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What Does a Nail Technician Do?

A nail technician has some of the skills of a manicurist, pedicurist, and/or cosmetologist. The nail technician focuses on fingernails and toenails, giving clients manicures and pedicures. All beauty workers, including nail technicians, also perform business record-keeping and are responsible for cleaning and sanitizing their tools and work area.

Job Description

Nail technicians work with both fingernails and toenails on a cosmetic basis. While some technicians identify as exclusively manicurists or pedicurists, nail techs feel comfortable working with both hands and feet. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), about 110,170 individuals were working as manicurists and pedicurists in 2018. Self-employed techs may have their own salons or work from home.

Important Facts on Manicurists and Pedicurists

Median Salary (2018) $24,330 (for all Manicurists and Pedicurists)
Required Education State-approved cosmetology or nail technician program, followed by licensure
Similar Occupations Barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists; skincare specialists
Key Skills Business and customer service skills, creativity and dexterity

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Duties and Responsibilities

Daily tasks undertaken by nail technicians include the preparation for, the completion of, and the clean-up of nail services. Most manicurists are trained in the application, maintenance, and removal of acrylic nails. Nail techs are responsible for the sterilization of their tools before each new client. Many manicurists and pedicurists are able to provide some type of light hand and/or foot massage.

Training and Licensing

In order to become a nail technician, one must complete a nail technician or cosmetology program approved by their state of residence. All states, with the exception of Connecticut, additionally require the passage of a licensing exam in order to work as a nail tech. Individuals interested in state licensing exams may refer to the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC) as a resource for the exams required by each state, as well as practice questions in order to prepare.

Employment Outlook and Work Environment

According to the BLS, the projected job growth for manicurists and pedicurists was 13% from 2016-2026. Nail technicians often find themselves working in environments that involve sitting, such as full-service salons and boutique salons, spas, department stores or at the homes of their clients.