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How to Become a Nail Tech in 6 Easy Steps

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Now is the best time to become a successful nail technician. BLS data shows the demand for manicurists and pedicurists is skyrocketing, with a projected growth of 22% from 2021 to 2031. That’s much faster than the average for all occupations. 

Keep reading to learn how to become a nail tech, from educational requirements to costs and experience.

An Overview of a Nail Tech: A Primer

A nail tech, or nail technician, is a trained and licensed professional who provides specialized nail care services to clients, from basics like filing to advanced treatments applying acrylics.

They use their skills and artistry to ensure clients’ nails are healthy, well-groomed, and aesthetically pleasing.

Nail technicians typically work in a nail salon or spa. Other settings that these professionals work in include cruise ships, hotels, and airports.

Some nail technicians offer mobile nail services by traveling to the client’s home, office, or any other convenient location.

Manicurists and pedicurists work with various tools like files, clippers, nail drills, acrylic and gel brushes, cuticle pushers, and buffers.

Here’s an overview of nail technicians’ duties:

  • Applying nail polish
  • Applying or removing acrylic nails
  • Moisturizing clients’ hands and feet
  • Providing light hand and foot massages
  • Applying artificial nails
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Cleaning, trimming, and filing nails
  • Maintaining a clean and hygienic work environment
  • Sterilizing tools and adhering to proper sanitation practices
  • Recommending and promoting nail and skincare products and services

How Much Do Nail Techs Make?

The average annual salary for nail techs in the United States is $31,130. This comes to about $14.97 hourly wage. 

The actual income for a nail technician can vary by state, education, employer, and experience.

Related: How to Become a Stylist

What You’ll Need to Become a Nail Tech [& Associated Costs]

Becoming a nail technician requires training, a creative flair, people skills, and ongoing learning. Below is an overview of what you’ll need to become a successful and licensed nail technician:

  • High school diploma or GED: Most states require individuals to be at least 16 years old and hold a high school diploma to take a nail technician course. Online high school diploma programs typically cost $1,500 to $5,000, while a GED exam costs $20 to $36.
  • Nail technician program: To kickstart a nail technician career in most states, individuals must complete a training program offered by a state-licensed cosmetology or specialized nail technician school. An apprenticeship is also acceptable in some cases. These programs cost between $2,000 to $10,000.
  • License: The nail technician license requirements vary by state. Most states require a high school diploma, completing a cosmetology or nail technician program, and passing a state nail specialist exam. Most states’ initial state exam, application, and licensing fees are between $100 to $200.
  • Practical experience: While nail specialist programs offer practical lessons, individuals must look for opportunities to gain experience and confidence. Gaining experience is often free.
  • Excellent customer service skills: Nail technicians must have good customer service skills to get and retain clients. Comprehensive nail specialist or cosmetology programs include customer service training.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Nail Technician?

Becoming a nail technician costs anywhere from $3,600 to $17,200. The nail technician programs are the most significant expense.

Is It Hard to Become a Nail Tech?

Becoming a nail technician isn’t difficult, especially if you have a natural artistic side and enjoy working with people. It’s generally considered a relatively accessible career path compared to other professions.

Becoming a nail technician requires effort, dedication, and ongoing learning, like any career. It’s achievable with proper training, a passion for nail care, and good people skills.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Nail Tech?

Nail technology programs typically take three to six months. The duration varies by school and state nail specialist licensing requirements.

For instance, New York State requires nail professionals to complete a 250-hour approved course of study, while California requires 400 hours.

You don’t have to stress about meeting the nail tech training hour requirements if you select a reputable and state-approved nail training institution. They tailor their programs to the state’s requirements. 

If you opt for an associate’s degree in cosmetology, it’ll take you one to two years to complete.

How to Become a Nail Tech in 6 Simple Steps

Here’s how to become a nail tech in six easy steps.

Step 1: Get a High School Diploma or GED 

The first requirement to join most cosmetology or beauty school programs is a high school diploma or GED. If you don’t have a high school diploma, you can obtain a GED (General Educational Development) certificate, which is an equivalent credential. 

Obtaining a GED requires passing a series of tests that cover subjects like math, science, social studies, and language arts. You can research the best GED preparation courses and study materials to help prepare for these tests.

