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Nail Technician Degree Overview
Individuals interested in a career as a nail technician must first obtain the skills and education necessary to perform one's duties through an accredited nail technician program. Such programs are typically offered through community colleges, career colleges and schools, or specialty schools for cosmetology. Nail technician programs will vary in length, but most will take less than a year to complete and result in a certificate or diploma demonstrating one's competency.
Students enrolled in a nail technician program will learn to shape and manicure nails, attend to blotchy or dry skin, maintain equipment and how to sterilize it, and provide other treatments. Programs will have student practice on one another or through a salon, some schools may provide internship opportunities, while others will have a location on campus. This practical experience is beneficial and may be used to assist in finding work after graduation. In addition, students will learn about business operation and customer service in order to establish and maintain a business.
How Do You Become a Nail Technician?
To begin work as a nail tech, you will need to complete all necessary training at a state-approved cosmetology/nail school and understand licensure requirements for your state of residence (age, experience, academic, background checks, and examinations).
Accredited nail technician schools and cosmetology programs offering training programs will cover varying degrees of nail health, safety, salon management, hygiene, advanced nail techniques, and applicable laws & regulations governing nail technicians in your state. You will need between 200-800 hours of training to sit for a state licensing exam in your state with the national average of 387 hours of training for nail techs. Nail technician programs offered by accredited schools can last from 3-18 months depending on the number of classes taken at a given time and curricular design of the program. Upon completion of the college training program, a state examination is required.
Individuals who have graduated a nail technician program must first seek licensure by their state prior to being able to work as a technician. Licensure requirements will vary by state, but often have a minimum age limit and an exam. Some state may require a certain amount of supervised hours as well. Many states will require regular renewal of a license, either through reexamination, an annual fee, continuing education courses or some combination of the three.
Once licensed, an individual will most likely pursue work at an existing salon or spa, developing a client base and broadening his or her skills. Nail technicians typically work 40 hours a week, though the many will work evening hours which tend to be the busiest for this type of work. Individuals will shape nails, paint them, attend to cuticle, work on splotchy skin, provide, and educate clients to proper nail and skin care. Individuals may pursue entrepreneurial opportunities, particularly those who have a large client base or have years of experience in the field.
What Classes Will I Take as a Nail Technician?
Accredited colleges that offer training and certification programs generally blend hands-on learning with traditional academic courses. Fusing academic with pragmatic learning provides a link between theory and practice to help students bring concepts to life. Hands-on learning helps to build muscle memory, prepare students for real-world nail technician work in the field, and endow students with the knowledge to successfully tackle the state licensing examination. A sampling of classes you may see in a nail technician course may include:
- Nail Care History and Nail Products
- Manicure, Gel Manicures
- Sculptured Nails, Nail Art, Nail Care
- Salon Ecology
- Sanitation & Bacteriology
- Personal Hygiene
- Public Health
- Safety, Sterilization & Sanitation
- Nail Care Tools
- Fabric & Sculpting Procedures
- Massage Techniques: Arms, Hands, and Feet
Online Nail Technician Schools
The fastest growing segment within higher education degrees and certificate programs is online learning or distance learning. The quality and convenience have caught up with the digital delivery of college degree programs and growth for online learning is expected to steadily increase for the foreseeable future. With online college programs, students have the autonomy, freedom, and independence often not found in traditional college courses. The two primary learning modalities with online college programs is asynchronous learning and synchronous learning. Asynchronous learning takes place at differing times while following the same class syllabus with identical learning objectives thus allowing students to log-on and pace learning on their own schedule. On the other hand, synchronous learning is when all students are required to be online at the same time and perform group learning activities simultaneously.
For working professionals or those with hectic family schedules, online nail tech learning opportunities may be worth researching. Make sure to fully understand your state’s licensing requirements prior to enrolling in any nail technician program. From internships to training requirements, each state will prescribe a set of specific items necessary for any student to accomplish prior to applying for licensure.
Questions to Ask Nail Tech Schools
After reading our College Admissions Guide and compiling your priority list, you will need to begin you research of colleges that are the best to help you meet your personal and professional objectives. A sampling of questions to have in your quiver include the following items:
- School accreditation and awards
- Tuition and Financial Aid
- School tours available
- Online learning options
- Class schedule options: day, evening, weekend
- Course duration
- Academic course list for nail tech, cosmetology, makeup, estheticians, barber, electrolysis, facial treatments, etc.
- Course curriculum
- Student to teacher ratio
- Graduation rate
- Student services available
- Internship requirements
- Life credits or work credits
Job Opportunities and Career Outlook for Nail Techs
Job growth is expected to increase by 13% or twice the national average over the next decade due to an increased interest in maintaining healthy and youthful appearances, including skin and nails. This equates to an additional 20,600 jobs created for nail technicians during this reporting period. The national average salary for a nail technician is approximately $22,150 year, but may increase based on experience, skill, demand and ownership.
Top Job Responsibilities of a Nail Technician
A nail technician, pedicurist, or manicurist is a professional emphasizing the grooming, beautification, and styling of fingernails and toenails. This may include nail design, maintenance, cleaning, polishing, trimming, massaging, moisturizing, and overall nail wellness. In a recent survey of Nail Technicians administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, professionals shed light on common job responsibilities of the trade. The most commonly cited job duties of a nail technician include the following:
- Be detail-oriented and knowledgeable in nail care
- Treat nails by shaping, decorating, or augmenting
- Schedule appointments
- Maintain client information or service records
- Clean & sanitize tools and work environment
- Apply undercoat followed by a clear coat or colored polish onto nails with brush or tools
- Maintain supply inventories & records of client services
- Properly shape nails using files, scissors, and emery boards
- Prepare and maintain nail cuticles
States with the Highest Number of Nail Technicians
- California 20,590
- New York 14,080
- New Jersey 7,570
- Massachusetts 4,890
- Pennsylvania 4,800
Top Paying Cities for Nail Technicians
- Springfield, IL $46,850
- Naples, FL $46,070
- Boulder, CO $44,500
- Daytona Beach, FL $37,210
- Orlando, FL $36,330
Individuals interested in becoming a nail technician may also be interested in cosmetology, esthetics or hair styling. More information outside academia can be found by visiting the AIA, NSHA, and the ANP to discover member benefits and resources for chapters near you.