What You Need to Know about Manicure/Pedicure Programs
Next time you’re treating yourself to a relaxing spa visit, take the time to have a look around at the staff. You’ll see several specialists, from massage therapists and skincare specialists to talented nail technicians.
Nail techs aren’t just employed at spas - they work at a variety of locations, including salons, airports, and even cruise ships. It's a fast growing industry – according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for manicurists and pedicurists are expected to grow by 13% by 2026, which is almost double the average U.S. job growth rate of 7%.
This page will explore the day-to-day tasks, educational requirements, program costs, job prospects, and other details related to becoming a nail technician.
What Does a Nail Technician Do?
There’s a lot more to a nail technician than just painting nails. Technicians also need to have skills in safety and sanitation, sales, and customer service. Here are a few tasks nail techs are responsible for while on the job:
- Nail applications
- Cleaning, trimming, and filing nails
- Polishing or buffing nails
- Moisturizing hands and feet, and providing light massage
- Scheduling appointments
- Customer service
- Maintaining a sanitary work environment
- Sharing information on available services
- Promoting and selling nail and skin care products
- Keeping management informed about product needs
As with any job, there are pros and cons to consider.
- It's a growing industry.
- Training programs are generally affordable and quick to complete
- By being personable and offering good service, you have the potential to secure repeat customers and earn more money
- You can learn about the industry and eventually use that knowledge to open your own business or continue your education
- Flexible scheduling and work environments
- Muscle strain can develop from sitting most of the day
- You may encounter broken skin and be exposed to infections
- You'll be near various chemicals
- Many of the tools used for manicures and pedicures are sharp - techs need to use them responsibly to avoid hurting themselves or their clients
- Your pay can be influenced by customers and whether your salon does a lot of business
To be successful, you’ll need to develop your nail artistry abilities while honing top-notch interpersonal and customer service skills. Most of your time will be spent interacting with clients in person.
Nail Tech School: What to Expect
Good news: If you’re looking to become a nail technician, there are hundreds of programs to choose from across the country. Here’s some information about enrollment requirements, nail schools, and costs.
Nail Tech Program Enrollment Requirements
To enroll in a nail technician program, you typically need to:
- Be at least 16 years old
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Complete the application process and pay any appropriate fees
- Potentially visit the school and/or have a personal interview with a program representative
Aspiring nail technicians need to complete a state-approved cosmetology or nail technician program, then pass a state exam (usually a written and a practical test) to become licensed. A small handful of states allow apprenticeships to get started, but this path typically requires more training hours.
Nail Tech Program Costs
Program costs generally depend on curriculum and location. Other factors include:
- The hours of instruction required by your state
- Whether you attend part-time or full-time
- The facilities and equipment available
- If the school is private, for-profit, or an established brand institute
Programs that focus solely on training nail technicians usually cost several thousand dollars to complete. Listed below are a couple examples from schools across the country:
Paul Mitchell The School in Logan UT
- As of 2019, the application fee is $100, tuition for the nail technician program is $2,400, and the kit, equipment, textbook, and supplies cost $1,478.
Artistic Nails & Beauty Academy in Tampa, FL
- As of 2019, tuition and fees for the nail technician program is $2,932, and books and supplies are priced $387.
Baldwin Beauty Schools in Austin, TX
- As of 2019, the registration fee is $100, tuition for the manicurist program is $4,300, and the books and tools cost $500.
Individual programs usually offer scholarships. You can also visit the federal student aid website to review the loans, grants, and financial aid available to you.
How Long Does It Take to Complete a Nail Technician Program?
Most nail technician programs take an average of 300 to 600 hours to complete. Program start times and lengths vary, but you can typically complete a nail tech program between three to nine months depending on your ability to attend school part- or full-time.
What Do You Learn in a Nail Tech Program?
For the most part, you’ll learn about the basics of nail care and design, and information on safety and sanitation. Many schools detail their course information online – you can also visit in-person, call a program representative, or communicate with a chatbot online to get more clarity on what each program offers.
Nail Tech Courses
You can expect to learn about the following:
- Nail art and design
- Calf and foot massage
- Safety and sanitation
Commonly required subjects in nail technician programs include:
- Anatomy and disorders
- Chemicals and products
- Public health
- Sterilization and disinfection
- Massage theory
- Nail technology
For example, at Shear Excellence Hair Academy in Tampa, FL, nail technician students learn the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of nails and skin, a variety of nail beauty techniques, and the professional nail products used. They also learn about salesmanship, state laws, and advanced skills such as sculptures, overlays, and nail art.
Before successfully completing the program, students need to complete a certain number of hands-on training hours. Then, graduates will take a state licensing exam. Once students pass and earn their nail technician license, they can begin practicing professionally.
Nail Tech Training Hour Requirements
Students are required to complete a certain number of training hours in addition to completing their coursework. The number of training hours required will depend on the state in which you attend school, as each has different requirements. For example, you need 250 hours of training to qualify in New York, but 600 in Arizona.
These training hours combine theory and practice, so students can expand on what they’ve learned in the classroom and get hands-on experience before entering the field. Students will practice salon services on real clients, including manicures, pedicures, and advanced nail techniques.
Differences Between Nail Tech and Cosmetology Programs
Nail technician and cosmetology programs may be similar, but there are also distinct differences. On a basic level, nail tech programs focus solely on nails, whereas cosmetology programs feature nails but also include other specialties, like hair. Cosmetologists are trained to do nail work and develop other skillsets, whereas nail techs can only legally work within their scope.
Find a Nail School in Your State
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How to Pick a Nail Tech Program Near You
Once you decide to pursue a career as a nail technician, review these five tips in order to pick your perfect nail tech program:
- Accreditation. Some states require nail techs to complete an accredited program to work professionally. It’s essential to choose a technician curriculum that matches the requirements for your state’s license exam.
- Financial aid, scholarships and loans. Not all programs are eligible for governmental financial aid. If you need financial assistance, review different programs and see what aid and scholarships are available. If you borrow money to complete your studies, make sure you understand the loan-repayment terms.
- License renewal and continuing education. Be sure to review the license renewal and continuing education requirements of your state since they can vary. There is a big difference in the costs, schedules, and continuing education rules.
- Program structure. Choose a program that fits your lifestyle. Some programs might take place entirely on campus or run Monday through Friday, and that might affect your ability to work while in school.
- Job placement services and networking. See if your school offers opportunities to connect students with mentors or helps place graduates in jobs.
Advanced Training and Supplemental Education
Additional Nail Tech Certifications and Trainings
Nail technicians might want to receive advanced training for several reasons. Aside from brushing up on your skills, nail art is featured everywhere, from celebrities in fashion magazines to dedicated Pinterest communities. A popular nail trend might inspire you to learn a new, advanced technique so that you can take on more clients.
Nail Camp organizes yearly nationwide meetups for professionals and those currently enrolled in a nail tech program. Attendees can network, enter competitions for prizes, and go to workshops to learn difficult techniques, such as mastering watercolor nail art. Certain professional organizations and salons also offer advanced education courses. MediNail offers advanced courses with a healthcare slant, for nail techs who might be interested in working in a podiatrist’s office.
Nail techs in some states are required to continue their education in the form of extra training hours to renew their license. The requirements will vary based on each state board.