How to Become a Nail Technician or Manicurist/Pedicurist

Thinking about enrolling in nail technician school?

If you are considering enrolling in nail technician training, you are probably curious about how much the program costs, how long it will take to complete, what you will learn in the program, and more. Beauty Schools Directory has answered many of the most common questions about the education that helps you become a licensed nail tech, so you can decide whether taking the next step in your career is the right decision for you. If you think training to become a professional manicurist sounds like the right fit for you, just enter your zip code in the box to the right. Choose "Nail Technology" as your program to find schools near you that offer this program.

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How do I become a nail technician?

If you're looking to join the nail tech industry, which has more than 364,000 (up from 357,000 in 2012!) specialists and counting according to Nails Magazine, and enjoy being creative and helping people, attending nail school might be for you. Most cosmetology and beauty schools offer courses dedicated to nail technician courses as part of their cosmetology curriculum, but there are also schools dedicated specifically to learning nail technology. A nail school offers students focused classes and students train to specialize in nail art and design, manicures, pedicures, acrylics, gels, nail art, wraps, nail extensions and more.

The most critical step to become an licensed nail technician is to get the training and hands-on practice required to be able to sit for your state’s board exams. Because you are working directly with clients’ skin and nails, it is imperative to get the proper education to be able to practice this profession safely and effectively. The training programs can vary in length and requirements, based largely on each state’s individual licensing requirements. View our list of states to look up your state’s nail technician licensing requirements, or click the button below to find schools near you.

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What classes will I take in nail school?

In the world of cosmetology, not every nail school is the same. Most nail schools usually employ experienced instructors to provide the nail tech classes and training to their students, as will some cosmetology and beauty schools. A licensed cosmetologist must be proficient in the basics of nail technology, but a specifically trained nail technician may be able to provide more depth and comprehensive instruction to nail tech students. Both are capable of being excellent teachers in this field. Some of the classes you may see on a nail school’s curriculum include:

  • History of Nail Care
  • Personal Hygiene, Public Health
  • Safety, Sterilization & Sanitation
  • Nail Care Chemicals – Uses & Technical Applications
  • Nail Care Tools, Machines or Apparatuses – Uses
  • Nail Design & Artistry
  • Manicures/Pedicures
  • Fabric & Sculpting Procedures
  • Light-Cured Gels
  • Nail Extensions, Tips & Wraps
  • Acrylic Nail Forms, Application, Fills and Removal
  • Nial Product Knowledge
  • Massage Techniques for Hands, Arms & Feet
  • Bacteriology & Disorders of the Nails

Schools teaching nail technology usually offer a combination of theory and book learning, nail tech classes including art and design as well as the application of various services, and then hands-on learning with a student nail salon. This training helps prepare you to succeed on your written and practical exams to get licensed.

Do these classes sound like exactly what you are looking for? Find schools near you to compare your options.

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What knowledge and skills are required to become a nail tech?

A nail technician must be able to perform a number of tasks to be successful in this business. Those tasks many include cleaning and sanitizing your tools and work station, scheduling appointments with clients, taking and managing payments, removing previously applied nail polish, cleaning customers’ nails and skin for a fresh manicure or pedicure, shaping and smoothing nails, doing cuticle and nail bed work, and of course applying undercoat, polish and topcoat. Some of the physical requirements to be successful at manicuring are arm-hand steadiness, manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination and good near vision.

A great nail technician should have excellent customer service and listening skills, and be friendly and comfortable working with people. You should be able to consult with the client and assess their individual needs. You should also be able to market yourself by scheduling their next appointment before they even leave the salon, and asking them for referrals of family and friends.

How long is the nail tech program?

Most states require anywhere from 200 to 800 hours of training to sit for your licensing exam, but the national average is 375 hours of training. Some states also allow apprenticeship to get some or all of your training hours, but most require you to get your training in a formal school setting. Click the “Find Schools” button below to find nail schools near you that can help you get the hours you need.

Because of your state’s licensing requirements, the length of the nail tech training program may vary from one state to another. This may also vary based on whether you go to school part time or full time. The average length of this program is 3 to 12 months. Be sure to ask the schools you’re considering what the average time to complete the program is.

If you are looking to become a master nail technician (if it's available in your state), additional advanced nail courses may be offered, and in some of those states a master nail technician exam must be passed as well.

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How much does nail technician school cost?

The cost of tuition for nail schools can range depending on the courses in the curriculum, hours of instruction required by your state, as well as location, facilities, and equipment required to purchase for your program. Because of the cost of business facilities, nail technician schools inside or close to major metropolitan cities like Los Angeles or New York will likely cost a little more, whereas smaller, more rural areas or suburbs that may be accessible with a bit of a commute may be cheaper. The cost can also vary by whether you attend a comprehensive cosmetology program, or specifically a nail tech program.

For each nail school you're interested in, be sure to ask admissions reps what their tuition costs are and what exactly this costs includes – such as textbooks, chemicals, polishes, nail care supplies, and so on. Nail schools that teach around the national average of 300-600 hours tend to have tuition that costs on average $3,000 to $5,000, including the cost of textbooks and supplies. Most of the nail technician schools we surveyed said that their program costs less than $5,000 to complete. A select few schools did the nail program cost ranges from $5,000 to $9,000. It is also important to ask the schools whether materials like books, a nail kit and frocks or aprons are included in the cost.

What is the average nail technician salary?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, manicurist and pedicurist salaries average $19,220 per year before tips. The average nail technician salary ranges from $16,650 on the low wend to $29,560 on the high end before tips. The highest paying states are Iowa, Tennessee, District of Columbia and Illinois.

But nail technician salary depends on a number of factors. Many nail technicians choose to work part-time instead of full-time, and salary has the potential to grow with experience, growing clientele, and increasing the number of hours you work. Another thing BLS data often does not account for accurately is the tips a nail technician may receive for their manicure, pedicure and nail services. For more information about beauty wages, compare the average nail technician salaries with the average cosmetologist salary.

Full cosmetologists who are licensed to do hair, nail, makeup and skin services have a higher earning potential. They earn a median salary of $22,770 per year before tips. The range of salaries for cosmetologists tends to be between $16,850 and $42,360 per year before tips, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Check out our full salary page for more information on this topic.

What is the job outlook for nail technicians after graduation?

Nails Magazine reported in their 2013-2014 Industry Statistics that the money spent on salon services has grown 12%. The estimated that $8.28 billion was spent on nail care services in particular last year. They also estimate that some 43% of nail technicians have worked in this profession for more than 12 years!

After graduating from a nail school, most students find careers in the field of cosmetology at salons or spas, while others continue training and move into the field of skin care and massage treatments. In the 2013-2014 Nails Magazine report, 33% of licensed nail techs were salon owners doing nails, not booth renting. The next most popular choices were being a booth renter nail technician, and working as a nail technician employee for a salon or spa. Increasing in popularity is the mobile or home salon, where nail techs actually deliver their services to the client. The rest tended to be salon managers or nail department managers, cosmetologists, or beauty school instructors.

California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois are the states that employ the most nail technicians. Pacific nail technicians earn the most money on average, though they also tend to work the most hours (averaging 35+ hours per week).

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