How To Become A Nail Technician

Have you ever looked at someone’s wonderfully manicured nails and wondered how they keep it neat and tidy? Have you ever seen cute, colorful nails and wondered who did those? The answer is through the help of nail technicians.

Becoming a nail technician is not as popular a career as others but it is still a very exciting one. It allows you to interact with different kinds of people and make them feel good about themselves. It is the perfect career for those who are creative, patient, people-oriented, and into the latest beauty and fashion trends. It is also a good career for someone who enjoys working with their hands.

What Do Nail Technicians Do?

As the name implies, the basic work of nail technicians is to keep their clients’ nails as neat and clean as possible. One of the services that many clients enjoy from nail technicians are pedicures, probably because it takes a lot of effort to clean the nails on our own feet. However, in actuality, their work is much more than that. A nail technician, also known as a nail tech or a manicurist, is someone who is an expert on grooming the nails on both the hands and the feet. Apart from cleaning, trimming, and filing the nails, they can also apply polish, provide cuticle care, give nail extensions, and basically do anything that has to do with beautifying nails.

A more important specialization of nail technicians is the maintenance of the health of customers’ nails. This is done through proper cuticle care and relaxing massages for the hand, feet and calves. Some nail technicians even go as far as applying moisturizers, scrubs, and wax dips on their customers in order to increase their level of comfort. Nail technicians are considered experts in their field and thus must be able to assess the nails’ health simply by looking at them. They must also be able to give customers good suggestions on how to strengthen their nails and keep them healthy.

The typical nail technician’s day is quite busy. They do not only focus on nails but also on paperwork. At the start of the day, they will have to look over all the appointments that they have and review the services that their clients will require for the day. All tools and equipments should also be checked to ensure that they can provide all services completely and efficiently. While there are no customers, nail techs can schedule new appointments or confirm future ones.

A nail technician should be organized and pay close attention to details. They should always make sure that their files, cuticle knifes, emery boards, and other tools are always clean and sanitized. This ensures that the customers’ nails don’t get damaged or infected.

A good nail technician will not just focus on the nails itself but also on the client. He/she should spend some time discussing how the client cares for his/her nails, the challenges that he/she is facing with them, and what they can do to avoid these challenges. Apart from nail concerns, they should also get to know their clients’ preferences. Different clients will have different preferences when it comes to their nails, and getting to know them and their preferences will build strong relationships with them. This, in turn, will build customer loyalty, which is essentially the strongest building block of nail facilities everywhere.

To summarize, a nail technician basically does the following things:

  • manicures and pedicures
  • cleaning, filing, and polishing nails
  • applying extensions and false nails; repairing those that are broken
  • decorating nails
  • checking the health of customer’s nails
  • recommending proper nail care products and procedures
  • scheduling appointments
  • keeping tools and other equipment clean and sanitized

Work Environment

Nail technicians are often seen in salons and spas, and usually work for more or less 37 hours in a week. This career is a service-oriented one, so most nail technicians will need to work during evenings, weekends, and even holidays. Those who work in salons and spas will obviously work with other technicians and/or hairdressers, therapists and beauticians.

If you want to work alone, however, you can always choose to be a freelance technician or self-employed. This means that you work from home or you visit clients wherever they need your services. Choosing to be a freelance nail technician would mean that you have your own tools and equipment while choosing to work in other establishments means that these are supplied for you. It has been reported that of all the licensed nail technicians available, 33% put up their own salons.

These are not the only places you can find nail technicians, though. If you look around, you will see that nail technicians can also work in medical facilities, department stores, tourism industries, cruise ships, health clubs, with photographers and fashion designers, and in other recreational facilities. In fact, you can also find them in schools as instructors for the future nail technicians.

How To Become A Nail Technician

nailsTo become a nail technician, you will not only need to take up a nail technician or cosmetology program that is approved by the state but also meet the licensing requirements that it sets.

A cosmetology program takes longer to complete than nail technician programs because the former does not only focus on nails but also about other areas of beautification, such as the face, hair, and skin. Conversely, a nail technician program only focuses on nails. To be able to take any of these courses, most states would require you to be 16 years or older, and must have completed high school or at least have a GED.

Once an individual is in the program, he/she will learn about everything that affects the health of a person’s nails. He/she will also be familiarized with all the products and chemicals that can be used for proper nail hygiene. Safety and sterilization are of utmost importance in the nail service industry, so courses based on these weigh heavily in any program’s curriculum. Students will also learn about the laws pertaining to nail safety and what procedures they should follow in case a client gets injured during routine services. There will also be some courses that teach students proper massage techniques that can be used to relax the customer.

