How to Become a Nail Technician

If you’re considering becoming a nail technician then you are well on your way to having one of the most creative jobs out there. Each day you will get to work with your clients to create fun and unique nail designs in addition to a few other regular tasks. You’ll help your clients express their personal style, increase self-confidence, and feel awesome about their appearance. If you work well with your clients they will return time and time again establishing a positive customer base for your work.

Nail Technician Schools Near You!

Nail Technician Schools

Who wouldn’t want to become a nail technician? You get to be creative and innovative while allowing your customers to express themselves. Some may want more traditional styles while others may want to try something fun and unique for a special vacation or event. No matter what your customers want you will constantly get to be designing and creating new and fun ways for your clients to show off their personal style. As you’ve begun looking into becoming a nail technician you’ve probably come up with a few questions. These are some of the main factors when consider this profession.

What exactly does a nail technician do?

In most cases a nail technician will do exactly what you think they do. A nail technician, often also referred to as a manicurist, will be hands on with clients to trim and polish their nails, repair broken areas, and apply extensions if desired by the customer. In addition to these expected tasks you would also examine and assess your customer’s skin, help them care for their cuticles, and shape the nails. If you’re skilled enough you may even find yourself capable of creating unique designs and pictures on the nail. One of the great benefits of becoming a nail technician is that it is ever changing. As your customers nails grow or they want a new style, they will return and you’ll get to create something completely new.

How do I become a nail technician?

Like most professions you will first need to hold a high school diploma or a completed GED to be able to continue through the rest of the program to attain your nail technician’s license. Once you have your diploma you will be able to enroll in a nail technician or manicurist program. Upon completion of the program you will be able to take the licensing exam. You will learn everything you need to know for the exam in your course work so passing shouldn’t be a problem. However, you will want to make sure that you are prepared because the test usually comes with a fee so passing the very first time will save you money and time.

There are very short three month courses that you can take in nail technology but you might want to consider an associate’s degree in cosmetology instead. The degree can take up to two years to complete but will leave you more rounded and versatile and will a broader set of skills. Businesses you may wish to work for will look more favorably on the cosmetologist’s degree vs. the short nail technology course.

Depending on where you live you should be able to find the courses you need through a community college, various vocational schools, or even private schools that have a focus on beauty and cosmetology. While attending the schools you will learn a broad variety of skills that are not limited to but should include, manicuring, pedicuring, artificial nail application, hand and foot anatomy, nail treatments, and skin disorders. The school will also teach you the importance of safety and sanitation so that you and your customers remain healthy. You should also be taught about the basic nail products you will use on a daily basis.

As was mentioned briefly before, you will want to make sure that you select a program that will prepare you for the state license exam as you will need to pass this to be able to practice. To be eligible for the exam you will have to have completed an approved training program and then simply pass the test. You can expect the exam to test your general knowledge of the profession but it shouldn’t be anything you have no already learned. The requirements can vary by state so make sure you do a little bit of research before selecting a program.

How much and what type of schooling is required?

Part of becoming a nail technician requires learning the ins and outs of the trade. You will need to attain a license before you can become a legally practicing nail technician. At the school you will learn how to manicure and polish along with an abundance of other useful techniques and tips. After your schooling you will need to pass a written and practical exam in order to receive your license.

How do I choose a Nail Tech school or college?

The most common places to look for a school is through an actual beauty school where they will over technical porgrams in your field or your local community college if you would prefer to look into a cosmetology degree. Some community colleges will have more specialized courses but in general you would be working towards a cosmetology degree at a college.

When you start looking into schools and their particular programs there are a few factors you will want to take into consideration before making a final decision:

  • The schools accreditation – You will want to attend a school that has a positive reputation in your area. You can often find out this information by speaking with others that have attended the school or by speaking with businesses you may be interested in working at once you have your license. It may sound unusual but you can ask them which schools they usually hire from and then you’ll be able to pinpoint your schooling to a more particular target and know that your license will be seen positively. Accreditation becomes important because you need to attend a school that has regional and state approval. What this means is that the curriculum fits what is expected for where you live and that when you have your license you will be able to use it without issue.
  • What are the school’s career interests – You’ll want to attend a school that seems to have a vested interest in the license you will be pursuing. If it seems like a second-thought program that has just been thrown in the mix then you’ll want to look elsewhere.
  • What type of facilities does the school have – Even if you are only just becoming interested you should be able to visit schools and see what types of facilities they have available. In many cases you can even sit in on a class to see how the instructors work and decide if their style is right for you.

What will a license or certificate in nail technology get me?

Besides granting you the ability to work as a nail technician you will leave with a much broader understanding of the profession and a highly improved skill level. You will becomes trained in the necessary processes of application, maintenance, and design of nail. Additionally you will also learn how to give a proper manicure and pedicure. While at the school you will have the joy of working in the classroom as well as in many laboratory and hands-on situations. The main courses you can expect to have include:

  • The techniques necessary for manicure and pedicures
  • How to apply acrylics and gels
  • Nail painting
  • Important and careful cuticle care
  • Necessary sanitation and hygiene

What if I would prefer to pursue an associate’s degree in cosmetology?

Pursuing a cosmetologist degree instead of a nail technician license can open a lot of additional doors. Through the cosmetology program you will learn a much broader range of skills which will allow you to work in various outlets you wouldn’t otherwise. In general you can consider salons, management positions, or places that are more performance based and where your particular skill and expertise will make a big difference. You can also work in arenas that are really fun and exciting such as film and theater. With the cosmetology degree you can expect to learn about:

  • Hair color, cutting, and styling
  • Makeup analysis and application
  • Skin care and types
  • Manicures and pedicures

Could I complete training online if I wanted to?

