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How to Become a Nail Technician

Have you ever had your nails done and felt like a million bucks? If you love making people feel good and enjoy being creative, a career as a nail technician might be perfect for you.

As a nail technician, you’ll have the opportunity to make people look and feel their best. You’ll get to be creative as you design unique nail art, and you’ll build relationships with your clients as you chat with them during their appointment. Plus, there’s always room for growth in the field of cosmetology, so you can continue to advance your career as you gain experience.

This site has tons of helpful information for aspiring nail technicians. Here, we’ll explain more about the job, what you’ll need in terms of a nail career education, and what you can expect to work in the industry.

What does a nail technician do?

Nail techs provide a variety of services to their clients, including manicures, pedicures, and nail art. Manicures typically involve the trimming and shaping of the nails and the application of polish. Pedicures usually involve all of the same steps as a manicure, but also include exfoliation and massage of the feet and lower legs.

Nail art is a creative way to decorate nails, and can include anything from simple designs to complex murals. Nail technicians often have a wide range of colors and styles to choose from, so that each client can find something that suits their taste.

Many nail techs also offer treatments to improve the health of nails, such as paraffin wax dips and hot oil treatments. On top of these services, it’s also common to provide advice on how to care for nails between visits. Nail techs may also sell products such as cuticle oil, hand cream, and nail polish.

Nail technicians typically work in salons, but some may also offer mobile services. Consequently, they need to be able to set up and break down their equipment in a timely manner. As a result, nail technicians must have excellent time management skills and be able to work quickly and efficiently. Above all, they must be able to provide high-quality services that leave their clients feeling satisfied.

By offering a wide range of services, nail technicians are able to provide their clients with everything they need to maintain healthy, beautiful nails.

How to become a nail tech

With a few exceptions, most states will require you to complete a nail tech program to achieve a license or certification to work as a nail technician. In most instances, you must have a high school diploma or GED to enroll in a nail technician program. Most states require that you be at least 16 or 17 years old before you can complete a program and take the licensing exam.

Nail technology programs are offered at vocational schools, community colleges, and some salons. Some programs also include an internship so that you can get real-world experience before you start working on your own. During an internship, you’ll shadow a licensed nail technician and learn about salon operations, such as booking appointments and handling customer service inquiries.

After you complete your education and internship requirements, you’ll need to pass a state-administered licensing exam. The exam is usually multiple choice and covers topics such as safety procedures, sanitation regulations, state laws governing the profession, nail care techniques, and product knowledge. Once you pass the exam, you’ll be able to get licensed in your state and start working as a professional nail technician.

How long is a nail tech program?

In as little time as a couple of hundred hours of classroom instruction, you can become a certified nail tech – it all depends on which state you’re earning your license in. Some states like Maine have requirements as low as 200 classroom hours, while others like Arizona get up to as much as 600 hours.

Some states allow you to work as an apprentice in lieu of courses, or a combination of apprentice/intern work in combination with classroom hours.

Depending on the hour requirements in your state and your ability to take full-time or part-time classes, your program can be as short as five weeks or up to two years (Alabama). Visit your state’s licensing website to find out what requirements are needed.

How long does it take to get a nail tech license?

The biggest determining factor in the time it takes to earn a license is the length of your apprenticeship or nail tech program. Beyond that, you’ll just need to schedule your exam, file paperwork, and pay any required fees by your state. Usually, this can be done within weeks of completing the prior requirements. So, if you have a five-week program, you could in theory have your license in six or seven weeks. If your program/apprenticeship lasts five months, you can have your license a week or two after that.

Most states have a requirement to take the licensing exam within a set amount of time after finishing a nail tech program. For example, some states will give you somewhere between six weeks to twelve months to pass the exam, and if not, you’ll need to go through a training program again.

Learn more about earning your hair design license.

How to choose a nail tech school?

Nail tech school is a major investment of both time and money, so it’s important to choose a program that will best suit your needs.

There are a few things you should take into consideration when making your decision. First, consider the length of the program. Some schools offer shorter programs while others may take up to two years to complete (but offer more job opportunities and higher pay upon completion).

If you’re looking to get started in your career as quickly as possible, a shorter program may be the way to go. However, if you’re looking for a more comprehensive education, a longer program may be a better fit.

Second, consider the cost of the program. Tuition can vary widely from one school to the next, so it’s important to find a program that fits within your budget.

Third, take into account the location of the school. You’ll want to choose a school that’s conveniently located near you so that you can easily commute to and from classes.

Finally, make sure that the school you choose is accredited by a reputable organization such as the National Accrediting Commission for Career Arts and Sciences. Choosing an accredited program will ensure that you receive a quality education that will prepare you for success in your career.

What makes someone a good nail technician?

A good nail technician is someone who is passionate about the beauty industry and takes pride in their craft. They are constantly striving to learn new techniques and expand their knowledge of nail care. They also have strong attention to detail and are able to execute even the most intricate designs flawlessly.

Good nail technicians possess a unique mix of artistic ability and technical skill, and they use these talents to provide advanced nail techniques and create beautiful, wearable works of art. In addition to being talented and skilled, good nail technicians must also be able to work well with others. They should be friendly and personable, and they should be able to put their clients at ease.

Working as a nail technician can be demanding and challenging, but the best nail technicians are up for the task. They truly love what they do and they are always looking for ways to improve their skills.

Jobs outlook for nail technicians

Nail techs, classified as manicurists and pedicurists by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are forecasted to see explosive job growth in the coming years. The BLS anticipates a whopping 22% growth in jobs from 2021 through 2031, which means there will be a lot of “Help Wanted” signs outside nail salons in coming years. For reference, all jobs are only projected to hit 5% growth in the United States over that same time period.

As of 2021, they estimate that there are 163,300 people working in this position. If growth matches their forecast, that will mean 36,600 new nail tech jobs will become available through the next decade.

The states that have the highest concentration of nail technician jobs are:

  • Connecticut
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • California
  • Washington

In terms of the total number of people employed as nail techs, three of the same states make the top five:

  • California
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas

How much do nail techs make?

The average hourly wage for a nail tech according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $14.65. That works out to an annual wage of $30,480.

Mean hourly wage Mean annual wage
$ 14.65 $ 30,480


Successful nail techs can earn a nice living, but in general, pay will hinge largely upon where you live and work. The top-paying areas in the United States are:

  • Washington DC – $46,040
  • Utah – $45,080
  • Michigan – $44,310
  • Montana – $41,140
  • Iowa – $41,010

Of course, other factors weigh in on earnings as well, such as the types of service provided, clientele, and whether or not someone is self-employed or an employee.

Learn more about nail tech salaries.

More questions?

A career as a nail technician can be very rewarding—it’s creative, interactive, and relatively low-cost to enter compared to other beauty professions. If you have a passion for making people feel good about themselves, then becoming a nail tech may be the perfect path for you. If you have more questions about nail technicians, have a look at our FAQ page.