Nail Technician

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Related roles: Manicurist, Nail Technician (Nail Tech), Pedicurist,Nail Artist, Nail Specialist, Nail Stylist, Nail Care Expert


Similar Titles

Manicurist, Nail Technician (Nail Tech), Pedicurist, Nail Artist, Nail Specialist, Nail Stylist, Nail Care Expert

Job Description

Our fingernails and toenails are multifunctional! They serve as tools, protect our fingers and toes, and even help to enhance the sensations we feel (by providing a rigid backing that amplifies sensory input). Our nails are also great indicators of our health, able to signal when we have certain nutritional deficiencies, diseases, or infections.

Aside from their functionality, nails offer aesthetic appeal, which is another reason why we should keep them healthy, trimmed, or even painted. But sometimes it's easier to visit an expert who can help us out with these things. That’s where Nail Technicians come in.

Nail Technicians specialize in the care and beautification of the nails on our hands and feet. Manicurists may focus only on fingernails, while pedicurists do toenails, but in general, Nail Technicians are trained to do both. In addition to cleaning, trimming, and filing nails, they can remove tough skin, apply artificial nails, and apply polish and creative nail art designs! 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Keeping clients’ nails healthy and attractive
  • Expressing creativity through artistic nail designs
  • Flexible working hours and environments
  • Opportunities for self-employment
2022 Employment
2032 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

Nail Technicians often work flexible schedules with variable hours.

Typical Duties

  • Discuss client preferences and review options, prices, and recommendations
  • Assess nail health, looking for signs of infections, diseases, or abnormalities
  • Take care of cuticles to promote healthy nail growth
  • Provide comprehensive nail care such as manicures and pedicures, shaping, cleaning, and beautifying nails
  • Apply, repair, and remove artificial nails and extensions using acrylics, gels, or fiberglass
  • Apply nail polish, gel, and nail art according to client preferences
    Offer relaxing hand and foot massages as part of nail treatment services
  • Sell nail care products and additional services
  • Maintain a clean, sanitized environment
  • Disinfect and sterilize tools and equipment to uphold hygiene standards

Additional Responsibilities

  • Stay updated on advancements in nail products
  • Study nail art and color trends
  • Order and manage inventory of products and supplies
  • Build relationships with clients. Encourage repeat appointments
  • Educate clients on nail health
  • Know about treatment contraindications based on nail or skin conditions
  • Stay current with state licensing requirements. Take continuing education classes, as needed
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Ability to work independently
  • Artistic
  • Attention to detail
  • Cooperative
  • Customer service
  • Dependability
  • Empathy
  • Methodical
  • Normal color vision
  • Patience
  • Steady hands and good hand-eye coordination
  • Strong communication skills, including active listening
  • Superb attention to detail
  • Time management

Technical Skills

  • Knowledge of dermatological health and hygiene, as well as sanitation and infection control
  • Knowledge of nail care products (and ingredients) such as:
  1. Nail polish removers, cotton balls and pads, base coat and top coat, nail polishes, gel nail polishes (for use with UV/LED lamps), acrylic and gel extension supplies (including powders and liquids for extensions)
  2. Nail art supplies, hand creams and cuticle oils, nail strengtheners and treatments, and callus removers and foot files
  • Tools such as nail clippers and scissors, nail files and emery boards, cuticle pushers and nippers, nail buffers, orange sticks, nail brushes, dotting tools, and fine brushes
  • Equipment such as UV or LED lamps, manicure tables and chairs, nail dryers and fans, pedicure spas and foot baths, disinfectants and sterilizers, and protective equipment (gloves, masks)
  • Understanding of skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, athlete’s foot, etc.)
  • Sales and marketing
  • Proficiency with scheduling and client management software
Different Types of Organizations
  • Personal care service providers (spas, salons, wellness centers)
  • Dermatology and plastic surgery offices
  • Self-employed/freelance workers    
Expectations and Sacrifices

Nail Technicians are crucial to enhancing and maintaining the appearance and health of their clients’ nails. They’re expected to be knowledgeable, adaptable, and customer service-oriented. Depending on the employer, work schedules may include evenings, weekends, and holidays. In some cases, they may have to deal with demanding or sensitive clients, including those with unique needs or allergies. Practicing impeccable hygiene and sanitation is extremely important to mitigate the spread of germs or contagious conditions. 

Current Trends

The number of jobs for Nail Technicians is projected to grow 9% through 2032, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). “The projected increase in employment reflects the demand for nail services, such as mini-sessions (quick manicures at a low cost) and mobile manicures and pedicures (nail services offered outside of the salon),” BLS writes.

“The desire among many women and a growing number of men to lead a healthier lifestyle through better grooming and wellness is expected to result in higher employment for manicurists and pedicurists.”

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Most future Nail Technicians probably enjoyed taking care of their own nails from an early age, keeping them healthy, trimmed, filed, and painted. They may have grown up watching online tutorials or reading glamor magazines and paying attention to the techniques and tools used by their favorite nail stylists. 

