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

Short courses vs. Postgraduate courses: A Guide to Training in Aesthetics
14th June 2016 Beth L. Swingler

Are you considering training in aesthetics? This article serves as a guide to training in botulinum toxins and dermal fillers. You have roughly two options: a very short (1-2 day) course in botulinum toxins and fillers, or a level 7 postgraduate course in cosmetic medicine at a Higher Education institute. This article measures them both against five factors: duration, employment opportunities, hands-on experience, convenience, and cost. 



Short courses

Short courses in botulinum toxins and dermal fillers tend to last just one day. A second day, often called an ‘advanced’ course by the providers, can also be bought to supplement this introductory training. This suits practitioners who are interested in a ‘crash course’ where they can experience the basic techniques and get a feel for how it might be to practice in facial aesthetics.

However, HEE guidelines (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, by 2018, these short courses will not be able to be recognised as formal training.


Level 7 Courses

In sharp contrast, Level 7 courses at universities tend to last a number of years. In general:

PGCert: One year

PGDip: Two years

MSc: Three years


Level 7 courses at universities also tend to follow the academic year (September to September) with strict application deadlines in May-June. These may therefore be appropriate most for recent medical graduates and junior doctors who wish to move straight on to aesthetics after their medical degree, and who are more accustomed to strict deadlines.

The level 7 courses in aesthetics training outside of universities are another emerging option. Provided they are regulated by Ofqual, they also meet the latest HEE requirements. Outside of universities, level 7 courses have a more flexible structure. For example, our level 7 course consists of 50-100 hours of e-learning, a series of short essay submissions, and 40 hours of clinical experience, all of which can be conducted in the student’s own time. There are also opportunities to sit the final Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) day throughout the year, meaning students can graduate at their convenience, and adapt the course to a full-time, part-time, or variable work schedule.

portrait of attractive cheerful young medical student woman outdoor in front of hospital university campus


Employment opportunities for Aesthetic practitioners

Short courses

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


Level 7 courses

But will a postgraduate qualification really enhance your chances of aesthetics employment?

There are far fewer medical professionals with a full qualification in cosmetic injectables. A postgraduate qualification in aesthetic medicine, whether from a university or an accredited training academy, is one of the few ways to stand out from the thousands of medical professionals holding non-regulated certificates in Foundation or ‘Advanced’ Botox and Fillers training.

There are currently no regulations over who can perform cosmetic procedures. Hence the aesthetics industry is moderated only by insurance companies, who still accept certificates from short courses as evidence of training. Hence short courses and higher education courses both fulfil the present legal requirements (or lack thereof) for delivery of botulinum toxins and dermal fillers.

However, the first seeds of regulation of the aesthetics specialty were sewn in Health Education England’s Qualification Requirements for Delivery of Non-surgical Cosmetic Procedures (2015, 2016). These clearly state that ‘weekend courses’ will no longer be considered acceptable, with a grace period of three years (until 2018) for current practitioners to upgrade to a postgraduate course of injectables. 2016 GMC guidelines also state that doctors should follow these HEE guidelines for training.

When aesthetics does become regulated, employers will be looking for fully-qualified cosmetic practitioners in their clinics. The longer-term option for those wishing to have a career in aesthetics is therefore a Level 7 qualification that adheres to the latest HEE recommendations for cosmetic training.

Botox injection in forehead

Hands-on training

Hands-on training in botulinum toxins and dermal fillers is essential for ensuring that you can deliver safe injections and excellent treatment outcomes with minimal bruising, swelling, or more serious complications.


Short courses

Short courses often allow students to inject a patient, or ‘cosmetic model’, who has already been consulted and consented on their first day of training. This may appeal to those who are already well-versed in needle use, especially to the face.

However, detailed facial anatomy is not assumed clinical knowledge after your typical nursing or pharmacy degree, and is only lightly covered in most medical degrees. Hence the majority of junior doctors, midwives, nurses, and pharmacists may benefit from gradated practice, on synthetic mannequins, cadavers or realistic facial skin substitutes, allowing them to build up facial analysis and injecting skills before delivering botulinum toxins or dermal fillers into real patients.

The average short one-day course will have 1-4 hours of practical hands-on training. Patients are shared between delegates, which minimises hands-on time. This also fragments the training into single injection sites, rather than performing the entire treatment as a continuous whole. It is now recommended by the department of health, Health Education England, and the GMC, that new practitioners observe ten and deliver ten full supervised treatments in each botulinum toxins and dermal fillers prior to practising independently.


Level 7 courses

There are now five Higher-Education courses that train medical professionals in botulinum toxins and dermal fillers, and fortunately, all of these provide comprehensive hands-on training of roughly 40 hours (the minimum required by Health Education England).


Hands-on training time by provider and course:

Queen Mary, London (PGDip/MSc): Four clinical days within the two-year academic period.

University of Northumbia (PGCert): 40 hours of clinical practice.

