How to Become a Nail Technician: Training, Education Requirements & Salary


We hope you don’t mind the smell of nail polish, nail polish remover and possibly the smell of stinky feet. Why you ask? Well that’s what you’ll be smelling everyday if you decide to pursue the path of a nail technician. Despite the potential encounter with a stinky foot or two, this is a pretty cool job that will allow you to unleash your creative side. You can use each pedicure or manicure as a way to create walking art. You’ll be able to interact with a variety of people and impact their lives by giving them a fun experience.

How to Become a Nail Technician

To become a manicurist and pedicurist, you will be required to complete a state approved cosmetology or nail technician program. Lucky enough for you, there are currently hundreds of programs nationwide that you will be able to enroll yourself in. You may choose to take the 3 month course in nail technology or you may decide to take it a step further, shooting for an Associate’s Degree in Cosmetology. The associate’s degree will take you 2 year to complete.

Once you have successfully nailed down the program and all of its components, you will also be required to pass a state exam for licensure. Every state follows these requirements with the exception of Connecticut. The licensing requirements for nail technicians will vary from state to state, however there will be some requirements that will always be the same. For example, all applicants need to be at least 16 years old and will need a high school diploma or GED. After the state approved cosmetology or nail technician program, you will then need to complete a written exam as well as a practical exam in order to obtain your license.

So now we know what it will take to become a nail technician as far as state requirements and now we should go ahead and cover what important qualities may be helpful too. Do you have any of the following skills? Take a look:

  • Business skills: Having business skills is pretty important for nail technicians that intend to run their own nail salon. In order to be successful you will need to have a decent understanding of general business principles. If you elect to have your own nail salon you should be skilled at many business administrative tasks. Some things that you will need to have knowledge of are administrative tasks, accounting and personnel management just for starters.
  • Creativity: As a nail technician, creativity is pretty important too. Whether you specialize in performing pedicures, manicures or both – you’ll likely be tasked by your clients to create unique and intricate designs. Creativity will be super helpful to make each experience with your client awesome.
  • Customer service skills: The job of a nail technician is a very heavily customer service related position. Good listening and interpersonal skills are pretty important when working with clients. Having good customer service skills will also help to increase your client base and in turn increase you revenue.
  • Dexterity: You’ll be working with sharp tools and substances that will require precision and accuracy. Having good hand dexterity will make your job a bit easier and will likely make your clients experience a bit more pleasant.

What Does a Nail Technician Do?

Are you asking yourself “if I was a nail technician, what would I do?”? Well if so, we are going to tell you right now! Once you are a fully licensed nail technician you will:

  • Discuss the different services and nail treatments that are available
  • Remove nail polish from fingers and toes as well as rough skin around the nails
  • Clean, trim and shape nails to the clients preferred specifications
  • There will be a lot of massaging and moisturizing of the hands when performing manicures and feet when performing pedicures.
  • Polishing or buffing of the nails is pretty common before they are painted
  • For safety and sanitary purposes, you will need to disinfect your work areas and tools after every client.
  • You’ll be required to advise your clients about what types of nail and skin care that will be best for their hands and feet. While advising them it will provide you an excellent opportunity to promote and sell some products for some extra profit.

Can I Become a Nail Technician Online?

Excellent question, kids! So the answer to this is yes…but with an asterisk beside it. The reason we say this is because you will likely have to put in some on campus time for internships or lab time. We’d also like to toss out there that with online classes, you will be lacking in the hands on experience that students are able to lock in on when they are on campus for their sessions. That last bit is just our two cents though and you are more than welcome to wonder if we sniffed a few too many nail polish fumes while researching for this piece.

If you do decide to pursue an online nail technician licensing, you may do so through a certificate program or by going for a broader Associate’s degree in cosmetology.  Some of the online nail technician courses that you can expect to take are:

  • Body Systems and Diseases Course

In this course you can expect to cover the physiology of nails, hair and skin. You’ll learn all about different nail, skin and hair disorders. Another learned skill will be the ability to determine whether skin disorders are treatable and which ones will need to be checked out by a doctor.

  • Pre-clinic Introduction Course

The Pre-clinic Introduction course will teach you all about the important and sometimes gross methods of safety and sanitation. You’ll cover all of the state regulations, laws and requirements as well as how to go about it in a professional manner.

  • Clinic Introduction

This course will help you to develop the necessary skills needed to perform basic nail care. As a student you will learn all about manicures, pedicures, cleaning, basic nail conditioning. To top it all off, you will then learn about the application of artificial, sculpted, gel and acrylic nails.

