How To Become a Nail Tech (With Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

May 27, 2021

Nail art is increasingly popular among people of all age groups. Salons, beauty parlors, spas and other business settings contract the services of nail technicians to meet the demand for nail art services. If you want to become a nail technician, you'll need special training and a license. In this article, we define what a nail tech is, what their responsibilities are and how to become a nail technician.

What is a nail tech?

A nail technician is a trained professional who provides clients with specialized services that involve pedicures, manicures and other nail treatments. They work in a variety of places which can include barbershops, salons, spas and nail studios.

What does a nail tech do?

Nail technicians groom and decorate fingernails and toenails. They also complete consultations with their clients to assess their skin and nail health before offering their services. The main responsibilities of a nail tech are:

  • Performing pedicures and manicures

  • Offering hand and foot massages

  • Ensuring all the nail equipment is sanitized before every use

  • Applying artificial nails

  • Maintaining a clean work environment

  • Promoting nail and skincare products

  • Scheduling appointments.

How to become a nail tech

Becoming a nail technician requires extensive education and training. Here are the basic steps to becoming a nail technician:

1. Graduate from high school

A high school diploma or GED is necessary to gain entry into cosmetology programs and qualify for licensure. Pre-preparation for cosmetology programs isn't necessary, but it's never a bad idea to place extra focus on coursework involving biology and anatomy, art, or business.

Some technical or vocational high schools offer cosmetology programs that allow aspiring nail technicians to start their training before high school graduation. These programs may even qualify you to take your state's licensing exams without attending a cosmetology program.

Related: 9 Jobs for High School Graduates

2. Complete a cosmetology course

After graduation, apply for a place on a cosmetology course. These programs offer practical and academic training that will teach you the foundations of nail art, nail care, customer service and hygiene. Course lengths vary depending on state licensing requirements, but you can expect a program to last anywhere between four and eight months, and occasionally longer. Some of the topics the course may cover include:

  • Anatomy: Here students learn the anatomy of the nail (nail plates, nail beds, cuticles, etc.) and hands.

  • Chemistry: A knowledge of basic chemistry and chemical safety is required in order to provide the most up-to-date nail treatments for your clients.

  • Hygiene: Students gain the skills needed to maintain high standards of hygiene in the salon. Good hygiene is necessary to prevent the spread of fungi, bacteria and parasites.

  • Artificial nails: Students learn how to safely apply artificial nails without causing any nail damage.

  • Customer relations: Students learn how to engage with their clients properly to ensure they offer a quality customer experience.

Related: 34 Online Training Programs To Advance Your Career

3. Obtain your license

When you complete your program, you are eligible to take your exams to get licensure. The age requirement is at least 16 years old, but some states may require you to be older. This isn't the only example of how licensure varies by state: for example, in Florida, nail technicians need to have 240 clock hours, while in Kentucky, required clock hours are 600. It's important to take the National Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology's (NIC) exam. The exam includes written sections and a practical exam.

The written section tests your knowledge of nail care, nail technology, and health and safety. The practical exam requires you to demonstrate your expertise in performing a manicure and other nail treatments. It's crucial to pass the exam to become a licensed nail technician.

Read more: How To Get Your Business License

4. Perform continuing education activities

You must always maintain a current, valid cosmetology license. Requirements for how often licenses need to be renewed vary by state; your license may need to be renewed as frequently as every one or two years. Continuing education credits may be required to maintain your license and keep your skills up-to-date. These classes can cover topics such as sanitation, health or advanced nail techniques. Be sure to check the requirements of your state licensing board to ensure that your license doesn't lapse.

5. Develop your skills

Being a successful nail technician isn't entirely about technical know-how. There are a variety of soft skills necessary to be a great nail tech. To really excel in your career, you should be:

  • A good communicator: A good nail tech communicates clearly with their clients and understands their clients' goals and requests. Having an open and communicative personality can also enhance the atmosphere at your salon, making clients feel comfortable and at home in your business.

  • Creative: Successful technicians know how to use specific colors and textures to create beautiful designs for their clients. It's important to learn to experiment with particular colors to deliver the best services to your clients.

  • Observant: It's important for nail technicians to pay attention to every detail of performing manicures and pedicures because a slight mishap can harm the client. Providing nail treatment services requires patience and focus.

  • Organized: You should be able to keep track of appointments, requests, payments and other administrative tasks throughout the day. A good nail tech creates an organized workflow and learns to balance tasks in order to maximize efficiency and make sure their business runs smoothly.

  • Adept at customer service: You want to create a warm, welcoming environment for your clients, putting them at ease and treating them with respect. Always take your clients' concerns seriously and make sure you've done everything possible to provide them with a positive experience so that every visitor becomes a long-term client.

  • A quick learner: The beauty industry undergoes frequent changes because new design trends come out every season. It's important for nail technicians to always learn and invest time into improving their skills.

  • Flexible: It's common for salons to be open during the holidays, on weekends and in the evening. Clients may require your services during these times, so it's important for you to have a flexible work schedule.

Read more: How To Develop Your Skill Set To Advance Your Career

6. Gain experience

After obtaining your license, you'll be ready to apply for your first job as a nail technician. Spas, beauty parlors, nail salons, hotels and other businesses often have openings for entry-level technicians, and your first job will give you an opportunity to put your skills into practice and gain confidence as a nail tech. Over time, there may be opportunities where you can advance to management positions. And of course, you can also work toward opening your own salon.

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