Short courses vs. Postgraduate courses: A Guide to Training in Aesthetics

Training at Harley Academy

Use this guide to navigate the world of training opportunities available to aspiring Aesthetics practitioners. Learn how to identify good courses and choose the right course for you. Updated July 2020.

If you’re considering a career in Aesthetic Medicine, you’re probably wondering where to begin your training. You have two choices when choosing your course: a short course of one or two days, or a Level 7 (Postgraduate) Qualification that can take up to two years to complete.

We created this guide to help you determine what training is best for your career aspirations. Updated in July 2020 to ensure you have the latest information, we have researched Foundation Training in Botox and Dermal Fillers courses (short courses) and Level 7 or other Postgraduate level courses to give you a good idea of what to expect on your training.

Short vs. Level 7 at-a-glance

Short Courses Level 7 / Postgraduate
Duration
1 day
6 - 36 months
Cost
£830 - £1,500
£6,000 - £11,000
Hands-on experience
Mannequins and/or 1-2 models
HEE requires a minimum of 40 patients in your logbook
Employment opportunities
Limited - able to gain basic insurance to continue hands-on training
Join an existing clinic, or become self-employed
Convenience
Live learning on a set day in a clinic
Mixed learning flexible around your schedule

What are the courses?

Short courses of one and two days are introductory level training into Aesthetic Medicine. In this article, we’re focusing on Foundation Training, which is typically is a one-day course in Botox and Dermal Fillers that will give you the essential knowledge you need to prepare for a career in Aesthetic Medicine. You will learn basic anatomy, essential injecting skills, and on some courses, you may learn about business and ethics.

Foundation Training is typically CPD certified, which will allow you to gain the appropriate Cosmetic Medicine Insurance to practice, making you legally able to practice with live patients. 

Be sure to always check with the training provider that their course is appropriately certified.

Foundation Training at Harley Academy

Postgraduate or Level 7 Qualification courses (same level of training and certification) are longer, more in-depth courses that will allow you to gain the appropriate experience to practice in-line with Health Education England’s 2016 qualification requirements for delivery of cosmetic procedures. To adhere to HEE’s requirements, these courses must ensure you observe at least 20 treatments and administer 20 treatments under supervision.

Duration of your Aesthetics Training Course

Short Courses

Foundation Training is typically a one-day course, though some may be longer. For example, our Foundation Training Programme includes one full day in the clinic, plus a one-to-one 75 minute mentoring session.

Many training providers offer a second day as an ‘advanced’ add-on to help supplement your foundation training. This suits practitioners who are interested in getting a fuller introduction to botulinum toxins and dermal fillers and allows you to experience the basic techniques and get a feel for practicing facial Aesthetics.

Bear in mind that the HEE qualification requirements (Part One) explicitly state that ‘very short courses, eg 1-2 days in duration, will not meet the requirements for APL/RPL’. In other words, these short courses are not recognised as formal training.

Level 7 Courses

In sharp contrast, Level 7 and Postgraduate courses can last from six months to several years.

Postgraduate courses at academic institutions adhere to an academic year, with strict application deadlines and more structured learning schedule, but these can also typically be taken part-time.

Level 7 Qualifications through non-academic training providers offer more flexibility often combining self-paced remote learning with clinical training, allowing students to adapt their course to full-time, part-time or a variable work schedule. There are also opportunities to sit the final Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) day throughout the year, meaning students can graduate at their convenience.

For example, our Level 7 Programme consists of 100 hours of self-paced eLearning, a series of short essay submissions and 40 hours of clinical experience, which the student schedules in.

The Level 7 course structure at Harley Academy

Employment opportunities for Aesthetic practitioners

Short Courses

Even if you are a skilled doctor or nurse, your employment opportunities will be limited if you have only completed one or two days of training.

Short botox and dermal filler training courses, even at their best, only allow you to practice on 2-3 models, who, unlike real patients in a clinic, have already been consulted for specific procedures. This means that you do not gain the breadth of clinical skills required to work full or part-time in a cosmetic clinic.

Hamilton Fraser Cosmetic Insurance

Properly accredited Foundation Training will enable you to seek Cosmetic Medicine Insurance that will allow you to legally practice.

