Makeup courses can be expensive, especially foundation courses offered at private training schools. On top of tuition fees, you have to support yourself for the duration of the course – and most likely for some time after. Not all courses are equal – some are excellent, some are terrible. With a little time and effort, you can find the right course for you and get the best tuition for your money. After all, this is the start of your career and you want the best start possible.
First of all - Reality Check
Doing a makeup course does not make you a makeup artist, nor does it guarantee a long and happy career.
Most people who do a foundation makeup training course will not succeed as a makeup artist. Many give up through lack of consistent paid work or the stamina needed to work in this industry.
Makeup is a fiercely competitive job and it all boils down to simple economics – there are a small number of jobs vs. humongous amounts of people doing makeup courses. Basically, there are not enough jobs to provide everyone with regular paid work.
However, this does vary from industry to industry, with film and TV being the hardest sector to get regular work in. The retail and beauty industries may provide a better option for many.
- Our guide to where makeup artists work and what they do.
Should I Do a Makeup Course?
Ultimately this is down to you, your talent and your aptitude. Just remember – doing a makeup course doesn’t make you good or employable! Doing a course doesn’t make you a makeup artist – it simply makes you someone who has done a course in makeup.
Industry people can have mixed views about doing makeup courses. There are a handful of successful makeup artists who have been totally self-taught – but the vast majority have completed a foundation training course first. Private courses taught by industry pros may be favoured over college courses.
Ultimately, success comes from a combination of many, many factors for each individual and training is just one of them.
In a really competitive industry like film and television, you’re less likely to be considered for jobs without some sort of foundation training in something relevant. For example, if you want to work in prosthetics, an education in fine art is useful. Remember, few makeup departments have the time to train someone up from scratch.
If you feel a course is a way to go for you, then read on.
What Type of Makeup Do I Want to Do?
Makeup artists work in various industries – including film, television, theatre, fashion, beauty, and retail. There are also specialties within makeup, like prosthetics and body painting.
Common skills and knowledge – all industries share some essential skills and knowledge. For example, health and safety, colour theory, corrective makeup, skincare, and good working practices. However, the creativity needed and other required skills do vary from industry to industry.
Decide what type of makeup artist you want to be. Think about what industry you want to work in and train accordingly. Consider the makeup courses that teach the type of makeup you want to do. There are makeup schools and courses that specialise in each industry.
However, don’t forget all the other skills that a competent makeup artist needs, including people skills, organisation, working to deadlines, and dealing with many curveballs. Does the course help fine-tune these skills too?
- Our guide to where makeup artists work and what they do.
Who are the Course Providers?
Makeup courses are run by:
- A local authority, government or community college – who also run courses on all sorts of subjects as well as makeup.
- Private makeup school – many of these are run by makeup artists and designers.
- Online or long-distant makeup courses – if you want to do a course, we suggest that you do one that’s taught in a brick-and-mortar college. This provided hands-on experience and is taught face-to-face by tutors who can give you feedback and help when needed. Don’t waste your money on a long-distance learning course – it’s hard to learn all about a creative, hands-on profession this way. The exception to this is Dick Smith’s SFX makeup courses. They get great reviews, are very respected, good value with tons of information from the master. Lots of SFX makeup dudes have done the advanced course.
A makeup course can run from a couple of weeks all the way up a couple of years. They can be part-time or full-time, evening classes, or all day. It all depends on what makeup they are teaching. For instance, a bridal makeup course doesn’t need to cover as much as a media makeup course, so should involve fewer tuition hours.
Costs & Funding
A local college makeup course will be much cheaper than a private makeup school. A course at a private makeup school can run into many thousands of pounds to attend.
There are some funding options available in the UK, for example:
Some schools offer qualifications from diplomas to degrees. Others give you a certificate of achievement or attendance.
How to Choose a Makeup Course
Get All The Information
- Read the website and get the brochure – then ignore all the waffle and flashy photographs. Makeup schools are businesses and are designed to make money. Of course, that’s what business is about and we don’t begrudge people making a profit. Some just do it less honestly than others. But it will give you an indication of what that school offers and how much it costs.
- Look at everything they say – consider the curriculum, the facilities, what you get for your money, what kit you get, how you’re assessed and how long they’ve been training people for, and so on. Get the school’s prospectus. Obtain as much information as possible, which is simply a starting point of reference for asking more questions, as well as checking the validity of what is being promised.
- Look at the “satisfaction guarantees” – as in, what refund do you get if you decide the course isn’t right for you? What is the complaints procedure should you not be happy?
- Remember – no school can guarantee or promise you a career.
Check out the Accreditation & Legislation
- Accreditation – this is a voluntary “standards check”, where an independent ruling body or organisation checks over the course and school facilities every so many years. A report is given to the school about what is good and any areas to improve on, which are checked again at some point. If the course fails miserably during an inspection, it will have its accreditation revoked until standards are improved and rechecked.
- While it’s good to have an independent review of the school, accreditation doesn’t mean that the makeup courses are right for you. Likewise, the standard may have changed since the last audit – keep an open mind! You may even be able to request a copy of the audit to check how the last inspection went. This does depend on where you are in the world and local laws about viewing such documents.
- Legislation – this is different from accreditation. It refers to the laws that apply to the country, state, or region the school is. So, you need to check if there are legal requirements relating to running a makeup school in the country or state where you wish to study. If so, check that the school has the applicable license(s) to operate as a makeup training facility.