University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) (PGDip/MSc): 15 hands-on, “clinical skills sessions” over years one and two.

University of Manchester (MSc): Two compulsory face-to-face 6-day residential sessions during the first 24 months of programme, one in each of the two first years  (ratio 1:5)

Harley Academy, London or Liverpool (L7Cert): 40 hours of end-to-end clinical treatments (1:1 for all supervised cases).

Nurse injecting female patient

Full clinical training is important to allow you to practise botulinum toxin and dermal filler treatments from end-to-end. This means you can become proficient in all of the following stages in 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.

As a result, even if you have already completed a weekend course it is important to seek additional hands-on training in a genuine clinical environment.

stethoscope and books on white background.


Short courses

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

Face-to-face, hands-on learning is also relatively convenient as short courses often take place over just one or two days in major cities such as London. However, these training environments are often colleges or teaching rooms, rather than clinics.

Why does this matter?

As an example let’s consider the more severe potential complication of dermal fillers: irreversible blindness. Cosmetic training courses that allow untrained delegates to inject patients on their first day of training outside of a clinic, and therefore without emergency care facilities, are putting patients at risk. A non-clinical setting also trivialises these medical procedures and perpetuates the trend towards risky practice in non-clinical situations such as ‘Botox parties’ and home treatments.

Scotland has already started regulating cosmetic clinics, with the rest of the UK expected to follow suit. Thus, it makes more sense to train in the kind of professional environment that you should practice in.


Level 7 courses

Higher Education courses blend the convenience of distance learning with face-to-face learning:

Queen Mary, London (PGDip/MSc): virtual e-learning for module content and assignment submission, interactive forums, the four clinical practice days over 2 years with accompanying lectures.

University of Northumbia (PGCert): a blend of virtual e-learning and face-to-face.

University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) (PGDip/MSc): 15 face-to-face clinical knowledge study days in the first two years, 9am-5pm, attendance mandatory, and 5 face-to-face study days in year one.

University of Manchester (MSc): virtual e- learning for module content and assignment submission, small group work, interactive forums, clinical debriefs, and mandatory ‘reflections’.


In terms of theoretical learning, Harley Academy provide all of this through distance learning on their custom e-learning system.

Harley Academy (L7Cert): One-day face-to-face foundation training, digital e-learning for all module content, short essays and and a two-hour exam.


The 40+ hours of hands-on training is also far more flexible insofar as students can choose how to coordinate it. Students can book 1:1 training days at the Harley Academy Clinics in London, Liverpool or Manchester.  As such, the L7Cert suits both brand new practitioners as well as skilled aesthetic practitioners who wish to certificate their pre-existing experience.

young woman on rejuvenation procedure in beauty clinic, filler injection

How much does Cosmetic Training Cost?

Short Courses

It is not easy to find out which is the cheapest ‘Botox and fillers’ course.  There are over 70 short courses in injectables, so we have limited this article to the next upcoming combined Botox and Dermal Fillers training courses listed on The Consulting Room and followed by the top 3 according to the (quality-indifferent) Google search. For clarity, all prices include VAT.


Cost (inc. VAT) Duration Provider Location
£1,530 Two days MATA London
£1,020 One day Cosmetic Courses North East/London
£1,020 One day Innomed London
£995 One day Skin Viva Manchester
£1,020 One day Derma Medical London
£900 One day Harley Academy London/Liverpool/Manchester


Level 7 courses

We limited the Level 7 courses that we considered from each HE institution to those that meet minimum HEE guidelines. Prices include VAT, but may be subject to inflation.


Cost Duration Provider Location

MSc:  £8,300 (£4,150 per annum)

PGDip: £5,500  (£2,750 per annum)


2 years QMUL  London
PGCert: £6,000 1 year University of Northumbria  Newcastle

MSc: £30,410

PGDip: £23,450

Year 1 – £10,150

Year 2 – £13,300

Year 3 – £6,960

3 years (MSc)

2 years (PGDip)

UCLAN  Preston

MSc: £9,500

Year 1 – £3,800

Year 2 – £2,800

Year 3 – £1,900

3 years University of Manchester Manchester

L7Cert: £8,400




Harley Academy


London, Liverpool or Manchester


International student fees are much higher, except for theL7Cert, which is the same price for both international and EU students.



The difference in duration and depth is significant between Higher Education courses and very short courses. Weekend courses might be the perfect introduction to cosmetic procedures, with so much more still to learn in order to meet upcoming regulatory standards it could well be a waste of money to invest only in very short or weekend training.


Harley Academy co-created the only Level 7 Certificate to be regulated by Ofqual, the government’s office of exams and qualifications, that meets all HEE Guidelines. 

References and further reading:

Contact us to discuss the L7Cert.


