Become a Certified Nail Technician: Certification and Career Info

Learn how to become a nail technician. Research the education and career requirements, licensure information and experience required for starting a career as a nail technician.

Do I Want to Be a Nail Technician?

Nail technicians work in spas, nail salons and cosmetology centers to beautify and shape client's nails. In addition to manicures and pedicures, nail technicians may also provide additional services, including hand and foot massages. Manicuring and pedicuring services involve cutting, shaping, polishing and painting nails. A great deal of sitting is involved, and protection like masks and gloves must often be worn due to working with chemicals.

Job Requirements

While certification isn't required to work in the field, nail technicians will need to obtain state licensure. In order to be eligible for licensure, aspiring nail technicians will need to complete a training program and pass an examination. The table below includes the requirements to become a nail technician:

Common Requirements
Degree Level No degree is required, but a certificate from a cosmetology school is required*
Licensure State licensure is required to work in the field*
Key Skills Strong communication skills, dexterity, ability to sell nail care products, time management**
Technical Skills Familiarity with nail care tools, such as nail files, cuticle cutters and nail clippers;* knowledge of special equipment used to make custom nail art or complete nail services, such as French manicures**
Additional Requirements Most employers look for candidates with a neat and clean appearance, the ability to maintain a hygienic workspace and work schedule flexibility**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ** job postings (August 2012).

Step 1: Complete a Nail Technician Program

Although it isn't always required, a number of nail technician programs require applicants to hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. Nail technician programs are available within cosmetology schools and will prepare graduates for state licensure. These programs combine both academic and practical training in the field. Students will learn about nail care applications, infectious control and customer service. The practical training will not only give students experience in the field, but will provide them with the skills necessary to create art on nails. Programs typically meet the minimum state clock hours needed for licensure.

Success Tip:

  • Consider additional training. Pursuing a cosmetology associate's degree may provide you with additional career opportunities. In addition to working on nails, with cosmetology training, you could work with hair, skin and makeup as well.

Step 2: Obtain Licensure

The specific eligibility requirements for licensure will vary by state. For example, Kentucky requires nail technicians to have 600 clock hours, while Florida mandates 240 hours. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that cosmetology applicants need to be at least 16 years old and be high school graduates, but prospective nail technicians should check with their state board of cosmetology for specific details. Each state will require that nail technicians pass a written and practical exam to obtain licensure. The written portion may include subjects in health and safety, nail technology and nail care. In the clinical portion, an individual may be required to demonstrate how to perform a manicure and additional nail treatments.

Step 3: Continue Education

To maintain licensure, nail technicians need to apply for renewal. The number of continuing education hours and the expiration period varies by state. Many states' licenses expire annually or every two years. Continuing education classes for manicurists or nail technicians may cover such topics as health and sanitation, state laws or advanced nail techniques. Many independent continuing education companies and cosmetology schools offer continuing education online. Students should be sure to research the validity of these organizations before enrolling. Many states have an approved educator list to reference.

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