Step 2: Find a Reputable Nail Tech School

Research reputable, state-approved cosmetology schools or beauty academies that offer nail technician training programs. Once you find the right program, you can check their requirements and send your application. 

These programs typically provide comprehensive training in nail care, hygiene, safety, product knowledge, customer service, and techniques. They include both theory-based learning and practical training. 

Step 3: Complete the Required Training Hours

Depending on your location, you may need to complete a specific number of training hours as part of your nail technician program.

These hours are designed to provide you with practical experience and proficiency in various nail care services.

Step 3: Get your Nail Technician License

You’ll become eligible for licensure exams after completing the program or required state hours. Besides the training hours requirement, most states need you to be at least 16 or 17 years old to sit for the exam. 

The licensure exams assess your theory (knowledge of the anatomy of the hands and feet, nail technology, care, health & safety) and practical (performing various nail treatments) skills. 

Passing the exam allows you to obtain your nail specialist license and kickstart your career or business.

Step 4: Apply for Jobs to Gain Experience

Start applying for apprenticeships or entry-level nail technician positions once you get your license. You can find these opportunities in hair salons, barbers, spas, beauty parlors, hotels, nail salons, and other settings.

Your first job presents an excellent opportunity to practice skills and gain confidence. You can then look for better-paying job openings and later advance to management positions or open your own business.

Step 5: Keep Learning to Hone your Skills

As a nail technician, staying updated on the latest trends, techniques, and industry practices is crucial. Participate in continuing education courses, workshops, or conferences to enhance your skills and expand your knowledge.

Continuing education classes focus on critical topics like sanitation, health, and advanced nail techniques.

You can keep up with trends on the internet by following relevant sites, YouTube channels, and social media accounts. You’ll stay relevant and attract more repeat clients.

Also, check the requirements for maintaining a current and valid cosmetology license in your state. The license is valid for one or two years in most states.

Step 6: Develop your Customer or Soft Skills

While your hard skills help you safely provide nail care services, soft skills help attract and retain clients. 

Examples of soft skills for nail techs include:

  • Communication: Effective communication with clients to understand their needs.
  • Customer service: Providing excellent service and ensuring client satisfaction.
  • Attention to detail: Paying close attention to small details for precise nail work.
  • Time management: Efficiently managing appointments and completing tasks on schedule.
  • Creativity: Demonstrating artistic skills for nail art and design.
  • Patience and empathy: Dealing with various client preferences and concerns.
  • Adaptability: Adjusting to different client requests and trends in the industry.

Combining hard and soft skills enables nail techs to excel in their careers. 

Reasons to Consider Becoming a Nail Tech

Becoming a nail technician offers several enticing advantages over traditional full-time employment.

Here are some reasons why you should follow this career path:

  • Freedom and Flexibility: As a manicurist or pedicurist, you have various options for your work settings. You can seek part-time or full-time employment, start your own business, or find other creative ways to make money with your skills, like teaching new nail art designs on YouTube. 
  • High Earning Potential: The ability to offer your skills online and in-person allows you to increase your income beyond a fixed salary.
  • Low Start-Up Costs: Once you master your skills, you don’t have to rely on employment if you don’t find suitable openings. You only need a few tools to start a mobile nail technician job. And if you satisfy your clients or exceed their expectations, they’ll come back and even refer you to their circles. You can gradually expand your inventory as your client base grows.
  • Meeting new people and networking: A nail specialist position means you’re always meeting people, and you never know who you might come across.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Qualifications Do You Need to Do Nails?

The qualifications for a professional nail technician include a high school diploma or GED, specific hours in a cosmetology program, and a nail technician license.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Nail Tech in Texas?

To become a nail technician in Texas, you need at least 600 training hours and a high school diploma or GED.

You must also be at least 17 years and pass the exam by the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation – Board of Cosmetology to receive your license.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Nail Tech in Oregon?

To become a nail technician in Oregon, you need at least 241 hours of training.

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Wrapping Up

A nail technician is a good career path for creatives. It allows you flexibility in schedule and income. To ensure you do it professionally and legally, follow the requirements of the state and obtain a license.

What did you think of the article? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to share it with others looking to be future nail technicians.

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