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Nail Technician: Job Duties, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Explore the career requirements for nail technicians. Get the facts about training requirements, salary, job outlook and licensure to determine if this is the right career for you.

What is a Nail Technician?

Nail technicians perform manicures, pedicures and other beauty procedures to clients' fingernails and toenails. These processes involve removing polish, cleaning, trimming, filing and buffing nails. They may also work to reduce calluses and massage and moisturize hands and feet. In addition to these services, technicians also discuss the various nail treatments with clients and recommend nail and skin care products. A summary of general career information is listed in the table below.

Training Required High school diploma; state-approved cosmetology or nail technician program
Key Skills Creativity, customer service, hand-eye coordination, physical dexterity
Licensure Required; requirements vary by state
Job Growth (2018-2028) 10%*
Median Salary (2018) $24,330*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Duties of a Nail Technician?

Nail technicians, also referred to as manicurists and pedicurists, work exclusively on their client's nails. Your duties generally include cleaning, polishing, cutting and shaping the nails. Other tasks include giving customers nail extensions and special footbaths with salts. Self-employment is common for personal appearance workers, and you may need to perform managerial duties, such as ordering inventory, hiring new workers and keeping business records. Additionally, many nail technicians have the flexibility to work part time or flexible hours.

What Is My Occupational Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of manicurists and pedicurists was expected to grow 10% between 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). This growth is faster than the average for all occupations, and can be attributed to an increasing number of full-service day spas and nail salons. Openings should be readily available for those interested in beauty salons, spas and medical offices. However, positions at higher paying salons are often difficult to obtain and are highly competitive. The middle 50% of manicurists and pedicurists earned between $21,940 and $28,260 in May 2018, according to the BLS.

What Education Do I Need?

Nail technicians are required to possess a high school diploma or GED in some states. Formal education greatly increases a candidate's chances for employment, and you may prefer a program that is accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts & Sciences (www.naccas.org). These programs may take up to nine months, but typically take less time to complete and often combine training in becoming a nail technician with training as an esthetician or makeup application. Many state-licensed barber or cosmetology schools offer programs that award associate degrees to graduates. In addition to completion of an accredited program, you may need to take licensing examinations in most states to practice as a nail technician.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some careers related to nail technicians include barbers, hairdressers, cosmetologists and skincare specialist. These careers focus on providing services that enhance a persons' appearance and promotes healthy skin, hair and nails. Barbers, hairdressers and cosmetologists typically specialize in hair and scalp styling and treatment. Skincare specialists inspect clients' skin, make treatment suggestions and, if agreed upon, apply those treatments.