Licensed Nail Technician Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a nail technician. Learn about education and licensure requirements, salary, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nail Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Licensed Nail Technician?

Licensed nail technicians usually work in beauty salons and perform manicures and pedicures on their clients. They must communicate effectively with clients to explain possible treatments and understand the needs of the client. Along with providing nail care, nail technicians can provide skincare as well as offer advice to clients on how to maintain healthy nails between visits. It is also important for technicians to keep a clean and disinfected work space. The following table gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required Associate's degree in cosmetology or certificate/diploma from a community college or beauty school
Licensure Obtain license through your state's board of cosmetology; license must be renewed every 2-3 years
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 10%*
Average Salary (2015) $23,630*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Programs Are Available for Licensed Nail Technicians?

Licensed nail technicians are generally trained in certificate and diploma programs at non-profit community colleges and for-profit beauty schools. If you want a college degree, you could enroll in an associate's degree program in cosmetology. Some of these programs offer specializations in nail technology, while others train students in all areas of cosmetology. Associate's degree programs include general education courses in addition to offering practical training in nail technology.

Your practical training would be in a beauty salon setting, often on a campus-based spa or salon. You'd practice on real clients, giving manicures and pedicures, applying artificial nails and painting nail designs. In addition to the aesthetics side of nail technology, you'd learn how to care for the health of your client's nails, using nail products, like cuticle softeners and strengthening agents. An associate's degree program would take about two years to complete and typically consists of 200-300 clock hours of practical training. After completing the program, you'd earn an Associate of Applied Science degree.

How Do I Get Licensed?

After completing your training requirements, you'll be eligible for licensure through your state's board of cosmetology. The licensing process will require you to pay examination and licensing fees and take written and practical examinations. After you get your license, you'll be eligible to work in nail salons, beauty salons and day spas. While states' licensing policies vary across the country, all states require nail technicians to renew their licenses, generally every 2-3 years.

How Much Can I Earn and What Is the Job Outlook?

As of May 2015, manicurists and pedicurists earn an average annual salary of $23,630, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This translates to an average hourly wage of $11.36. The majority of workers earned between $8.78 and $16.32 per hour. Because much of your income will come from tips, you're likely to earn better money working for salons and day spas that charge higher fees for nail services. Between 2014 and 2024, the BLS predicted that manicurist and pedicurist jobs will grow faster than average, at 10%.

What Organizations Should I Join?

Joining a professional organization can look good on a resume, and it shows employers that you're dedicated to the craft. One organization you could join is the National Cosmetology Association (NCA), which offers member benefits like the ability to participate in competitions and Webinars ( You could also join the International Nail Tech Association ( This organization offers product discounts and the option to have your own website.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in providing various beauty treatments to individuals, you also may want to work as a barber or hairdresser. These professionals work with men's, women's, and children's hair. You could also work as another type of cosmetologist, providing makeup and skin care services. All of these positions require a postsecondary credential.

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