Check What Certification is Offered
- The makeup qualifications offered in the UK include a BTEC Level 3 Diploma, a VTCT Level 3 Diploma, an ITEC Level 3 Diploma, and a City and Guilds Diploma. These qualifications are offered by colleges and private training providers.
- If you want to work in the beauty sector, doing a beauty therapy or cosmetology qualification is essential. Furthermore, to work in some countries you need to get a license.
- In general, for the film and TV industry, media makeup qualifications mean very little in the real world. Having the right attitude and genuine ability mean far, far more.
- Don’t favour a school solely because you get a fancy qualification. If your final toss-up is between two schools and all things offered are equal, then, sure, go for the qualification.
- Whatever initial foundation training you do, you still leave a school as a trainee – a beginner with much to learn.
Look at the Curriculum
- Everyone learns at different paces – and schools tend to cram in as much as they can. Consider your ability to take in new information. Some intensive makeup courses may be too fast – you do something once, then straight on to something else. A longer, slower-paced course may be better for you.
- A good foundation course should teach all the essential elements of makeup, with plenty of hands-on practice time and a low ratio of tutors to students.
- Practice is the way to get better – use fellow students as well as friends and family. It also gives you time on a wide range of skin types, tones and ages. It’s up to you to practice outside of school – and the more you experiment and play, the better you will get. Also, being practiced on in college by other students helps you to understand things from a client’s perspective.
Check Out the Tutors
- A makeup course should be taught by makeup pros with lots of experience in that field, including recent work. However, techniques and technology changes continually – you want someone who knows this. Being taught out-dated techniques is not useful to anyone.
- Look tutors up on the internet – check out their credits and body of work.
- Can the tutors teach? They may have industry experience and be great makeup artists, but this doesn’t necessarily make them a good teacher! This is why speaking to ex-students will help to ascertain if the teaching methods are good and demonstrations carried out well.
- Tutors come and go all the time – ask the school who’s actually teaching on the course you’re looking at. Literature and websites are not always kept up-to-date.
Talk to Former Students
- And talk to more than one! This is a vital step, one of the most important, in researching makeup schools. It gets to the nitty-gritty. Personal reviews from past students, especially more recent ones, is an invaluable way to establish a course’s true value and if the promises in the prospectus were fulfilled.
- Everyone will have an opinion – the more ex-students you talk to, the more you will identify the common good and bad points. In a word, get testimonials from the horse’s mouth rather than trust the glowing testimonials on a website.
Visit the Schools
- The location is largely irrelevant – safety and transport not withstanding. Of course, if the area feels unsafe, or you can’t get there, then don’t go to that school. What we mean is, don’t be put off by a college that’s in the suburbs, as compared to one in a city centre. Reputation and the quality of teaching mean a lot more than location.
- Don’t be put off by a crappy-looking building – it’s what goes on inside that is important. Don’t be wooed by a college that brags about its film studio location – it means nothing if the tuition is rubbish.
- Go to the schools and have a good look around – take the prospectus and question everything in it. Talk to the current students, preferably when the tutors are not earwigging! Is it cramped or spacious? Is the lighting good? What is the ventilation like? How many tutors to students?
See Through the Waffle & Ask Yourself "So What?"
- A school has an agency and industry contacts – so what. What type of work and how much does it really get in? Will I be offered any of it? Is it paid?
- A school has former students that have won an award – so what. Someone has to win them, and this could be down to lots of other factors, not necessarily where they trained – which was more than likely a long time ago! Schools change!
- A school has lots of flashy photos on their website and say that they are the best provider in the world – that’s a big claim. So what. A photo can be used to show whatever is wanted.
- The website has a list of former students working on big films – so what. How many former students are not working on big films? Answer: most of them.
- The school is owned by a makeup designer – so what. This doesn’t mean you’ll be swanning off to the Caribbean as their assistant. They may not be there most of the time, or they may not be any good at teaching!
Ask yourself “SO WHAT?” So what does this actually mean for me?
It seems a bit belligerent, but you must ask tough questions. This is because, sadly, the bad schools are as good at marketing as the decent schools. Ultimately, one school’s marketing is designed to part you from your money over their competition.
Phew! This is Exhausting!
Well, there are a lot of courses out there! Just remember, it’s YOUR money, YOUR time and YOUR future.
Make the effort, ask lots of questions and don’t take anything the schools say at face value without fact checking. There are some really good courses out there and, by the same token, there are bad courses. In a word – do your research!
Found It - My Dream Course!
Once you find your dream makeup course, then it’s over to you. This means work hard and behave as a professional should:
- Turn up on time.
- Attend everything. Some schools will kick a student out for poor attendance.
- Take lots of notes and photos for reference and practice outside of classes. Record stuff on your mobile phone.
- Read makeup books and magazines. Also watch tutorials done by talented professionals.
- Get involved in out-of-school activities that are offered to you, like productions at the local theatre or student films.
In other words, look at your work ethic. If you can’t cut it when just at school, you will fail in the real world, which is far tougher.
Once you’ve done your course, then more hard work comes your way. Finding work, and keeping on finding the work becomes a part of life. Do not underestimate how tough an industry this is!
Good luck! May the odds be ever in your favour.