Nail Technician Careers
A nail technician has the opportunity to work in several different settings and meet all sorts of people. Plus, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for manicurists and pedicurists are on the rise and expected to grow 13% by 2026 – much higher than the 7% average of other careers.
In most states, you'll need to be at least 16 years old and possess a high school diploma or GED in order to become a nail tech. From there, you’ll need to complete a nail technician program or apprenticeship and pass an exam to obtain licensure. You can usually complete the program under a year, and sometimes in as little as a couple of months. Nail technicians must be licensed to practice legally in almost all 50 states; Connecticut is currently the only exception to this rule, but recent legislation will require the state Department of Public Health to start issuing licenses, beginning October 1, 2020.
What Does a Nail Tech Do?
Nail technicians perform a variety of nail care and design services. Beyond nail skills, technicians also have knowledge about chemicals and products, safety and sanitation, sales, and customer service. Manicurists and pedicurists typically work in a nail salon or spa, but there are a host of other places they can work, too.
Typical nail technician job responsibilities include:
But that’s not all. In addition to those tasks, nail techs are also involved with:
While there are benefits to the job, it’s important to be mindful of the potential drawbacks. The job involves a lot of sitting, which can cause muscle strain, and nail techs are also often exposed to chemicals, use sharp tools, and may encounter broken skin, so it’s essential that they protect themselves and keep a clean workstation.
Nail Technician Salary and Job Outlook
The job outlook for nail technicians is expected to grow faster than average. Here’s a deeper look at salary and job growth.
How Much Do Nail Techs Make?
In 2018, the median pay for manicurists and pedicurists was $11.70 an hour and $24,330 a year, according to the U.S. BLS.
As of May 2018, here are the top five states where nail techs earn the highest salary:
Job Growth for Nail Techs
In 2018, the job growth expectations from 2016-2026 is 13%, which is much higher than the 7% average job growth for all occupations.
As of May 2018, here are the top five states that employ the most nail techs:
Working as a Nail Technician
Steps to Become a Nail Technician
Nail technicians need to complete the following three steps to legally work in the field:
Once you’re in the field, you may need to take continuing education (CE) classes to maintain your license. Depending on your state, your license may expire yearly, every two years, or a different time frame altogether. Each state also has different requirements for continuing education units (CEUs). These classes may focus on advanced nail techniques or state laws, for example, and you can sometimes complete them online.
Nail Technician Career Options and Specialties
There are many career options as a nail technician. You can choose to work at a salon or spa, go work for yourself, or one of many other options. You can also pursue something outside the box, such as creating your own YouTube channel or becoming a social media personality. Many people are looking online for new design ideas, nail art tutorials, or just some #nailinspo, so if you’re into the idea of marketing yourself and your talents, this could be a nontraditional and fun path for you to take.
When it comes to nails themselves, there’s a lot to learn. Here are several different styles and techniques nail techs typically have in their repertoire:
Where Can You Work as a Nail Tech?
A nail technician can work in many different settings. There are the more familiar ones, such as a nail or hair salon, and others that may surprise you:
Some nail techs choose to operate their own salon or mobile business, too.
Nail Tech Work Schedule
If you’re employed in a traditional nail tech setting -- say, a salon or spa -- you’ll work a variety of hours. Because you work with the public, a lot of these hours will be in the evening and on weekends when most people are free to seek out your services. You may work a full eight-hour shift or work a part-time schedule.
The hours worked are usually early or mid-morning until late evening, seven days a week. However, some places offer different weekend hours and may be closed one or two days a week. Other privately-owned or specialty facilities may have different hours of availability altogether.
Traits of a Successful Nail Technician
There are many positives to working as a nail tech. It’s a growing field, programs are affordable and quick to complete, and job settings and hours are variable. By being personable and offering good service, you have the potential to secure repeat customers and earn more money. You can also grow in the industry, whether that means becoming a specialist in one area, or opening your own salon.
To be successful in the field, you’ll want to develop stellar nail care and design abilities and hone your interpersonal and customer service skills. Since most of your time will be spent interacting with clients in person -- and your pay can be influenced by those encounters -- the latter is especially important in the nail technician career.
You can also further your success by continuing your education. By learning more about your craft, you can earn more money, teach others, or run your own business. Depending on which path feels right to you, you can grow in the field in several ways.
Professional Resources for Nail Techs
Here are some professional resources for nail technicians: