makeup artist careers

Makeup Artist Jobs

Makeup artist jobs… did you know?

Have you got creative flair? Are you always experimenting with makeup? Can you make someone’s face your canvas? As a makeup artist you’ll apply makeup for people who need to look special for a big event, whether it’s a modelling photoshoot, wedding, fashion show, or a film, theatre or TV production. You could specialise in different kinds of makeup and even become a makeup artist to the stars.

DID YOU KNOW? Makeup artists often learn to style hair as well, so that they can offer all-round styling as well as makeup magic.

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Makeup artist job trends

How much money can you make as a makeup artist?

Variable pay

Makeup artists tend to be freelance/self-employed. Recent labour market information says you can charge between £200 and £300 a day as a makeup artist or designer. You may initially work for a small fee to build up your portfolio and gain experience.  You can see recommended rates for film and TV work for makeup artists over at BECTU – the media and entertainment union.

Your starting salary can vary because of factors like level of experience, training, or location. Your salary as a makeup artist will increase over time as you build skills, knowledge and experience.

What entry qualifications and training do you need?

School, college and training

You can get started as a makeup artist after you leave school, and you don’t need any academic qualifications. What really matters is your makeup skill, your experience, and your trusty kit of makeup supplies (these can be expensive to build up!).

You will need to build up a portfolio of work to show prospective clients that you can do wonders with their makeup, whether it’s for a wedding, fashion shoot or film or TV show.

You can study for vocational qualifications like a qualification in media makeup or a Technical Certificate or Diploma in Make-up Artistry. This will help you build your skills as well as your portfolio. It will also persuade clients to work with you, as they know you have received formal training.

Graduates and degrees

You can study for two-year foundation degrees and three-year BA is the following subjects:

  • Fashion, theatrical and media hair and makeup
  • Hair, make-up and prosthetics for performance
  • Media make-up and character design
  • Media make-up and special effects.


You can apply for makeup artist apprenticeships to get your foot in the door while building up the skills and experience you need to go far with this career. You can also explore a whole range of beauty apprenticeships to help you build your skills and earn a salary as you train.

Career progression

You can take the freelance route at any stage, or you can start out as a trainee or assistant makeup artist. With time and experience, you could go on to become a senior/chief makeup artist or makeup designer and lead a team. If fortune smiles on you, you could even become a makeup artist working with A-list stars.

What experience do you need for makeup artist jobs?

Work experience

It can help your application if you have previously done work experience or volunteering in a beauty-based environment.

Examples of relevant work experience include:

  • Work shadowing (even if it’s just for a day)
  • Work placements in a company
  • Year-long industry placements on a sandwich degree course

Volunteering and extra-curricular activities

Your portfolio is everything. People want to see what you can do! Here are some ways to build your portfolio and skills:

  • Apply makeup and style your friends on amateur photo shoots
  • Use your social media presence (e.g. Instagram) to showcase makeup looks on yourself
  • Volunteer to do makeup and styling on any school/college theatre productions or similar events
  • Get casual work doing makeup and hair for TV and film extras in crowd scenes
  • Wedding makeup – is a friend getting married but can’t afford professional makeup for the bridesmaids as well as the bride? You’re there to come to the rescue!

What skills do you need for makeup artist jobs?

What life and work skills do you need to be a great makeup artist?

Useful skills to highlight and develop in this career include:

  • Self-belief skills – it takes self-confidence to build your brand as a freelance makeup artist, especially when no-one’s ever heard of you… yet.
  • Good communication skills and teamworking skills – as a media makeup artist in film, theatre or TV you’ll be working long irregular hours to tight deadlines. Team spirit is essential. When you’re working with clients, you need communication skills to listen to what they want, tactfully suggest looks that will really suit them, and make them feel good about the makeup looks you create for them. You also need good communication skills to market your skills and business!
  • Good problem solving skills – your work can involve travel, meeting tight deadlines, last-minute panic at weddings and fashion shows, and so much more. You need a cool head to make sure your services can be relied on whatever happens.
  • Good organisation skills – Your makeup kit will be expensive to build and maintain. You need to make sure everything is in its place and all those makeup products are clean and well looked-after. And whatever you do, don’t ever leave your professional make-up supplies on a train!
  • Self-management skills – many makeup artists are freelance and/or self-employed. You have to be able to manage yourself to score gigs, build clients and develop your portfolio.

Vocational qualifications and work experience will help you build these skills over time.

Start building these skills right now - sign up for free Young Professional training.

What does a makeup artist do?

Some day-to-day job responsibilities include:

  • Designing makeup looks and hairstyles
  • Using SFX (special effects) makeup if you’re working with film, TV or theatre
  • Researching looks, taking notes and photos for reference
  • Redoing makeup and hair on set
  • Removing makeup and looking after wigs
  • Applying makeup in a way that matches the designer’s instructions on entertainment productions

You could work on a variety of projects or locations:

  • Amateur theatre
  • Student film, theatre and photography projects
  • Charity or student fashion shows
  • Established makeup artists and photographers
  • Film, theatre and TV companies
  • Weddings and special events for individual clients
  • Beauty counters at department stores or flagship makeup stores

Your first steps into makeup artist jobs

Makeup artist jobs are advertised under different job titles. When you’re looking on job boards, look for the following types of job if you’re just starting out:

  • Makeup artist apprenticeship
  • Beauty apprenticeship
  • Trainee makeup artist
  • Junior makeup artist
  • Makeup artist sales assistant
  • Beauty advisor
  • Freelance makeup artist
  • MUA (this is short for ‘makeup artist’ and you’ll often see it on job boards)

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