How to Become a Manicurist in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a manicurist. Learn about training requirements, licensure, 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 Does a Manicurist Do?

As a manicurist, your duties would include evaluating the condition of hands and nails, abrading dead skin and trimming cuticles. You'd also smooth and shape fingernails, remove old nail polish and apply new nail polish. This job balances creativity and precision with interpersonal skills, as a manicurist needs to assess the needs and wants of a client before beginning the treatment. Other duties will be to clean your workstation, sanitize tools and schedule appointments. If you own your business you'll need to advertise, order supplies and maintain financial records.

More information about this career is summarized in the table.

Training Required Cosmetology or nail technician program
Key Skills Attention to detail, dexterity, creativity, customer service
Licensure Required in all states except Connecticut; completion of a state-approved training program, a written exam and a practical exam are common licensure requirements
Job Growth (2014-2024)10% (manicurists and pedicurists)*
Median Salary (2015) $20,820 (manicurists and pedicurists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Manicurist?

A manicurist, also known as a nail technician, is a personal appearance specialist who concentrates on providing care and beauty treatments to hands and fingernails. They can work in nail salons or spas, and most work full-time. A formal training program is needed to work as a professional manicurist and be eligible for licensure. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary of manicurists was $20,820 as of May 2015 (

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

You'll need at least a high school diploma to become a state licensed manicurist. States vary on the minimum age requirement, but some will license you if you're 16 years old, have a high school diploma or GED and have completed a manicurist program. High school cosmetology programs will help teach you a range of beauty services, including nail care.

Step 2: Gain Experience as a Manicurist

To gain experience, you should perform manicures on friends and family members so you can practice your technical and customer relationship skills. You could also volunteer at a salon so you can observe and learn how manicurists interact with customers.

Step 3: Complete a Nail Technician Program

Once you're ready, you'll find nail technician certificate programs are widely available at community and technical colleges and at beauty schools. These programs teach you the biological structure and composition of nails, skin and nail diseases and sanitation. You'll also learn the proper use and maintenance of emery boards, scissors and other tools, as well as techniques for trimming, filing and polishing nails. You can complete a certificate program in less than a year.

Step 4: Obtain a License

Before you can work as a manicurist, you'll need to pass a licensing exam for manicurists or nail technicians. Your state may use its own exam or the exam administered by the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology ( These exams typically consist of a written test covering nail science and nail care procedures and a practical skills test.

Step 5: Find Employment

You could find work in beauty salons, spas, barbershops, hotels, resorts and department stores. You may also start your own business. As of 2015, 83,840 people were employed as manicurists and pedicurists, according to the BLS. Employment is projected to rise 10% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also noted that growth and demand in personal care services are reasons for the increase.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Manicurists need to interact with clients, be both detail oriented and creative, and complete a certificate program to become qualified to work. If this all interests you but you aren't sure if caring for hands and nails is quite the right career choice, you could consider becoming a hairdresser or skincare specialist. Hairdressers, or barbers, work in a salon and provide a range of hair cutting, styling, and treatment services. Skincare specialists cleanse and beautify clients' faces and bodies to enhance their appearance.

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