Many people would regard becoming a nail technician as a ditzy career just because it has something to do with beautifying a person. However, what most people don’t know is that nail technicians also study the science behind what they do. They need to know the physiology and anatomy of the nails, the different kinds of nail disorders that can affect it, and the theories behind each of the services that they offer.

Nail technicians would also need to learn about management in case they are planning to put up their own salons. For this reason, many nail technicians are very well-versed with the laws and regulations that affect their work.

Simply said, an individual who wants to become a nail technician should first take the following classes, among others:

  • History of Nail Care
  • Safety, Sanitation, and Sterilization
  • Public Health and Personal Hygiene
  • Nail Care Tools, Machines, and Equipment
  • Nail Care Chemicals
  • Basic and Advanced Manicures and Pedicures
  • Nail Design and Artistry
  • Nail Extensions
  • Light Cured Gels
  • Sculpting and Fabric Procedures
  • Acrylic Nails
  • Nail Products
  • Massage Techniques
  • Professional Ethics
  • Bacteriology and Nail Disorders; and
  • Laws and Regulations on Nail Care

Of course, students will not properly learn from theory alone. For this reason, nail technician or cosmetology programs offer a mixture of theory and practical learning for their students. This means that apart from classroom settings, students will also get to train hands-on with different clients. This gives the students a chance to familiarize themselves with the actual work environment of a nail technician. This will also help them do better in the licensing exams that is required by most states for an individual to become a nail technician.

Many schools still follow the traditional method of learning—in an actual school—while some allow students to earn their certifications online. Both methods of learning are accepted by the state as long as the individual passes the licensure examination for nail technicians.

Apart from completing the necessary educational qualifications, an individual aspiring to become a nail technician should also possess the following skills:

  • creativity
  • dexterity
  • customer service and people skills
  • business skills
  • attention to details
  • organization

After earning a nail technician license, an individual can then begin his/her career as a nail technician—whether it’s in a salon, a spa, or an individual business.

It is interesting to note that majority of nail technicians are immigrants, so some schools don’t require students to learn English just to be able to complete the course.


nail-technician-salary-chartThe median salary of nail technicians in the year 2013 was at $19,340 per annum, which is roughly $9.24 per hour. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the same year, the lowest annual salary of a nail technician is at $16,650 and the highest is at $29,560 but this amount varies depending on the state and the work environment you choose to work in.

Nail technicians working in a public company, for example, can earn anywhere from between $10,174 to $47,166 annually while those working for a private company can earn between $16,200 and $30,000. Those who work in offices of physicians can earn somewhere from $20,380 to $29,330 annually while those who work in other organizations can earn an amount ranging from $12,208 to $31,444. Nail technicians working in department stores, travel industries, and other recreational industries can earn anywhere from $25,070 to $27,860.

In the United States, the states who have the highest paid nail technicians are Alaska, Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Those who choose to work in the United Kingdom can expect to earn an equivalent of $26,106 while those who choose to work in Australia can expect to earn an amount between $20,500 and $47,210. Finally, those who choose to work in Canada can earn anywhere between $16,742 and $34,180.

Apart from the difference in location and work environment, there are other factors that can affect how much a nail technician can earn. One of these factors includes the years of experience that a nail technician has. A nail technician who has only 1 to 4 years of experience, for example, will only earn a minimal amount while a technician who has 5 to 9 years experience can earn at least $2,000 to $41,000 more per annum. This amount increases as the technician earns more years of experience.

Someone who is a licensed cosmetologist will also earn higher than a nail technician because he/she can also do customers’ hair and makeup, among others. Cosmetologists would generally earn somewhere between $16,850 to $42,360 annually.

Of course, since nail technicians work in the service industry, they also receive tips. These tips greatly increase a nail technician’s annual income and can even reach up to $986 a year if clients are happy with their services.

Job Outlook

icon_blue_searchThere is a phenomenal outlook for nail technician jobs everywhere, with the growth rate expected to be at 16% from the year 2012 to 2022. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is a faster rate than other occupations. In fact, nail care services are so in demand that it has already earned an estimated $8.2 billion. There are also many nail technicians that have been in the business for more than 12 years—enough for us to assume that the business is doing well.

