Manicurist Job Description and Employment Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a manicurist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and state licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Manicurists, also called nail technicians, are personal appearance specialists or cosmetologists who work on the care and beautification of fingernails and cuticles. They work in spas and beauty salons. Manicurists must complete a cosmetology or nail technology program that is sanctioned by the state, and these programs usually take less than a year to complete. After graduation, prospective manicurists must pay a licensing fee and pass a certification examination in every state except Connecticut.

Required Education Nail technology or cosmetology program
Other RequirementsMost states require a license
Projected Job Growth (manicurists and pedicurists)16% from 2012-22*
Median Salary (manicurists and pedicurists) $19,340 (2013)*

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Manicurist Job Description and Skills

A manicurist's job includes examining the color and condition of a client's fingernails; trimming, filing and shaping nails with scissors and emery boards; applying nail polish to produce a hard, glossy finish; and providing hand care by soaking fingers in softening solution or applying softening gel. In addition to direct service, manicurists advise clients on proper nail care techniques and recommend hand and nail care products.

Manicurists need high manual dexterity to manipulate tools with a precise yet gentle touch, effective sales skills and current knowledge of nail fashion. They must also maintain a neat personal appearance and tidy work area and be able to establish rapport with clients. Those who plan to operate a salon of their own also need a measure of business acumen for sales, marketing and office management.


Hundreds of public community colleges and private beauty schools offer certificate programs for manicurists, which generally can be completed in less than one year. A high school diploma or GED is typically a prerequisite for enrollment. Programs are likely to cover the fundamentals of nail care, nail products and nail care technology. Advanced topics may include infection control and safety and an introduction to business concepts. In many cases the classroom environment is a simulated salon with all necessary tools and equipment. Students who hold a certificate from an accredited school are prepared to take a state licensing exam, which is required to perform work in most states.

Career Information and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, manicurists and pedicurists earned a median wage of $19,340 as of May 2013. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 16% job growth for manicurists over the years 2012-2022, faster than for other job categories. Growth was expected to be driven by an expansion in the number of full-service salons as consumers shift to smaller-scale, affordable luxuries.

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