Many students will attend their Foundation Training to become insured to enable them to go onto further, more elaborate training and eventually seek out their Level 7 Qualification by developing their minimum require logbook cases.

Level 7 Courses

The benefits of the Level 7 Qualification for employment opportunities are two-fold. First, you will stand out from the sea of practitioners without certification, and second, you will be future proofing your career for regulation in the field.

There are far fewer medical professionals with a full qualification in cosmetic injectables, making a Level 7 or Postgraduate qualification one of the few ways to stand out from the thousands of practitioners holding non-regulated certificates for short courses in botulinum toxin or dermal fillers.

While there is currently no regulation in Medical Aesthetics (something we have made it our mission to end), in 2016, HEE introduced new training requirements for non-surgical cosmetic interventions. These requirements, which have been echoed by the GMC, clearly stipulate that short courses are no longer acceptable for upgrading to a full postgraduate certification.

When aesthetics does become regulated, employers and patients will be looking for fully qualified cosmetic practitioners. By taking a Level 7 Qualification, you are future-proofing your Aesthetic Medicine career for further regulations in the field.

Hands-on training in injectable treatments

Short Courses

Many short courses will have 1-4 hours of practical, hands-on training that will include injecting a cosmetic model (a patient who has been consulted and consented by the clinical faculty ahead of the training).

Patients are shared between delegates, limiting your opportunities for injection and fragmenting the treatment experience.

If your medical training background did not cover in-depth facial anatomy (i.e. doctor or nurse), seek out a course that provides gradated practice, starting on synthetic mannequins, cadavers or realistic facial skin substitutes. 

This will allow you to build skills in facial analysis and injecting before delivering botulinum toxins or dermal fillers into real patients.

Injecting a Mannequin - Foundation Training at Harley Academy

Level 7 Courses

Following the training requirements from HEE, Level 7 Qualifications and Postgraduate courses must provide the student with 40 hours of hands-on practical training:

  • 10 observed botulinum toxin treatments
  • 10 supervised administration of botulinum toxin treatments
  • 10 observed dermal filler treatments
  • 10 supervised administration of dermal filler treatments


You must ensure your course provides this hands-on training to be truly qualified as per the HEE requirements. Many courses will approach this in different ways:

  • At Harley Academy, you will cover your observed and supervised treatments during your Observation Days and Mentoring Sessions.

  • At the University of Manchester for the MSc, you will attend two compulsory 5-day residential sessions.

  • At Derma Institute, you will complete five supervised treatment days to build the required portfolio.


Full clinical training is important to allow you to practise botulinum toxin and dermal filler treatments from end-to-end. Even if you have already completed a weekend course it is important to seek additional hands-on training in a genuine clinical environment. This means you can become proficient in all the stages of a treatment:

  • The full cosmetic consultation
  • Identifying indications
  • Treatment planning
  • Informed consent process
  • Correct needle aspiration technique
  • Injecting in multiple sites
  • Injecting with multiple techniques
  • Dosage adjustments for each product type and patient needs
  • Aftercare instructions
  • A wide variety of combined treatment types as requested by real patients in clinics.

Convenience of Aesthetics courses

Short Courses

In terms of theoretical learning, short courses may provide some easy to read notes on the topics covered during your training. The theoretical side is therefore convenient, if somewhat cursory.

The face-to-face learning aspect of a short course will depend on your own availability to attend the clinic. Many of these are in major cities such as London or Glasgow. Training providers host Foundation Training throughout the year, so you will be able to select a day that is most convenient to you.

As an uncertified student, you must ensure the training provider teaches in a clinical environment. Cosmetic training courses that allow untrained students to inject patients without clinical emergency care facilities are putting patients at risk, which can be as serious as irreversible blindness.

A non-clinical environment trivialises these medical procedures and perpetuates the trend toward risky practice in non-clinical situations, such as so-called ‘Botox parties’ and home treatments. 

Level 7 Courses

Considering the highly variable length of a Level 7 Qualification, you may assume it’s not very convenient, but that is a myth! These courses typically mix distance learning with clinical training, giving you ample opportunity to study in your own time, around your busy schedule.