Education and Training Needed

Formal Training

  • Almost every state requires Nail Technicians to undergo training at a state-approved program, after which graduates must pass exams and get licensed through their respective state’s Board of Cosmetology or health department
  • Training programs are usually offered at vocational schools, community colleges, or private cosmetology schools. Programs may take ~200 - 600 hours to complete
  1. Depending on the state, applicants may need to be at least 16 or 18 and must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Note, that some high schools allow students to enroll in vocational training programs to prepare for their careers early!
  2. Students can also apply to earn an associate’s degree in cosmetology, but this is not required


  • Some states allow employer-sponsored apprenticeships as a path to licensure. These structured training programs allow students to learn directly from an experienced mentor but may take longer to complete
  1. Note, that apprenticeships may incorporate classes, too. The sponsor should pay for these but probably won’t pay students for the time spent in class
  2. Apprentices still have to take and pass licensure exams. The sponsor should help to prepare students for the exams


  • In addition to completing training, Nail Technicians must pass exams to obtain state licensure
  1. Students can learn about exam requirements from the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology’s Candidate Information Bulletins. Exam types include a Practical exam, a Theory exam, and a Written exam. Check with your state’s board to determine which exams are required for licensure
  • Many states have license reciprocity agreements. This means if you get a license to work in one state, another state may grant a license without additional training or testing.
  • If you plan to move and work in another state, it’s very important to check with that state’s Board of Cosmetology or health department regarding their current regulations. Don’t make any assumptions, because rules can change!
  • Once licensed, Nail Technicians must usually finish continuing education courses to renew their license    
  • Optional certifications include:
  1. Certified Footcare Nail Technician
  2. Certified Master Pedicurist
  3. Certified Podiatric Assistant
  4. MediNail Advanced Nail Technologist
  5. Swarovski Certified Nail Artist
Things to look for in an university
  • A college degree isn’t required. Check with your state’s Board of Cosmetology or health department to find an approved training program near you!
  • Programs should have a strong reputation for customer satisfaction. Review their Better Business Bureau profile and Google Business feedback
  • Nail Technician program costs can vary, so check the total cost including all tuition, books, supplies, and other materials. Don’t forget to look for scholarships, in addition to filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
  • Consider if you’d prefer to train via an apprenticeship. Not every state allows this, and they can be competitive. Anyone considering an apprenticeship should inquire directly with the program or business offering it, to ask about compensation and expectations 
Things to do in High School and College
  • High school classes to focus on are biology, anatomy, chemistry, health, art, and business
  • Some high schools allow students to enroll in vocational training courses. Ask your counselor about any Nail Technician or cosmetology program opportunities
  • Future Nail Technicians can start learning at home, watching video tutorials, and reading magazines and books
  • Learn about different nail and skin conditions and possible reactions to certain products
  • Practice your painting skills as frequently as possible. You can practice on nail tips, nail wheels, laminated sheets, or other materials
  • Take lots of photos and create a portfolio of your work
  • Decide if you want to apply for an apprenticeship or attend a formal training program at an approved school. Apprenticeships often take longer to finish, but you should get paid for your on-the-job education versus paying for classes. However, if you qualify for financial aid and/or scholarships, you might prefer to take whichever is the shortest route!
  • You’ll need to craft a customer service-oriented “work persona” and develop your listening and verbal communication skills
  • Start a draft resume early to keep track of the education and experience you acquire
Nail Technician Roadmap
Nail Technician Roadmap
How to Land your 1st job
  • Knock out formal training and exams. Obtain your state license (or temporary or student license, if applicable)
  • Talk to your program advisor. Some schools have connections with salons and spas looking to hire graduates
  • If doing an apprenticeship, you might end up working for the employer that’s sponsoring you
  • Reach out to everyone you know who might have a lead on a job, including teachers and classmates
  • Considering doing a short paid or unpaid internship to gain valuable work experience
  • Create your online portfolio to offer potential employers a glimpse of your work
  • Scan traditional employment portals like Indeed and Glassdoor, but also look on sites such as Craigslist for smaller local opportunities
  • Consider freelancing from home or by visiting spas or even paying house visits—but make sure you are properly licensed, have all the suitable tools and equipment, and can meet all hygienic requirements (such as disinfecting or sterilizing tools to prevent the spread of germs)
  • Read job posts thoroughly and make sure you meet all the listed qualifications.
  • Check out Nail Technician resume templates and sample Nail Technician interview questions (such as “What are the potential consequences of using unsanitary equipment?”)
  • List details about your professional work experiences, as well as formal education and any positive reviews or feedback
  • Be enthusiastic and confident during interviews and, of course, dress for interview success
How to Climb the Ladder
  • As a beauty industry professional, your reputation means a lot so it’s vital to treat clients well and earn their positive feedback. Try to establish a solid professional reputation as early as you can!
  • Build a website (using your professional work name, if the domain is available), get your portfolio seen as much as possible, and consider doing social media tutorials to gain exposure
  • Ask a friend in the industry to review your portfolio and offer critical but helpful feedback
  • Never take photos of or with clients without their explicit content, and let them know what you intend to do with the images (i.e. if you’re going to add them to your portfolio or post to your business social media pages)
  • Strengthen your credentials by pursuing optional certifications such as Certified Footcare Nail Technician, Certified Master Pedicurist, or MediNail Advanced Nail Technologist
  • Learn to market yourself! Establish your professional reputation and make a name for yourself through personal branding!
  • Mentor other Nail Technicians and get involved with professional organizations (see our list of website resources below), workshops, and other events
  • Build a strong rapport with everyone you work with and treat them all with respect
  • Consider opening your own business!
  • Practice strict hygiene procedures to ensure the safety of your clients, your coworkers, and yourself! 
Recommended Tools/Resources



  • Nail Care Essentials: Your Complete Guide to Healthy, Beautiful Nails, by Janaine Lee
  • Nail Care Mastery: The Pedicure and Manicure Course: Elevate Your Skills and Pamper with Precision, by James Hunter
  • Pro Nail Care: Salon Secrets of the Professionals, by Leigh Toselli  
Plan B

Being a Nail Technician is a rewarding career path for many students, but if you’re curious about some related occupations, consider the list below!

  • Barbers   
  • Dental Assistant
  • Hairdresser, Hairstylist, and Cosmetologist
  • Makeup Artist, Theatrical and Performance
  • Manicurist and Pedicurist
  • Massage Therapist
  • Medical Assistant
  • Skincare Specialist
  • Surgical Assistant
  • Surgical Technologist


Online Courses and Tools