  • Nail Tech Theory Course

The Nail Tech Theory course is required and will prepare you for the state licensing exam to become a legit nail technician. In this course you will study the theory and principals of nail care. This course is often used as part of the on the job training that some employers will require before hiring. Once this final class has been completed you will be rearing and ready to sit for your state board examination.

Nail Technician School

You’re likely wondering after all of our jabbering where you can actually go to achieve this certificate. Well hold your horses because we are going to tell you now. Ready?

Moraine Park Technical College

Moraine Park Technical College offers a nail technician certificate program for aspiring nail artists. This is the ultimate schooling for those that are drawn to the creativity, visual perception and good interpersonal skills of a nail technician. The coursework for this certificate will cover laws, regulations, business management and ethics. Some of these courses will help lead you in the right direction if you are interested in beginning your own business.

The nail technician certificate program at Moraine Park Technical College takes 324 hours to complete. It is a 13 week certificate program that will expertly prepare you for the licensing examination that is in your state. Graduates of this certificate program that complete and pass the state licensing exam will then be able to jump right into the hunt for a job. If you are interested in beginning your own business, that’s fine as well as because you will be able to get cracking on that too.

Bridgerland Applied Technology College

Bridegerland Applied Technology College offers a nail technician certificate as well. During the course of this certificate program you will learn many important things that will help you to keep your customer base very happy. You will cover how and why the services are performed. you will also learn a great deal about how to keep your salon free and clean of bacteria.

This nail technician certificate program is available in blended components or both eLearning as well as actual on campus classes. This is a nice melding of the two learning environments. It allows for a greater student net to be cast and you will have the best of both worlds. Independent learning and hands on experience…sign us up! The program is comprised of 300 required hours of schooling. That breaks down to 20 hours a week for 4 months.

Santa Monica College

The folks at Santa Monica College offer an Associate’s degree in Cosmetology. This is a degree program that will teach you everything that you will need to know about becoming a nail technician. It will also give you the added bonus of all the extra knowledge you will be gaining during your schooling.

The entire program that will ultimately garner you a cosmetology license is based off of a total of 60 credits. The first 37 credits will be directly relating to all of the necessary skills required to graduate and pass the state required examination. The remaining 23 credit hours should still reside within the cosmetology bubble, but there is a bit of wiggle room and you can pick some classes that you may be drawn to within the field.

You can graduate with your Associate’s degree in Cosmetology once you have completed all of the required course work. You will still be required to successfully pass your state board examination and the practical as well. Without both of those you can’t become a licensed nail technician or obtain any other license that you will have gained the skills for.

Here are a few more you could look into:

Regent University prepares students with the knowledge to excel and the faith to live with purpose. Our 20,000 alumni, from more than 110 countries, are changing the world as accomplished professionals. Named a top-15 school nationally for online bachelor's programs (U.S. News & World Report, 2015), Regent is among the most affordable undergraduate Christian colleges (CCCU 2015). Fully accredited, challenging programs are available online and on campus. New classes begin every eight weeks.

Programs:

  • Master of Business Administration - Small Business Data Analytics
  • Master of Business Administration - Small Business Information Technology

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nail Technician

How long does it take to get a nail tech license? Well that pretty much depends on if you are just looking to become a licensed nail technician or if you are looking to pursue an Associate’s degree in Cosmetology. If you are interested in solely becoming a nail technician, you may complete the licensing process in as little as 3 months’ time. Talk about short and sweet! If you are considering spreading your wings  and shooting for an Associate’s degree in Cosmetology, you will be able to do so in 2 years.

Determining which option is best for you will depend on many variables. How much time do you have? What do you want to do with your schooling once you’ve completed it? Will you want to branch out to other service types in the field again? These are important questions that you should ask yourself so that you take the road that will be best for you and your career in the long run.

Nail Technician Salary

The super helpful folks over at the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported as of May 2012, that the average salary for a nail technician is $19,219 a year. This annual salary also translates into $9.24 an hour if you’d prefer that break down. The manicurist salary does vary ever so slightly according to the BLS. They are projecting that the lowest 10% earn $16,640 annually ($8.00 per hour) and that the top 10% earn $29,556 annually ($14.21 per hour).

