Nail Technician / Manicurist Job Description
Considering becoming a manicurist or nail technician?
Love relaxing and getting a wonderful manicure and pedicure? There are many other clients out there who feel the same way, and there is a growing demand for nail technician services nationwide. If your dream job involves creativity and socializing, manicuring may be a good choice for you. Beauty Schools Directory has assembled answers to many of the most common questions about nail tech salary, job outlook, career options and more to help you decide if this is the right career path for you. If you love the idea of becoming a licensed Nail Technician, enter your zip code in the box to the right and choose “Nail Technology” as your program to find schools near you.
Jump to Your Question:
- List of Nail Technician Schools
- How should I find, compare and contact nail schools?
- What is a nail technician, or manicurist/pedicurist?
- How do I become a licensed nail technician?
- How much training is required to become a manicurist?
- What salary can a nail technician earn?
- What are some of the career paths nail techs can take?
- What is the future job outlook for manicurists?
- What is a day in the life of a nail technician like?
The first step to becoming a nail technician is to get the required education and licensure in your state. If you're considering becoming a master manicurist/pedicurist, talk to nail schools about their programs, the cost of tuition at their campus, curriculum and any other questions you have.
Everyone learns a little differently and has slightly different priorities when it comes to choosing the right college, so we created this handy step-by-step How to Choose a Beauty School checklist to help. We advise you to talk to a number of different campuses near you and get all your questions answered, so you can make a confident decision on which nail college will best meet your needs and set you up for success.
We find that the average student considers 3 to 5 schools before making a final choice, but because this is a highly specialized program the number of options may be smaller than a comprehensive cosmetology program, which also teaches nails in combination with hair, makeup and skin care. It's an important life decision that should be considered with care after comparing your school options. Nail schools nationwide are enrolling now! Find schools near you to get started.
If you enjoy working with your hands and consider yourself a "people person," a career as a manicurist may be right for you. Providing one of the fast-growing specialties in the world of cosmetology, a manicurist is a licensed nail technician who cleans, trims, and polishes fingernails and toenails for a living.
They can also provide nail extensions, or artificial, acrylic, gel or other nails. Also in the job description are pedicures, a favorite salon service for many clients.
However, the role of a manicurist extends beyond glamorizing fingers and toes. Often it involves cuticle care, hand/foot/calf massage along with scrubs and moisturizers, and sometimes paraffin wax dips, among other services to add a touch of luxury to the appointment. Observational and conversational skills also come into play as the professional consults with the client and assesses the health of their natural nails.
The first step to getting licensed to do nails is to find a cosmetology school or nail school that meets your needs. Cosmetology includes hair, nails, makeup and skin care, whereas a nail-specific program is a more tailored, shorter way to get the education. Most states require you to be at least 16 years old and have either a high school diploma or GED to enroll in school for this profession.
The curriculum you will learn in nail school includes disorders of the nails, chemicals and products used for nail care, hygiene and public health, sterilization and disinfection, massage theory, sculpting and curing procedures, the machines and technology used to do manicures, and so much more. You will learn how to follow state law for safety procedures in the salon setting, especially if you or the client were to sustain an injury during a manicure or pedicure. Once you have completed your training, you then take your state’s licensing exam, and you’ll need to pass in order to earn your nail technician’s license and begin practicing professionally.
The minimum amount of hours required to sit for the nail technician licensing exam varies from state to state. Some states, like Massachusetts and Virginia, require fewer than 150 hours to complete the program. Other states (at least 9) require up to 600 school hours to complete the program. The national average is about 375 hours. Check our list of state nail tech license requirements to find out your state’s unique regulations. Depending on your state’s minimum training requirements, and whether you’re attending school full-time or part-time, the nail tech training program can typically be completed in 3 to 9 months. A small handful of states allows apprenticeship to get your training, and typically they require twice as many training hours than if you were to attend school instead. If you think you are cut out for nail school, click the button below to find schools near you that offer this program.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2015 data, salaries for manicurists/pedicurists can range from $17,200 to $32,100 before tips, depending on your location, level of experience and the quality of your portfolio.