Considering the type of training that is require to become a nail technician you can pretty much mark off online training. It will be necessary for you to meet within an actual classroom in a professional environment to train. While it may not be impossible to find programs that will let you enroll online you might want to reconsider the option. You might be able to pass and receive a license but you will be much less prepared to work with actual customers and will have missed out on large portions of hands on training. Additionally, the programs that will allow you to enroll online will probably not be the most favored when it comes to employers even if it is the most convenient option for your schedule.

You might be able to find a school that will allow you to transfer some credits though. If you’ve already completed some schooling online or elsewhere it would be worth your while to find out if those credits are transferable. Alternatively, your school may offer some of the courses online but not all. Courses that do not need hands on work could be acceptable for online school. Courses such as anatomy and business. To complete these you would only need a high speed internet connection and you could be on your way.

How much can I expect nail technician school to cost?

Depending on the school you choose and the type of schooling, license vs. associate’s degree, the prices will vary. Other variables will include the specific curriculum, the number of hours of instruction required by the state you live in, the location of the school (such as larger cities), the facilities available, and the equipment that will either be included with or have to be bought for the course.

The location can make a big difference when it comes to larger cities as the business space is much more expensive. To house a school in one of these locations means the school is spending more money and will kick it back to the students hoping to recoup some of what they are spending. This probably won’t be astronomically higher than small cities but you will notice a difference. However, if money is a big issue it might be helpful to look at options in nearby smaller towns if that is feasible. If they are close enough the money spent on commuting might still be much less than what you would spend on a closer school.

You will also need to consider whether you are looking into a full cosmetology program or a more specific nail technician program. Whichever you choose they should be fairly affordable but the cosmetology program will cost more as you will receive broader training and can do more with the certification once you are finished.

When you speak with the schools about their admission prices you will want to make sure you inquire about what is included. Some schools will supply everything you need while others will expect you to purchase them yourself. This means that while one school may initially sound more expensive, if it includes everything, you could end up saving money over the school that wants you to buy all of your own supplies.

Do I have to be certified?

If you are working within the United States it is absolutely necessary that you obtain at least a license if not an associate’s degree. There is no way around it. If you practice without the license then you are working as a nail technician illegally. However, you should look forward to working towards your license as it will teach you the necessary skills you need to pursue your passion. Try not to think of it as something you have to do but instead as something that will help further your skill set and therefore your career.

Where would I be able to work?

The great news is that nail technicians are hired by nearly all beauty businesses. You can expect to be able to find work at nail salons, beauty salons, spas, and even some resorts that have on-site services for their guests. If you’re particularly ambitious you could also consider opening your own business or can rent out space in someone else’s salon. You would essentially be self-employed and would just be paying rent for the space you work in. This would allow you to work full time or part time as you see fit and you can easily work your schedule around your client’s needs.

Additional good news is that the business is continuously growing. There is an expected growth increase of 16% between 2012 and 2022. This is a fairly good outlook and should help you to find employment in a wide variety of setting depending on what you’re looking for.

How important is building a client base?

While you could probably get by OK without building a client base it is in your best interest to do everything you can to retain clients. Not only will happy customers continue to return but they will also refer their friends. Think of it this way. The more people you have returning the more money you’ll make. Plus, there’s something to be said for getting to know your clients. Spending time with them will not just be work but you’ll also build a friendship so getting to see some of your favorites will be a fun bonus. Additionally, once you have a fairly sturdy base you could potentially move away from where you work and start your own salon. In most cases your returning customers will follow you to your new place of business so you’ll already have customers from the get go. This can be invaluable as most businesses fail because they cannot get enough customers to come in.

Is it possible to advance as a nail technician?

Truthfully your best opportunity for advancement is to study more than nail technology. The more you study the more versatile you become and the more valuable to a business. While a broad study may be helpful it is not the only way to advance. When you begin working you will most likely start at an entry level. As you continue to work and gain important real life experience you can move up through the company and can eventually become management if that interests you. You can also consider becoming a teacher where you would teach others the skills necessary to be a nail technician.

What are the prospects for nail technicians?

A nail technician just starting out can expect to make around $22,000 a year. The best news is that the industry is growing in leaps and bounds. By 2018 the profession is expected to grow by 20%. This is great news for those just starting in the industry as it is an indicator that you should have no trouble finding work once you receive your license. In fact, you could very well have an abundance of options to pick and choose from. This also means that you could choose between working full time or part-time depending on what you’re looking for. Although, even if you work full time it will probably always be necessary to alter your schedule to suit your clients some unless you work in a salon where you have regular operating hours. If you rent a space you will probably have to adapt.

How do I know if becoming a nail tech is right for me?

In most cases you will be the only one that can decide for sure if becoming a nail technician is the right choice for you but there are a couple of indicators that may help you choose. Consider the environment you will be working in. Do you think you would enjoy working in a nail shop, spa, or salon? These can be fairly laid back environments but you will be working with the public all day long. Do you enjoy providing customer service and conversing with a wide variety of people? The main factor is if you enjoy working with nails. Some people are adverse to others hands and feet and if you are not comfortable handling these parts of other peoples bodies then this probably isn’t the right career choice for you.

Is it possible to continue my education later?

It is always possible to continue to learn. You can always begin as a nail technician and over time you can continue more courses and add to your set of skills. In some states you will actually be required to take at least a few education courses per year but they will give you a list that you can select from so that you can choose an option that interests you. This is considered continued education and you will be able to take it at your own convenience throughout the year.


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