There will likely be a bit of a fluctuation in the amount of income brought in depending on a few key factors. You may bring in more income in different demographic areas, different types of salons (salons solely focused on nails versus full service salons with a nail area, for example) and the hours that you work. If you own the salon your income is apt to be higher than if you were an employee of an existing salon. You will also receive tips from many clients and that will increase your expected yearly salary.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Nail Technician

There are quite a few things that will need to be taken into consideration when trying to determine how much it costs to become a nail technician. The cost for tuition will vary by school, city, state, certificate programs vs an Associate’s degree as well as whether you are a state resident where you are applying (non-residency tuition can be wicked expensive. We can hear our wallet weeping at the mere thought).

Some schools will offer a tuition calculator that can be pretty helpful when determining what your costs will be. There are some schools that are helpful enough to list the tuition right there within the certificate information on the website. In some cases, financial aid may be used to help with the costs of the schooling. Maybe give a FAFSA a shot just for poops and ha ha’s. It would be pretty awesome to get a grant rather than having to shell out your cold hard cash, right?

The Real Deal: The Inside Scoop Straight from the Source

We’d like to introduce you to a seriously awesome lady that has been making waves as a nail technician for over 25 years. She has really made a name for herself and has a tremendous amount of talent. Nails are more than just keratin resting on top of fingers for her. This amazing nail technician treats each nail as a blank canvas and performs near magic on them. So are you ready to meet her?

Let’s Meet Robin!

Calling Robin Moses a nail technician seems to be a major understatement. She is capable of doing amazing things to nails that seem nearly impossible. She takes each client she has and transforms their plain boring nails into really awesome works of art. She has clearly learned a tremendous amount in her 25 years as a nail technician.

Robin has become so successful that she has created her own really fun, informative and engaging YouTube series, blog and Facebook page. Her YouTube series offers a ton of really helpful tutorials that cover nearly anything and everything that you may want to know from a nail technician’s standpoint. In her videos you can learn how to paint amazing designs on nails as well as really helpful tips on how to be a better nail artist in general. Robin recently added another really fun segment to her YouTube repertoire. Her new videos entitled “Hey, Robin!” are really funny and she answers a ton of helpful questions that come from her subscribers. We learned quite a bit from her videos and we don’t know the first thing about nails. Heck, we can hardly paint our own nails without it looking like a 3 year old took a stab at it.

She is very active on social media websites like Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram too. She likes to stay connected to her subscribers and help them as much as she can. Her blog is also loaded with videos and tips.

Don’t Forget These Other Career Options

Cosmetologist Educational Requirements

Barber Job Description

Final Grade

Yep, it’s that time again guys and gals…Report card time! For once these will be final grades that you won’t sweat bullets over or try to hide from your parents. We like to provide this type of overview so that you can put it all together in one succinct little section. This is the low down on how to become a nail technician and it will likely help you decide if it’s the right path for you. We happen to feel pretty thrilled with this career path as a whole and here it why:

  • Degree vs debt: B

The degree to debt ratio is pretty low considering the short duration of the schooling (or certification process) and how quickly you can find employment. The certifications are not all that expensive either and the ability to make your money back quickly is certainly there.

  • Degree Difficulty: A –

The process of becoming a state and board certified nail technician is not that difficult at all, really. It also doesn’t take a whole heap of time to accomplish it either. In fact, it is one of the types of certifications that you can achieve while you are working on another cosmetology related license.

  • Happiness Quotient: B

This is a pretty fun and easy job for the most part. There are times when your hands may cramp up, your back my hurt from hunching over finger nails and toe nails all day or your bum may hurt if your work stool is uncomfortable. There may be days when you have rude clients that are impossible to please too, but all in all this isn’t likely to be a career that makes you miserable each day. Remember that you will often have fun clients that will keep you entertained; you may be able to work for yourself, make your own schedule and even work mobile. All in all it doesn’t sound like too bad of a gig to us!

  • Job Outlook: B-

The job outlook for nail technicians is actually pretty good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 16% growth projected from 2012 to 2022. This is faster than average jobs growth for most careers and gets 2 thumbs up from us. The growing demand for new forms of services will contribute to the growth for sure. The types of services that are provided by nail technicians will really benefit from the growing of luxury treatments in popularity among certain demographics.

 

Sources and Recommended Reading

Extra extra read all about it! Check out all of the sources that we used to fill you in on all of the ins and outs of how to become a nail technician. These links will tell you all you need to know, so get click happy and get ready to take some notes…provided that the last coat of polish is dry on your nails.

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