The median annual salary for manicurists is $22,500 before tips (BLS, 2015). The top paying states for this occupation are Vermont, Alaska, South Dakota, Iowa, and the District of Columbia, according to the BLS data. Some of the top paying metro areas for manicure and pedicure professionals are New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia (BLS, 2015).
The BLS cannot accurately account for tips, and this profession tends to have flexible employment arrangements. Many nail technicians choose to work part-time or full-time, some work for salons and some own their own businesses, some work regular 9-to-5s and others work nights and weekends, so salaries can vary widely. The BLS estimates that about 27% of nail technicians are self-employed, often running their own nail care businesses. Some salons also offer commission on product sales or bonuses to manicurists who bring in new clients.
The most popular settings for nail technicians to work are nail salons and beauty salons. Some choose to work in travel or recreation industries like resorts, cruise ships and country clubs. Some choose to work in health and personal care stores or department stores. Many choose to work for a salon, but many others choose to own their own nail businesses.
Nowadays some states even allow people to run mobile nail salons, where they do nails on-site at people’s homes, businesses or even special events. Some nail technicians decide to take their education to the next level and develop their own product lines, like a polish line, nail care product or even develop all-new styles of manicures like the new popular gel nail trend.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the job outlook for manicurists will grow 16% through the year 2022. This means they expect about 13,500 jobs to be opened in the field by the end of the decade, for a total of over 100,000 nail technicians employed nationwide. This pace of growth is as fast as the average for all occupations. Many developments are being made in this field, such as the allowance of mobile nail services (house calls where the technician goes to the home or event to do nails) in many states, and the addition of cheaper express manicures and pedicures to the salon menu of options.
Check the Appointment Calendar - Every nail technician should begin their day by reviewing their appointment schedule and ensuring they know which clients are coming into the salon, and what services they’ll need. Many nail techs use the free time between clients to call and remind future appointments that they’re scheduled in the near future, which greatly reduces no-shows. Knowing the itinerary for the day can be very helpful for the manicurist to mentally prepare.
Prepare the Station - A manicuring table holds many nail sculpting and finishing tools, including polishes, files, emery boards and cuticle knives, so a clean work space and attention to detail is important. Giving a manicure involves several steps from start to finish, and good manicurists are well-organized with their tools and their time.
Consult with the Client - A manicurist should always consult with the client about their nail challenges and what they're hoping to achieve with their mani/pedi. The appointment generally begins with the client consultation, where you will ask a number of questions to learn what the client wants you to do. Is the mani/pedi for an upcoming night out, just for fun, a regularly scheduled appointment, or for a major life event like a wedding? That information may change how you choose to perform the services and what tools you need to use. When you reach a full understanding of what the client wants, the services can then begin. This time should also be used to get to know your client on a more personal level – their tastes, interests, preferences, about their family, job, and so on. Building a personal relationship with your clients leads to customer retention and referrals.
Do the Mani/Pedi - This part can include a warm and sanitizing foot bath or cleaning and moisturizing the hands, using special scrubs or creams, giving a brief hand/foot/calf massage, using scented lotions designed to moisturize the client's skin types, cuticle care, shaping the nails, polishing and top-coating the nails and so on. Some manicures are simple, one-color express manicures. Others may be more advanced like acrylics, gel nails, French tips, or special nail art designs.
Schedule the Next Appointment & Ask for Referrals - When the appointment is complete, every nail tech should tell the client when they would like to see the customer next, and try to get them to book their next appointment before they pay and leave. Let them know how long they can expect the mani/pedi to last and if it needs regular maintenance and upkeep to make sure it stays looking awesome. Licensed nail technicians should remind their happy, loyal customers that they love referral business so you can continue to grow your clientele!
News About Nail Technician Careers:
- October 2015 - "Top 5 Tips for Picking the Right Beauty School"
- June 2013 – “State of the Pedicure Industry (Interview with Suzanne Foote)”
- November 2012 – “New Manicurist Job Supply & Demand Info from CareerBuilder”
- July 2012 – “Vietnamese Immigrants Thriving in Nail Art Community”
- June 2012 – “Are Fish Pedicures Dangerous?”
- May 2012 – “U.S. Bureau Releases new Salary & Employment Data for cosmetology Professions”
- April 2012 – “California ‘Non-Toxic’ Nail Polish Study Found Toxins”
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