Nail Technician
How to Become a

Nail Technician

The complete career guide to be a Nail Technician: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $23,630
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 10.3%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Flexible Hours
    Career Attribute

Nail technicians perform manicures and pedicures and typically work in nail salons or spas. They clean and massage hands and feet, cut and file nails into desired shapes, apply artificial nails, and apply and remove fingernail polish. They may also earn commissions on sales of nail care products and polishes.

Recommended Schools

What is a Nail Technician?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in nail technician roles:

  • Perform manicures and pedicures
  • Clean and soaks hands and feet to make them supple for cuticle shaping and callous removal
  • Trim and file fingernails and toenails
  • Apply nail polish to fingernails and toenails, or put on and paint artificial nails
  • Sell nail care products and nail polishes to clients

A Day in the Life

Nail technicians—also known as manicurists and pedicurists—perform manicures and pedicures for clients. When clients arrive, the nail technician converses with clients to determine what services the client wants to have performed. Then, the nail technician gets to work performing those services. Nail technicians may be paid hourly—depending on employer—but the bulk of their income usually comes from tips and commissions on product sales, so it’s important to provide excellent customer service.

When performing a manicure, the nail technician may seek to make the client’s natural fingernails look good, or he/she may work to apply artificial nails on the client. The nail technician starts by soaking and cleaning the client’s hands and nails, and then applies lotion, often massaging hands in the process. Next, the nail technician uses a special cuticle tool to push overgrown cuticles back. Finally, the nail technician cuts nails, files them into shape, and either paints natural nails or applies and paints fake nails.

When performing manicures, the nail technician begins by soaking the client’s feet in warm water or a foot spa. This helps clean feet and make them supple so that callouses and other rough spots on feet can be removed. To remove these, the technician files feet using a special foot filing tool. Next, the technician pushes cuticles back, trims toenails, files toenails into shape, and applies nail polish. The nail technician may also apply lotion to feet and massage feet and lower legs in the process.

Typical Work Schedule

Nail technicians may work either a full eight-hour workday or part-time. While some nail technicians may work day shift during the work week, most work second shift in the evening and on weekends as these are the busiest times for nail salons and spas.

In general, their working schedules can vary greatly by employer. For instance, some spas and salons are closed one or two days per week while others are open all 7 days. Other privately owned or specialty facilities may have different hours of operation altogether, so it’s important for job hunters to fully understand what hours may be required of them.

Projected Job Growth

Demand for nail technicians is expected to grow in the coming decade due to nail salons making the process more convenient for clients. Where manicures and pedicures used to take an hour or more and required visiting a salon, many nail technicians are now offering shorter sessions—called mini manis—and mobile services, traveling to clients’ homes to perform manicures. The increased convenience is driving more people to utilize nail technician services, increasing demand for the position.

Prospects are particularly good for those technicians who specialize in one or two nail techniques. Some of those techniques to have in your repertoire are:

Acrylics: These faux nails are created by mixing a liquid and powder together to cover the natural nails and affix an artificial tip. Eventually acrylic nails grow out and can be removed by soaking them in nail polish remover.

Gel: Another type of artificial nail, these are brushed onto natural nails and dried under a UV light. These tend to be more expensive because they last longer than acrylic nails.
Dip powder: Once a basecoat has been applied, the nail is dipped into a special colored powder. The process is repeated multiple times until the desired color level is reached, then a sealant is painted on over to set.

Silk: Many women experience cracked nails. In addition to being painful, they can also cause the entire nail to split. To solve this problem, fabric wraps are fitted onto the nail and then glued. This helps protect the underlying nail so it can grow out.

Paraffin wax treatments: During this treatment a client’s feet or hands – or both – can be covered with warm wax. This provides a soothing experience that also hydrates the skin. This treatment is usually accompanied by a manicure and/or pedicure and perhaps even a light massage.

Typical Employers

Some nail technicians may choose to be self-employed and either own their own nail salons or travel to client’s houses to provide service there as part of a mobile manicure business.

Those technicians who seek employment at other businesses have a lot of options. Beyond working at the obvious nail salons and spas, you may also find employment at a small nail care station within an airport, on a cruise ship, at a podiatrist’s office, or working as an instructor at an educational facility.


Recommended Schools

How To Become a Nail Technician

The first step in becoming a nail technician is to enroll in a cosmetology or nail technician program. The only prerequisite for these programs is a high school diploma, so aspiring nail technicians can begin their education and training as soon as they graduate from high school. When choosing a program, look for those that offer specializations in nail care. Some will be more focused on hair cutting and styling, so in order to get the proper training, you’ll need to make sure you can take specialized nail tech courses.

In the past, it was possible to become a nail technician by working through an apprenticeship program under an experienced nail technician. However, almost all states now require nail technicians to be licensed to work in the field. Getting licensed requires completion of a cosmetology or nail technician program and passing written and practical exams. When choosing a trade school, look for those that assist with the testing and licensing process after graduation to help with certification and licensure.

After completing school and earning a license, you should be able to find work in the field. Browse online classifieds and visit nail salons to find out who is accepting applications. Initially, you’ll probably need to work in a nail salon and gain some experience before you can find work in a spa or more luxury establishment. Additionally, if you’re considering self-employment, it can be helpful to take business and marketing classes at a local college to learn how to attract new clients and run a business.

Nail Technician Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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How do Nail Technician salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Nail Technician's can make an average annual salary of $23,630, or $11 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $19,070 or $9 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #785 Nationally for All Careers

Highest Education Among Nail Technicians

  • 0.4%   Doctorate
  • 1.1%   Masters
  • 8.6%   Bachelors
  • 8.3%   Associates
  • 21.9%   College
  • 36.8%   High School
  • 23%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Nail Technician job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 11,700 jobs for a total of 125,300 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 10.3% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #184 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Nail Technicians

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Personal care services 76,700 8,200 8%
Self-employed workers 34,300 3,300 3%
Fitness and recreational sports centers 700 --- 0%

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