Level 7 eLearning

At Harley Academy, we have over 100 hours of self-paced online learning, and your Observation and Mentoring sessions can be booked at your convenience, whether they are spread out over the course of a couple years, or fit within just a week.

At an academic institution, such as the University of Manchester, you may expect to adhere to a more rigid schedule with specific due dates for assignments and compulsory attendance at hands-on training scheduled by the course. The MSc course here is only given part-time, so it will be easier than a full-time MSc to fit it around a working schedule.

How much does Cosmetic Training Cost?

Short Courses

In terms of CPD accredited Foundation Training courses, these can cost anywhere from £830 to £1,500 inclusive of VAT. Other types of short courses will have a wide range of costs and provide a variety of specialist training in Aesthetic Medicine, such as our suite of 1:1 mentoring courses in injectables that range from £395 to £645.

Level 7 Courses

Level 7 and Postgraduate courses are a larger monetary investment, but the qualification will be invaluable to the security of your career as Aesthetic Medicine moves toward better regulation in the UK. You will be able to find accredited Level 7 Qualification programmes for £6,000 to £11,000, though it may be more expensive for international students pursuing an MSc at an academic institution.

How to choose the right course

Finding the right course for your skill level and career objectives is key to building a successful career in Aesthetic Medicine.

Short courses that are properly accredited and provide appropriate hands-on training in a clinical environment are a great introduction to Aesthetics and injectable treatments. With the right short course, you can become insured to legally practice, which puts you in a good position to pursue further.

The Level 7 Qualification is the best way to ensure you are a truly safe and skilled practitioner. The greater investment, both in money and time, will result in a certification or diploma that will help you stand out from the competition to both employers and customers, and it will ensure you have security in your career as better regulation comes into the UK.

Foundation Training at-a-glance

The following are 4 different Foundation Training opportunities. The courses indicate on their websites they are CPD certified, but please always check with the training provider they have the proper accreditation for you to gain insurance, if that is your goal. Prices include VAT.

Harley Academy Cosmetic Courses Derma Institute SkinViva
Duration
1 day + 1 75 min 1:1 session
1 day
1 day
1 day
Cost
From £695
£1,020
£948
£845
Hands-on experience
Live demo on patients, simulated practice on mannequins + full supervised patient treatment in 1:1 session
In small groups, supervised injection on live models
Small group supervised on mannequins and models
Supervised consultation, assessment and treatment of demo models
Training mechanisms
Self-paced eLearning, a day in either our London, Manchester or Birmingham clinic, and a 1:1 mentoring session.
2 hours of pre-course reading, 4 hours of lectures and 4 hours of hands-on practical
One day in either their London or Manchester clinic.
One day in their Manchester clinic.
Employment opportunities
CPD certified, able to gain insurance
At the time of writing, these courses indicate they are CPD certified. If you aim to gain insurance after your Foundation Training, check with the training provider to confirm their accreditation.
Website

Level 7 & Postgraduate courses at-a-glance

The following are 4 different Level 7 or Postgraduate courses. The courses indicate on their websites they are fully qualified, but please always check with the training provider they have the proper accreditation for you to gain the appropriate qualification. 

To meet the HEE requirements, all these courses must provide at least 40 hours of practical hands-on training. Prices include VAT.

Harley Academy University of Manchester Derma Institute SkinViva
Qualification
L7Dip (new VCTC students)
MSc
L7Cert
L7Cert
Duration
12-18 months
36 months (part-time)
6-18 months
6-12 months
Cost
£9,995
£10,500 (UK/EU)
£6,600
£9,594
Training clinics
London, Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham
Salford
London and Nottingham
Manchester
Training mechanisms
Self-paced eLearning, Foundation Training and Induction, 40 hours hands-on training, online essays, SAQs and final OSCE
Online learning, group work and written assignments, two 5 day residential sessions, final dissertation
eLearning, Foundation Training and Advanced Botox one-day course, clinical mentoring, SAQs and final OSCE
8 theory-based units, coursework assignments, Foundation Training, clinical mentoring, final OSCE
Website

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