Do you know that the hairdressing industry is flourishing in South Africa? There are many different opportunities in this industry ranging from barbers to hairdressers, specialising in either the African or Caucasian market. And some hairdressers also need receptionists and managers. A study done in 2015 by the Department of Higher Education estimated that the “hairdressing industry added R24.8 billion to the South African GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and supported 185 415 domestic jobs that earned R15.99 billion in wages and income through its direct, indirect, and induced contributions.”

CLICK HERE to read the Economic Report.

Hairdressing is a trade that doesn’t necessarily require formal training. There are many informal hairdressers, and sometimes the knowledge of weaving and braiding has been passed down from one generation to another, and many people are self-taught. However, although some people have been taught by their families, it seems that those with qualifications in hairdressing do earn highly weekly salaries than those who don’t have qualifications.

As this is a growing industry in South Africa, I decided to interview Nicole, a hairdresser, to find out more about this trade.

1. Why did you decide to become a hairdresser?

From a child I was always interested in playing with hair and how people look. From Grade 6 onwards I knew I was going to be a hairdresser.

2. What qualifications do you need to be a hairdresser?

You don’t need to get matric, although I did. When you go to college to study hairdressing you take your basic subjects like Life Skills, Maths and English. There are two ways to qualify as a hairdresser. You can either study through a college or work a certain number of hours in a salon before you take your trade test. (Note: A trade test is run by SETA – Sector Education and Training Authority – and administered by accredited trade test centres around the country. It shows that you are fully qualified in your trade. Smaller informal hairdressers may not get it, but you will need one to work in a proper salon.)

3. How did you study?

I went to Northlink College in Parow. I studied part-time for three years because I went to college for one day a week and then worked in a salon for the rest of the week. You can do the course full-time but then you need a year in a salon to get some experience.

4. What qualities do you need to be a hairdresser?

You definitely need to be a people’s person. You talk to people all day. You also need to be creative and be prepared to work hard. You stand all day in this job which is tiring.

5. What are the disadvantages of this job?

Well, the standing is one but I’m used to it. Also, you need to be a bit hard-hearted because I want to make people happy and feel beautiful, and if someone doesn’t like what you’ve done I feel unhappy. You need to work hard because it’s not as glamourous as it looks.

6. What sort of work can you do with your qualification?

You can work in basic everyday styling like I do, but there are other things you can do. Some people specialise in weddings, you can also freelance and do a mobile salon where you go to people’s houses. There’s also something called artistry which you can do after doing specialised courses. You present your work on stage with different styles of cutting and colouring.

7. What else is available?

Relaxing is very popular in the South African market so you can learn this, as well as the basics of braids and weaving. Extensions are also popular and this becomes quite specialised.

8. Are there jobs available?

There are a lot of hairdressers, but you can find jobs. You can change jobs to a place where you enjoy the clientele who come there. There are also people who work for themselves or start something of their own.

9. Can you make a reasonable living from what you do?

Yes, I make a good living from doing this.

10. What advice would you give a young person who might be interested in hairdressing?

It has to be your passion. It’s not just a simple thing. You learn about the structure of the hair and about skin problems as well as about colours and the undertones of hair. You also work hard and stand all day. You really need to be passionate. I know people who studied with me and left the business.

It seems that the hairdressing industry is a growing one, especially in the African market. South Africa has the largest industry in Africa, with Relaxing and African hair styling being the most-requested services. Trends show that women are opting for new combinations such as adding colour to relaxed hair and they are prepared to pay high prices for this. This, together with the fact that many women tend to change their look and styling on a regular basis, (perhaps as much as every six weeks) from weaves to braids or curly to straight, highlights the scope of the work available.

Where can you train as a hairdresser?

Always make sure that the institution is SETA-accredited and that a practical learnership forms part of the training.

• College of Cape Town
National Certificate: Hairdressing Level 2 – 3 (Level 2 requires Grade 10)
Further Education and Training Certificate: Hairdressing Level 4
Tel: 021 404 6700
Funding: No bursaries available

• Northlink College
Short skills courses
Hair Care Level 2 – 3
Parow Campus
Tel: 021 931 8238


• Tshwane North College
Hairdressing NQF Level 2-4
Pretoria Campus

Funding: NSFAS funding available –

• Carlton Hair Academy
Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban

Funding: Educational Loan – Fundi 011 670 6100 –
Part-time students: Carlton Hair contributes 50% towards your education (balance deducted off your salary monthly).

• Urban Hair Academy
Kuils River
Tel: 021 903 4092

Funding: No bursaries available

• The Hair Academy of South Africa
NQF Level 2 – 4 (Preference given to applicants with Grade 12)
Tel: 018 290 5219

Funding: No bursaries available


Tell us: Did you find this useful? What other trades would you like us to cover?