Comments (15)

  1. Dr Ruhul Amin 2 years ago

    That was a very useful article. Obviously it is worth thinking of the long term & train properly. Invest now for the long term.
    Just wondering how this leaves practitioners who are now more than 5 years in Aesthetic practice & who graduated from crash weekend courses. Do these doctors also need to do the HE training?

    • Author
      Beth L. Swingler 2 years ago

      Yes, all practitioners should have HE training by 2018, and we can accredit that experience.

      Through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) we can make special allowances for very experienced practitioners with over three years of experience.
      Our RPL policy is here: http://www.harleyacademy.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/UpdatedHEERPLPolicy.pdf
      Section 2.2 deals with RPL for very experienced practitioners (with 3+ yrs experience)
      Essentially, this requires submitting a portfolio proving your competency, and then passing our assessment. Let us know if you have any further questions!

      • Author
        Beth L. Swingler 1 month ago

        For more up-to-date info about our Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) program, check out our Level 7 Fast Track — designed for aesthetic practitioners who graduated from crash courses years ago.

  2. Stacey 1 year ago

    Hi, You say all practitioners ‘should’ have training by 2018. where does that leave the ones that haven’t been through the process by then and the therapists that are injecting, will this all of a sudden stop come 2018?

    • Author
      Beth L. Swingler 1 year ago

      Hi Stacey,
      Great question. So, HEE recommend everyone train to the new standard by 2018. They do not say what will happen after that. It could just be a recommendation to spur action. It could be in anticipation of legal changes starting then. We hope that there will be increased regulation, but the government has not said that this will be the case However, we still recommend the safest and most cautious option: starting level 7 training before 2018!

      Regardless of the legal state of play, this will certainly improve practice and raise standards in aesthetics 🙂

  3. Iman 9 months ago

    Thank you for the very informative article.
    My question is regarding the job prospectus as currently most job ads require 2-3 years of experience so in essence,post training of level7 certificate of injectibles delivered by Harley for example,how can one secure a job without such required years of training in Aesthetic medicine and injectibles?

    • Author
      Beth L. Swingler 9 months ago

      Hi Iman, great comment. You’re correct that most advertised jobs in clinics ask for a couple of years of experience. Why? Because the status quo in aesthetic training is that new practitioners are legally certified to practice after only one day of training! The alternative to a few years of experience is a single day, which is rarely enough. Take a look at our page explaining the pros and cons of foundation training. However, that is the status quo that we are disrupting by creating the level 7 qualification in injectables.

      We find that when our incredible Level 7 graduates can find jobs in clinics straight after training. Why? Because they already have around 18 months of experience, injecting with one of our mentors in a real clinic. They also have a much higher standard of theoretical knowledge, so in many ways they may be better informed than a practitioner who went straight into practice after a Foundation Day and has been doing it for 2-3 years.

      Want to hear it from the employers and students themselves? Watch one of our recent graduates and her employer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_niVrXRsJo&t=70s

  4. Parneet Gandhi 5 months ago

    Hey article is very nice i wanted to know if harley academy considers international dentist( india) for these courses. Thanks!

    • Author
      Beth L. Swingler 4 months ago

      Hi Parneet,

      Yes we accept equivalent qualifications from around the world, provided you’re registered. Please call us on 0203 859 7598 to discuss the specifics of what this means, and you may be required to have IELTS proficiency in English if it’s not your first language. Thanks

  5. Charlotte Roderick 2 months ago

    Can beauty therapists take this course

    • Author
      Beth L. Swingler 1 month ago

      Hi Charlotte,

      Our Level 7 course assumes a lot of prior medical training so is not suitable for non-medical professionals. We recommend anyone interested in a career in aesthetic medicine completes a medical degree such as nursing before they begin injectables training.

  6. Jo Yacker 2 months ago

    Dear Beth,
    Could Harley Academy consider taking physician associates in the future as they are a growing group of healthcare professionals trained to the medical model with registration with the RCP (similar to the JCCP except lack of registration hinders employability) to work alongside doctors in various areas, hopefully including aesthetics

    • Author
      Beth L. Swingler 1 month ago

      Hi Jo,

      Thanks for your comment. Our dream is for everyone who wants to inject to be able to progress through sufficient medical training to be able to deliver these injections safely. We’re currently bound by the limits of our Level 7 course specification, which already assumes a large quantity of medical knowledge from the beginning and has therefore been accredited only for the specified medical professionals. However, at some point a ‘bridging qualification’ may well be created that will allow other clinical professionals access to the course. There’s still a lot of change and growth happening in this area so we can’t yet say either way what will happen!

  7. Sarah 2 months ago

    I am a nurse prescriber and have been in the industry for 15 years now…which would be the best route for acquiring level 7 please

    • Author
      Beth L. Swingler 1 month ago

      Hi Sarah,

      Sounds like you’d be very eligible for our Level 7 Fast Track course. This you can complete in a matter of weeks, at only a fraction of the cost, and still achieve the new Level 7 standard qualification.

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