Frequently Asked Questions about Nail Technician Programs and Careers

Working as a manicurist involves more than just painting nails. With these quick-to-read FAQ’s, you can introduce yourself to several important topics. First off, find out what a nail tech or manicurist does, and what you need to know if you are considering this occupation. After that, explore training topics, such as how to become a nail tech and how much training is required. You are probably curious what the average salary for a nail tech is too, right? Don’t worry, we cover that too!

About Nail Technicians

What is a nail technician, or maicurist/pedicurist?

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 fastest-growing specialties in the world of cosmetology, a manicurist is a licensed nail technician who performs a number of services, including:

  • Cleans
  • Trims
  • Polishes
  • Nail art
  • Manicures
  • Pedicures
  • Acrylic
  • Gels

Additionally, nail technicians may learn to go beyond their core skillset. Look for programs that include:

  • Cuticle care
  • Hand/foot/calf massage
  • Scrubs
  • Moisturizers
  • Wax dips
  • And other high-end services & specialized services

Observational and conversational skills also come into play as you consult with your clients and assess the health of their natural nails. They come not only for the skills you provide, but also for the experience of relaxation and pampering, so your personal skills are essential in this profession as well.

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 and choose “Nail Technology” as your program to find schools near you.


If you're looking to join the nail tech industry, 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.

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 require up to 600 school hours to complete the program.

The national average for becoming a nail tech is about 375 hours.

Check our list of state nail tech license requirements to find out your state’s unique regulations.

A great nail technician should seek to develop these skills to enhance their career:

  • Excellent customer service and listening skills
  • Friendly and comfortable attitude when working with other
  • Consult and assess client needs
  • Market skills that inspire repeat business and customer loyalty
  • Implementing referral and other incentive programs that generate revenue

Career Options

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the job outlook for manicurists will grow 10% between now and 2024. The national average for all occupations is about 7%, so you can feel optimistic about your opportunities for pursuing this career.

Here are some popular settings where nail techs can find employment:

  • Nail salons
  • Spas and hair salons
  • Resorts
  • Cruise ships
  • Country clubs
  • Health and personal care stores
  • Retail

Many choose to work for a salon, but many others choose to own their own nail businesses. You’ll want to consider this when you enroll in a program, as you may need some business classes as well.

Mobile Nail Tech Jobs

Nowadays some states even allow people to run mobile nail salons, where they perform services at:

  • People’s homes
  • Businesses
  • Special events

Nail Product Development

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.

If you’ve got a knack for creating your own designs, or have an idea for a new product, this could be a great route to go

Nails Magazine reported in their 2014-2015 Industry Statistics that the money spent on salon services continues to grow. The estimated that $8.54 billion was spent on nail care services in particular last year. They also estimate that some 23% of nail technicians have worked in this profession for more than 10 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 2014-2015 Nails Magazine report, 40% of licensed nail techs were salon owners doing nails, up from 33% in 2013.

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.

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.

Work Day

Check Your Appointment Calendar

Every nail technician should begin their day by:

  • Reviewing their appointment schedule
  • Ensuring they know which clients are coming into the salon
  • Making sure they have the products to perform the services they’ll need
  • Call and remind future appointments, which greatly reduces no-shows

Knowing the itinerary for the day can be very helpful for you to mentally prepare as a manicurist.

Prepare Your 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 Your Clients

A manicurist should always consult with clients 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, such as:

  • Is the mani/pedi for an upcoming night out?
  • Are we just having fun, and want to experiment?
  • Do you have any skin conditions or health conditions to discuss?
  • What about a major life event, such as 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—you can ask 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 includes a number of steps that will relax, rejuvenate, and make the client feel amazing.

Services you provide may include…

  • A warm and sanitizing foot bath
  • Cleaning and moisturizing the hands
  • Using special scrubs or creams
  • Giving a brief hand/foot/calf massage
  • Using scented moisturizing lotions
  • Cuticle care
  • Nail shaping
  • Polishing and top-coating

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.

Be sure to let your clients know:

  • How long they can expect the mani/pedi to last
  • If it needs regular maintenance
  • How to perform upkeep to make sure it stays looking fresh
  • And ALWAYS book their next appointment before they leave

Licensed nail technicians should remind their happy, loyal customers that they love referral business so you can continue to grow your clientele!

If you think this sounds like a good day’s work, you could be a perfect fit for nail tech school.

Use our search features to contact schools with nail tech programs near you!


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the average salary for manicurists and pedicurists was $20,820 per year (2017). However, the BLS cannot accurately account for tips, and this profession tends to have flexible employment arrangements.

Other factors that can impact nail tech salaries:

  • Whether you choose to work part-time or full-time
  • What city or state you work in
  • Whether you work for an existing salon or seek to build your own clientele

The BLS estimates that about 3 in 10 nail techs 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.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), manicurist and pedicurist salaries average $22,500 per year before tips. The highest paying states are Vermont, Alaska, South Dakota, Iowa and D.C.

Nail technician salary depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Many nail technicians choose to work part-time instead of full-time
  • Salary has the potential to grow with experience as you grow 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, let’s 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 $27,940 per year before tips (BLS, 2017). Check out our full salary page for more information on this topic. Keep in mind, this statistic does not mean your nail technician salary has to be lower. Ask each school you speak with how nail techs in your area can maximize their earning potential!

What is the job outlook for nail technicians after graduation?

The great thing about consumer tastes for nail work is that it keeps getting fancier and a more commonplace splurge! The need for great nail artists and qualified nail technicians can be seen across the United States. Women’s fashion trends love to accent their styles with awesome nails, and the pedicure is fast becoming the weekend treat of choice!

Nails Magazine reported in their Nail Industry Statistics that the money spent on salon services continues to grow. They estimated that $8.54 billion was spent on nail care services in particular during 2015. They also estimate that some 23% of nail technicians have worked in this profession for more than 10 years! That tells you a lot about the potential for long-term success in this beauty occupation!

After graduating from a nail technician school, most students find careers in the field of cosmetology at salons or spas, while some others continue training and move into the field of skin care and massage treatments.

In the most recent Nails Magazine report, 40% of licensed nail techs were salon owners who also spend time doing nails, up from 33% owners in previous years. Of course, there are other ways to make your nail tech degree count, even if you don’t go the traditional route of salon manicures

Nail Technology
Commercial Career