called a Certificate 3 in Hairdressing. The level of pay for a qualified hairdresser is Level 3 in the Hair & Beauty Award. Many salons pay a combination of Award wage plus a commission, based on productivity of services and turnover plus retail sales.

Hairdressing can be achieved via an apprenticeship, which is a training contract with the apprentice, the employer, the training college and State Training. Apprenticeships are generally 3 – 4 years depending on each individual. An apprentice attends college during their apprenticeship and the salon is also responsible to train the apprentice to a qualified standard. Apprenticeships are full time or part time and the rate of pay is dependent on which year you are in.

Another option is a full time or part time course. These courses are when the student pays to do a ‘fast track’ program and attends a college. This is not paid for by the employer. Work experience is necessary to complete this course, generally up to 252 hours. Some may be paid and some may be unpaid. If working at the same time in a salon as doing the fast track course, the rate of pay is TRAINEE.

Salon Coordinator / Manager

This job description will vary between salons, but in a nutshell, a Salon Coordinator or Manager is the heart beat of a business. If you’re one of those people who are super organised and efficient, with a love for systems and order, this could be your dream role – and you don’t even need to be a hairdresser!

The Salon Coordinator supports the salon owner and the hairdressers or barbers to ensure their day runs smoothly and that clients are happy. This person might run reception, answer the phone, make appointments, do social media posts, take payments from customers, order stock, sometimes even sell retail products for the clients to take home based on the recommendations of their stylist.
This is predominantly a customer service and administration role. Some salon coordinators pay bills, run errands, do banking… the list of jobs really depends on the requirements of each salon business. Many say it’s the most important job of all!


Barbers cut, dress, style and shave hair, mostly for a male clientele. They usually work in barbershops. In addition to cutting hair, they also perform any number of other grooming tasks related to the face, scalp, beard and moustache.

The formal qualification to become a barber is a Certificate III in Barbering, which usually takes around one year to complete. A barber’s tasks and duties may include:

  • Trim, cut, shape and taper hair using scissors, razors, clippers and com
  • Provide facial hair maintenance, custom shaves.
  • Perform grooming services, such as shampooing, styling, colouring and scalp, neck and facial massages.
  • Clean and sterilise tools and equipment such as scissors, combs and clippers,
  • Order supplies.

A teaching role is similar to an educator, however this applies more to hairdressers who move into a formal training role within a College, which can be a private registered training organisation (RTO) or a public college, such as TAFE.

Teachers are responsible for training predominantly apprentices, who are learning to become hairdressers via a formal qualification called a Certificate III in Hairdressing or a Certificate III in Barbering. They deliver an official Training Package, which is make up of a number of units, from fundamentals such as hair washing and blowdrying, through to more complicated modules such as colour application and hair cutting.

Teachers also liaise with salon owners regarding the training plans for their specific apprentices, ensuring they are performing their work to a particular standard whilst undertaking the formal training. Teachers and salons that work together provide the best outcomes when it comes to the proficiency of student hairdressers.

Salon Business Owner

Salon owners are professionals in the hair and business industries. They may own high-end, urban salons with a large team of stylists or smaller operations with only a few employees.

Many hair salon or barber shop owners do double duties, both working directly with clients and managing the operations side of the salon. Hair salon owners who also perform styling duties on clients will need to have completed formal qualifications such as a Certificate III in Hairdressing and also have experience working as a stylist. Owners who strictly manage the salon don’t need to complete any formal education, however a background in business is common and beneficial.

The specific duties of a hair salon owner vary according to the particular salon, but generally including interacting with clients, hairstyling/cutting/colouring and training staff. On the business side, a salon owner’s responsibilities may include accounting, order stock, marketing, compliancy and staff management – including the hiring and management of employees. Salon owners generally handle customer service responsibilities as well. If something goes wrong with a client, the owner is the final authority in the matter and responsible for making the customer happy.

Freelance Session Stylist

Unlike ordinary stylists who usually work in salons, session stylists are called to create hair styles for events, parades, fashion shows, magazines, television appearances, films and advertising campaigns. Clients vary and can include anyone from a local news reader, models for a photo shoot through to celebrities preparing for a magazine spread.

Session stylist are generally ‘freelance’, meaning they work for themselves. Many are aligned with an agency that looks after other creatives such as makeup artists, photographers and fashion stylists and promotes their work to magazines, advertising agencies, brands and other clients so they can get booked for jobs. Whilst there is no specific training to be a session stylist, although most a fully qualified hairdressers as you need the skill set to perform your job well, there are a few tips below to climb the competitive ladder of session work.

Put yourself out there: offer to assist some established session stylists for free to better understand the industry and get a foot in the door.

Get some photos done with models: Showcase your work on professional models and take some photos to show potential clients and agencies the quality of your work.

Never stop learning: as session styling focuses mostly on ‘styling’ rather than cutting or colouring, do as much long hair and bridal styling education as you can. You’ll always pick up tips and techniques that you can add to your repertoire!


A trichologist is a specialist who focuses on trichology – the study of diseases or problems related to the hair and scalp, as well as their treatments. Though trichologists are not doctors, they can advise people who are having hair-related problems, such as hair loss or scalp conditions, hair breakage, oily scalp and scalp psoriasis. Some trichologists can also treat problems related to conditions such like alopecia and thichotillomania, or hair-pulling disorder.

