Body and beauty therapy: ‘I knew exactly what I wanted to do’

How I did it: Clare Cullen studied at Blackrock Further Education Institute


“I knew exactly what I wanted to do after my Leaving Cert, and where I wanted to study. I didn’t even fill out a CAO application. There was no need to: I wanted to go to Senior College Dún Laoghaire (now the Blackrock Further Education Institute) and I wanted to study body and beauty therapy.

“I’ve always been a girly girl so the whole area of beauty therapy always interested me, and that interest was further piqued when my cousin did a similar course in Bray.

“My course had a lot of very practical aspects and a lot more theory than people understand or expect. There was quite a lot of biology, physiology and chemistry in relation to the products and we had to get a good understanding of how the body works and the science behind it.

“The course ran for two years although I did an additional year so I could gain knowledge of treatments such as advanced massage, Thai massage, lomi massage and a laser hair therapy course too. I learned how to be a masseuse.

“The course was great and we even had the opportunity to study abroad for a semester. It was full-time - mostly 10am-5pm - and the college had so many extracurricular offerings that they encouraged us to take part in.

“When I finished, I worked in a salon in Stillorgan [south county Dublin]. I started on reception while still in college which gave me a good understanding of how it works behind the scenes. After that, I moved to Therapie Laser Clinic in the city.

“In 2011, there was a college skills competition and, after I came second, went forward to an Irish competition. From there, I qualified to enter the World Skills Competition in London - it’s like the Olympics of skills. I was so thrilled to win a medal of excellence.

“I worked in the industry for a number of years including spending three years in the middle east. It is such a portable qualification and gives graduates great opportunities to travel. I’ve so many friends from the course who have worked abroad.”