People everywhere are also very concerned about how they look, especially because of how the media portrays beauty. This, combined with more spending power and less time for personal care, will ensure that beautifying services will be booming in the foreseeable future. Having your nails done is also a very relaxing way not only of feeling beautiful but also keeping your nails clean and healthy.

With all the salons, spas, and health and beauty industries available, it will be fairly easy to gain employment as a nail technician, especially if you are exceptionally good at it. The best part is that you are not limited to becoming a nail technician per se—you can also choose to become a salon manager, a school instructor, or even your own boss.

California is one of the top states for nail technicians in the U.S. In 2013, it was reported that there were nearly 86,000 nail technicians in the state, working in over 6,300 salons. This is not a surprise given the fact that there are already 250 salons and 2,200 technicians working in San Francisco alone. It is also good to work as a nail technician in California because it is a trendsetting state. It is definitely the place to be especially if you want to be on top of all the latest fashion and trends in nail care.

Training Programs

business-training-icon-8The training requirements for a licensed technician would vary from state to state. Some would require students to train only for 200 hours while others would require up to 800 prior to taking the licensure exam. However, the average number of training hours required in the United States is approximately 375 hours. Majority of the states require students to receive this training inside the classroom but there are also some states that allow students to train outside the classroom as an apprentice.

Training programs last from 3 to 12 months, depending on the school and the classes that the student will enroll in. Of course, a student who takes a part-time training program will take longer to graduate than a student who enrolls full-time. Those who choose to take a Master’s degree in nail technician will also take a longer time before they graduate. Some states would also require those holding a Master’s degree to take a master nail technician exam after graduation.

Training does not stop before graduation, though. Apart from the fact that trends and fads keep changing, there is an influx of new products, techniques, and technology with regards to nail care and beautification. A good nail technician should be able to keep up with all these changes and be able to apply them to his/her work. This can be done by attending short courses run by nail product manufacturers and other lecturers. There are also more advanced courses available in colleges and private training centers. You can find out about these courses through the Internet, by reading newsletters and trade magazines, and by going to nail care trade shows and exhibitions. Those who are self-employed can also take additional training and qualifications so that they can offer services other than nail arts.

Details about other professional development opportunities can be found in the Habia Skills Academy.

Certification Programs and Licensing

Certificate_seal-512As mentioned above, a license will be required for anyone practicing nail technician jobs. This license can be obtained by taking a licensure examination for nail technicians, which can only be taken once an individual has completed the required curriculum and hours of training. It is important to note that just because you’ve earned your license doesn’t mean the education is over.

Nail technician licenses should be renewed regularly. Before renewal, some states may require nail technicians to take continuing professional education. Many states also require technicians to take quizzes regarding safety and sanitation in order to ensure that they are still knowledgable about the guidelines set by the state. There is usually a small fee involved in getting and renewing a license but it is relatively affordable.

In California, the licensure examination is made up of a written and a practical test, made by the National Interstate Council of Board of Cosmetology (NIC). The tests are taken on the same day, and may be taken in different languages, such as English, Spanish, Korean, or Vietnamese. Again, this is just in California. Licensure examinations in other states may differ.

Basically, the following steps are needed for a career as a nail technician.

  • complete an approved nail technician program
  • apply for a nail tech examination and initial license
  • take the examination for nail technicians
  • renew your license and explore other career options

It is important to note that some states may accept a nail technician license from another state but this is not true for all the states in the U.S. It is best to check with the nail technician board in your area to make sure.


petition_icon_large_blueNail technicians have very rewarding and exciting jobs. They get to meet new people and form new friendships everyday, and even form strong relationships with their existing customers. It consists not only of cleaning nails but also keeping them healthy. As a nail technician, you can make people feel beautiful inside and out, which does not only improve the customer’s mood but also your own.

Contrary to popular belief, nail technicians are not just about glitz and glam. There is also science behind it and it also takes a lot of studying and sacrifices just to get a license to practice nail technician jobs. The best thing about choosing to have a career as a nail technician is that there are endless possibilities for career advancement. From a nail technician, you can take additional courses and experiences in order to become a manager, or you can save up and start your own salon.

So if you are a people person who is interested in the latest fashion and trends, if you are creative, organized, and interested in making others feel good about themselves, then you should consider a career as a nail technician. Read up on nail technician programs offered near you today, apply for a program that you want, and start your career as a nail technician today.