Trichologists may perform the following tasks:

  • Discuss scalp problems with clients
  • Examine the scalp, identify the problem, determine the cause of the problem and decide on appropriate therapy
  • Treat scalp problems such as dandruff, itchiness of the scalp, hair loss, baldness and excessive oiliness
  • Carry out a microscopic examination of the hair
  • Apply ointment or lotion to the scalp, massage or use electrotherapy machines and ultra-violet lamps
  • Treat damage sustained by the hair or scalp (as a result of the misuse of hair colouring, for example)
  • Prescribe nutritional supplements and where necessary, refer clients to medical or paramedical practitioners

Many hairdressers discover a love of teaching and sharing their knowledge with others, so move into an education role. There are a few options when it comes to training in hairdressing.

This may be in a salon environment, where the hairdresser is in charge of training all of the staff on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. This includes apprentices and new employees. They also receive training on new products from the salon’s product suppliers and deliver this training to the team.

Educators can also be independent or work for a product company. Independent educators develop courses and training modules and teach them to individuals, groups of hairdressers or salon teams. A wide range of topics may be covered, from cutting and colouring, through to long hair styling and bridal work. They may also train on other areas of salon work essential for running a business, such as management, product sales and customer service.

Educators that work for product companies are specialists with the specific brands for the organisation they work for. They may receive specific training from international offices (if the company is a large multi-national) and deliver it to their local team. They also create training programs for their salon clients and teach them how to get the best results from new products, tools and techniques so that salon stylists are confident when working on their clients.

Wedding / Special Events Stylist

Hairdressers working on weddings or special events can either be based in a salon or be freelance and run their own business. You will need to be extra proficient in long hair styling and updos as well as the application of hairpieces and extensions, as this is what you will be doing mostly as opposed to cutting or colouring hair.

Be prepared for early starts – especially if the wedding is earlier in the day or there are a lot of members in the bridal party. You could be working on a bride, mother of the bride, mother-in-law, multiple bridesmaids and flower girls, so it’s important to be quick, efficient and understand the client’s (bride’s) brief by organising meetings and trials prior to the big day.

Weddings are usually highly charged occasions, so a cool, calming disposition is a big advantage when stress and emotions are running high.

The same can be said for special events. You might be dealing with well known actors or celebrities that are very particular about their appearance, so it’s vital that you nail the brief and understand exactly what is required so that everyone is happy with the end result.

Film / Television Stylist

Hairdressers can work on feature films or for television programs or stations. They liaise closely with colleagues in the hair, makeup and costume departments, as well as with directors, actors and extras. They create hairstyles to suit production requirements and also work with wigs, hairpieces and extensions to create the looks needed for each of their actors or presenters.

Hairdressers are recruited onto films during pre-production and work throughout the production, usually on a freelance basis.

They work on principal and supporting actors and, depending on the schedule, usually look after several actors throughout the production. The hours are long and the job can involve long periods working away from home. They oversee hair continuity during shoots, meaning they may have to adapt their work depending on which scenes are shot in what order.

When the scenes have been shot, hairdressers wash out products from, and condition performers’ hair.

They remove wigs and ensure they are cleaned and prepared for further use. Hairdressers may be required to assist with any subsequent publicity shots.

In television, hairdressers work alongside makeup artists and look after the actors or presenters in particular programs. If they work for a particular tv station, their hours are more regular than in film, however there might be early starts, for example in the case of morning television programs, where the presenters are on air at 6am and have a hair and makeup call of 4.30am. The hairdresser would also work on celebrity and special guests if need be. If they work for a series, then they would be required to be on set or location to look after the actors and prepare them for their roles.

Technical Advisor

Technical Advisors provide technical advice on the quality and application of products and equipment to hairdressers and barbers. They must be able to understand the characteristics and advantages of the products and master the application of different equipment.

A technical advisor could be an educator with hairdressing qualifications and industry experience.

They typically work for a manufacturer or supplier in colour or styling products and tools. Their experience would cover product information and education, technical information and the practical ability of their product or equipment.

This role would see you splitting your time between an office and travelling to salons to share your knowledge with hairdressers in salon and teach them the ins and outs of the product/s and equipment you represent, including technical application and troubleshooting any problems or answering questions. You could also run education classes for groups of stylists who stock your products or equipment in their salon.

Sales Representative

Sales representatives are responsible for promoting and selling products and services to retail and wholesale outlets, businesses and industry professionals. Savvy, driven, goal-orientated and persuasive, Sales

Representatives establish and maintain relationships with key figures to create awareness of the brand they represent, sell as many units as possible and deepen or broaden their reach to generate further sales.

The tasks and duties of a sales representative can include:

  • Visiting clients to demonstrate products and answer questions
  • Taking orders from clients
  • Training Sales Consultants
  • Scheduling regular visits and appointments with clients
  • Networking and cold-calling to broaden the number of buyers
  • Setting, quoting and negotiating prices and terms and drawing up contracts
  • Attending trade shows and giving demonstrations, coordinate product displays and hand out samples
  • Reporting and working to sales targets
  • Maintaining a Customer
  • Relationship Management (CRM) database