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.

Should I Become a Nail Technician?

Nail technicians work in spas, nail salons and cosmetology centers to beautify and shape clients' nails. In addition to manicures and pedicures, nail technicians may also provide such services as hand and foot massages. Manicure and pedicure services involve cutting, shaping, polishing and painting nails. A great deal of sitting is involved, and masks and gloves must often be worn while working with chemicals.

Career 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, 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
Salary Nail technicians earned a median hourly wage of $9.43 in 2014

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 prepare graduates for state licensure. These programs combine both academic and practical training in the field. Students learn about nail care applications, infectious control and customer service. The practical training not only gives students experience in the field, but also provides them with the skills necessary to create art on nails. Programs typically meet the minimum state clock hours needed for licensure.

Step 2: Obtain Licensure

The specific eligibility requirements for licensure 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 requires 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: Complete Continuing 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.

Step 4: Consider Opportunities for Career Advancement

Some nail technicians continue their education in the personal appearance industry by going on to become cosmetologists or estheticians. Doing so requires completing additional education through a trade school or community college and then obtaining state licensure. Another option would be for a nail technician to eventually open his or her own nail care business.

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