Nail technician – How to become a nail technician

What is Nail technician?

A manicurist or nail technician is a person whose occupation is to style and shape a persons nails. This is achieved using a combination of decorating nails with coloured varnish, transfers, gems or glitter. Basic treatments include manicures and pedicures, as well as cleaning and filing nails and applying false nails or extensions.

Nail technicians can also paint designs onto nails with an airbrush, by hand or using a stencil. A nail technician will often check for any signs of skin problems, deformities or nail disease before treatment and give clients advice about looking after their nails, and recommend nail care products.

Training to become a nail technician involves doing a professional course that normally takes at least a year to complete. The work itself tends to take place in a beauty salon although some nail technicians will make house calls to clients. Once licensed, many nail technicians will keep their own regular client list.

Nail technicians
Nail technicians

How to become a nail technician

As a nail technician or manicurist, you will trim and polish clients’ nails, repair broken nails, and apply nail extensions. Additionally, you will assess the skin condition of a client’s hands, care for the cuticles, and shape the nails. Some skilled technicians even create designs or tiny pictures on their clients’ nails. To become a nail technician, you must complete a training program and obtain a license from the state in which you wish to work.

Step 1: Complete a Nail Technician Training Program

To become a nail technician, you will need to have a high school diploma or GED, be at least 16 or 17 years old, complete a nail technology or manicure program, and pass a licensing exam. You can complete a three-month certificate course in nail technology, or you may choose to pursue an associate’s degree in cosmetology, which can take one to two years to complete.

Programs are offered through many community colleges, vocational schools and private schools of beauty or cosmetology. You will learn technical skills, including manicuring, pedicuring, applying artificial nails, the anatomy of hands and feet, and treating nail and skin disorders. It’s also important to learn about safety and sanitation, in addition to having basic nail product knowledge.

Step 2: Obtain a License

Most certificate or degree programs prepare you to take state-licensing exams. Requirements for licensing usually include completing an approved training program and passing a licensing exam. The practical exam is administered so you can demonstrate your knowledge. Some states offer reciprocity and will accept a license from another state, but you will need to check with the state.

Step 3: Find Employment as a Nail Technician

Nail technicians are employed at nail salons, beauty salons, spas and resorts, with California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Illinois having the highest employment levels in 2013. As the number of nail salons and spas increase, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that employment for nail technicians is expected to grow by 16% from 2012 to 2022 (

Nail technicians statistics 2012-2022
Nail technicians statistics 2012-2022

Step 4: Grow Clientele

Many technicians advance by growing a loyal clientele. Skills and attributes like communication, self-motivation, problem solving, creativity, adapting to change and hand-eye coordination will help you stand out. Once your clientele is built, you may consider opening your own salon.

Step 5: Advancement Opportunities

After you graduate from a nail technician program and obtain your license, you will likely start in an entry-level position under some supervision. As you gain experience, you may move into a supervisory or management role. You may also choose to train in other areas of cosmetology so you can provide additional services. Another career path option is to become a teacher and teach others nail technician skills.