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Whether you’re new to the workforce, an amateur manicurist, or looking for a change in your professional life, the career of a manicurist/nail technician offers a lot of potential. As independent contractors, manicurists and nail technicians get to set their own hours, allowing for flexibility to fit your life and plenty of work hours. That also means more pay.

But the earning potential of a manicurist isn’t the only up-sell for people interested in diving into this exciting and social career. This profession is also creative, providing you with dozens of new clients every day, each with unique tastes and demands. 

The nail technology industry is booming! For some background information, look no further than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which estimates manicurists’ and pedicurists’ job growth to be 10%, with a stunning 19% increase in employment from 2019-2029, way above national averages.

As the US population skyrockets, the demand for talented nail technicians will only rise, along with median pay (current at $25,770 per year).

What Programs Are Available for Manicurists or Nail Technicians?

Many cosmetology schools also offer nail technician education, either as part of the cosmetology curriculum or as a standalone program. But there are also schools dedicated specifically to the art of working with and maintaining nails. Here are five of the top-rated schools for nail technicians and manicurists across the nation.

  • Artistic Nails and Beauty Academy:
    This is an accelerated program located in two Florida locations, Lakeland, and Tampa. Students can be ready to start their careers as nail techs or manicurists in just nine to 15 weeks. The school offers a year-round schedule and has options for both full- and part-time students.
  • The Elaine Sterling Institute:
    One of the most well-known schools for nail tech and art; the Atlanta, Georgia Elaine Sterling Institute offers an accelerated program for its students. Requiring only 600 hours of classroom and hands-on training, students can complete their programs in six to nine months. At the end of the program, they will be ready to take and pass their state board and licensure programs. The school offers both day and night classes and, although the program is rigorous, students will be ready to enter the field.
  • Milan Institute of Cosmetology:
    With locations in Reno, Nevada; El Paso; and San Antonio, Texas, the Milan Institute of Cosmetology has a well-rounded and respected program for nail technicians. The name recognition might not get your automatically hired, but it will get you in the door for an interview. Launched in 1985, the school has more than 25,000 graduates, and boast instructional methods and techniques that are unlike other nail tech and manicurist programs available.
  • Paul Mitchell Nail Academy:
    Not only can you learn everything you need to become a professional nail technician or manicurist, but you’ll also gain the knowledge and tools needed to start your own nail services business. The Paul Mitchell Nail Academy has 100 locations around the United States and the schools only employ instructors at the top of the nail technician field. The school graduates over 10,000 students a year. At the end of the program, you will be prepared to sit for the nail tech exam.
  • The Ogle School of Hair, Skin and Nails:
    Established in the 1970s, the Ogle Nail Tech Program is part of their cosmetology program. The nail tech program can be completed in one year and requires 1,500 hours of in class and hands on training. The program prepares students to take the licensure exam, enabling those who pass to start their careers a nail technicians. The school has several locations in Texas.

What Will You Learn in a Nail Technician Program?

A nail technician program trains students in all aspect of nail care, maintenance, and art techniques. When students take their state boards, there will be a written exam as well as a practicum exam. Students will need to demonstrate that they understand and possess the skills and knowledge to work as a nail technician, so most nail technician programs focus on those areas by offering both classroom and hands-on training.

Some of the courses a student in a nail tech program might take include:

  • Professional Image and Hygiene
  • Professional Ethics
  • Bacteriology
  • Sanitation
  • Sanitizing Methods and Procedures
  • Nail Shapes, Structures and Growth
  • Bones, Muscles and Nerves
  • Skin Histology and Functions
  • Tech Supplies and Equipment
  • Sculpturing
  • Nail Wraps and Repairs
  • Artificial Nail Application
  • Nail Maintenance

Programs might also include a business element for those who are considering working for themselves.

Classes in this area could include:

  • Nail Tech Business Skills
  • Daily Salon Operations
  • Shop Management and Ownership

Skills Needed

Manicurists and nail technicians are a special breed. Generally speaking, they’re blessed with a set of techniques, both soft and hard skills, and a drive to please their customers. Here are a few skills that will resonate with good manicurists and nail techs.

  • Organization:
    Behind the scenes in many nail salons and spas, many moving parts are going on simultaneously. Nail technicians must be good at juggling multiple tasks such as being presentable and kind to customers, taking orders on the fly, and completing extensive nail applications.
  • Communication Skills:
    Many nail techs take double duty as the welcoming first face customers meet when they enter your establishment, as well as the meticulous aesthetic crafter of beautiful nail design. You want to have a firm, businesslike voice, an open ear for customer requests, and the ability to ask questions.
  • Creativity:
    There are few professions out there that allow for greater creative freedom than those exercised by nail technicians. Think: every new face who enters your door is a brand-new chance to show your best acrylic nail services or watercolor designs. The potential to redefine your personal style grows day by day.
  • Attention to Detail:
    A dedicated manicurist needs to develop a keen sense of patience and meticulous regard for detail. A rushed effort will reflect on personal reputation, so the stakes are high to deliver consistently high-quality designs, polishes, and skincare.

Financing and Scholarships

Nail tech programs are offered at both technical schools and as standalone specialty schools. Depending on the school, federal financial aid may or may not be offered. If the school holds an accreditation that the US Department of Education recognizes, then the school can offer federal aid to its students through FAFSA. This aid could include Pell Grants or federally backed student loans. For schools that do not offer federal aid options, private loans can often be obtained to pay for the programs. School generally has a list of potential lenders students can choose from.

Scholarships for nail technicians are often lumped in with tech school scholarship programs that offer cosmetology. Those interested in seeking a scholarship opportunity should contact the schools they are interested in to see what scholarships or grants are available.

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Choosing a Nail Technician or Manicurist Program

Online vs. On-Campus

The classroom portion of a nail technician program may be able to be completed online, and some schools do offer these options. However, most nail technician programs are on-campus programs because of the technical hand-on training that has to take place for a nail tech to successfully complete their training. Most students choose online programs because they need the flexibility to study at non-traditional times because of work and personal obligations. If this is the case, students might want to consider a program that offers part-time classes or classes at night. Students should check with their available programs in their area and see what options are available.

Job Placement Assistance

Once a student is close to completing their nail tech programs, most schools offer job placement assistance for their students. This is an important step because finding a job as a nail tech can be tricky depending on the geographic locations. For some students if they complete an internship, the place where they interned could hire them. For other students, the school often has a listing of business that hire nail technicians they can tap to help their students find suitable employment. When choosing a school, inquire about their job placement assistance programs.


How long does it take to complete a nail technician program?

The amount of time it takes to complete a nail technician program can vary greatly. Some programs require a few weeks, while others can take a year or more. Of the most reputable programs, the shortest program requires 300 hours and three months, and the longest programs require 1,500 hours and can take over a year to complete.

How much does a nail technician program cost?

The cost of a nail technician program depends on the program’s length, its location, and other factors. A student should choose schools with programs that interest them and inquire of the cost from that school. Some programs cost the same as a community college education, while others can be more on the private college price range.

Is there specific accreditation for manicurist or nail technician programs?

Most nail technician programs are accredited through the same organizations that offer accreditation to cosmetology schools. One of the biggest accreditation organizations is the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS). The NACCAS is recognized by the US Department of Education, so schools that have this accreditation can offer financial aid to their students, as well as ensuring their students are attending an accredited program in the event that this is a requirement for employment.

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