How to Become a Nail Tech
As a nail technician, you can earn an average of about $27,000, but there is room to grow. Skilled nail technicians can earn double the rate.
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2 Years

The Definitive Guide to Becoming Nail Tech

A good nail technician is hard to find!

Beauty standards and trends are steadily rising across the United States. The market for nail technicians is anticipated to rise by at least 13% as soon as 2026. With the influx of demand for beauty services, the need for certified nail technicians is also increasing.

How to become a nail tech depends on several key elements, education, practice, technique. Once those skills are mastered, nail technicians can begin their road to greatness.

What is a Nail Tech?

Nail technicians are first and foremost beauty specialists. A beauty specialist is an umbrella term for someone paid to perform a service that improves or enhances the client's appearance.

Nail technicians are responsible for all nail maintenance on the body. This includes manicures, pedicures, and nail grooming. Nail grooming encompasses all nail services that prevent or alleviate common issues like calluses and cuticles.

How to Become a Nail Tech

Most states allow persons to pursue a nail technician certification by age sixteen. Along with meeting the age requirements, nail technicians must also obtain a high school diploma or a GED.

Next, nail technicians must enter the process of certification and state licensure. Nail technician training programs typically last less than one year and can be completed in as little as three months. An alternative route is an associate’s degree through a cosmetology school or community college.

Each state requires a license to be employed anywhere as a nail technician.

Steps to becoming a nail technician

  1. Be aged 16 or older and possess a high school diploma or GED.
  2. Enter a training program to learn technical skills such as anatomy, nail and skin disorders and issues, safety, and general product and industry knowledge
  3. Get licensed
  1. Complete a training program
  2. Plan for the nail technician or cosmetology state-licensing exam by enrolling in a certificate or degree program

Nail Tech Responsibilities

Once a certification or license is obtained by the state, newly commissioned nail technicians can begin to seek employment. At a nail salon, nail technicians can expect to take part in nail and beauty services offered at the specific establishment.

In addition to technical skills and prior nail knowledge, nail technicians must also have an acute grasp of chemicals, products, skincare, and how each works together. A typical day for a nail technician can include manicures and pedicures, grooming services such as trimming and filing, nail applications, and light foot and hand massages.

Other responsibilities can expand to:

  • Customer service
  • Cleaning, safety, and sanitation
  • Sales
  • and scheduling appointments

Nail services offered can be:

  • Manicures
  • Pedicures
  • Nail art and design
  • Overlays
  • Gel polish with UV light
  • Pink and white

Most nail salons or spas offer more than essential nail services. Other beauty offerings like waxing and massaging are also available and under the realm of the nail technician if they also hold a license in that specialty of cosmetology as well.

Skills of the Nail Tech Trade

A nail technician’s skills are not limited to their expertise in manicures and pedicures. Nail technicians must also hold a myriad of other talents under their belt.

Customer service traits are a must for nail technicians. Nail techs are on the frontline when in terms of face-to-face customer interactions. Solid customer service skills can include:

  • Respecting customers
  • Clear communication
  • Active listening versus passive listening
  • Empathy
  • Positive vibes
  • Patience

Nail technicians should also continually build on their trade. Many nail techs take courses, webinars, and seminars on new nail techniques to stay relevant and offer their clients the best in terms of style and safety. Stay relevant on industry trends and topics.

Nail Tech Salary

On average, a nail technician’s salary can reach approximately $27,000 per year. Depending on the location, nail technicians can make twenty-five and thirty percent over the median wage in some areas. In contrast, regions in highly rural areas like the Midwest or some southern states can make significantly less than the median salary.

Some of the highest-grossing salaries for nail technicians are found in:

  • Provo, Utah
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Portsmouth, New Hampshire
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • and Manchester, New Hampshire

In these high areas, the annual salary can jump from $27,000 to between $39,000 and $45,000.

Nail Tech Career Growth

The opportunity for growth as a nail technician can vary exponentially. Nail technicians can move up to the first or second chair in their salons or spas. There is also potential for entrepreneurship with their own nail salons or spas.

Currently, there are over 125,000 licensed nail technicians working across the country. By 2026, the job market for nail technicians is expected to rise by a minimum of thirteen percent.

As an entry-level nail technician, the nails basics, so to speak, may be your bread and butter. As ability levels grow and new trends emerge, nail technicians’ growth opportunities can expand with just their skill set. Trending nails style include:

  • Acrylic Nails
  • Gel Nails
  • Silk Nails
  • Dip Powder
  • Celebrity Nails

Now, in the age of influencer marketing, nail technicians can take their careers and brands to the next level by building their own unique social media presence. YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram are all great examples of how to optimize your followers and grow your nail business and brand. Nail technicians can elevate to a nail influencer, nail instructor, and finally, a nail salon owner.

Growing a clientele can begin with social media influences. There are various opportunities to find a specific style niche that will help establish your business or interests as a nail technician while catering to particular client base. The most important part of establishing your brand is finding a marketable preference that suits your interests, budget, and sustainable agenda.

Nail Influencer

Nail influencers can gain traction through different social media platforms like any other influencer marketing. Nail content is then crafted and curated to fit the desired social media platform.

YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and even Pinterest are prime for displaying artistic creations. As an influencer designer, you can hone your skills. Take advantage of the creative space to try new nail trends and master them. Don’t just work on the trends; set them. From this, you can shoot your shot into becoming an industry creator.

Social media is the perfect way to be introduced to celebrity clients. What better way to grow your brand than word-of-mouth marketing from someone’s favorite celebrity crush?

Lastly, nail competitions are an excellent way to showcase your talents and designs and measure your skillset with your peers.

Nail Instructor

Elevation to a nail instructor from a nail technician is an honor. Once your skillset is mastered, show your growth and mastery by helping other young dreamers step into the role of nail technician.

Not only is the demand for nail technicians growing as the job market increases, but the job market for the nail instructor is also increasing as well. With all the anticipated new job openings between now and the projected 2026, there have to be well-equipped and well-learned instructors to teach the nail programs.

The median salary for a nail instructor is about $37,000 and can rise to about $47,000, dependent upon location and skills.

Nail Salon Owner

The last step in career development is the nail salon owner. Owning and operating a nail salon is very lucrative. Nail salon owners can earn between $40,000 and $75,000 per year on average.

You can start the process of nail salon ownership by taking courses or diving headfirst. If you plan to build a nail salon, there are some key steps you must follow:

  1. Create a business plan for your nail salon
  2. Become incorporated or form into a legal entity through the state
  3. Register for a federal tax identification number
  4. Open a business bank account
  5. Set up Accounting for your Nail Salon
  6. FIle for the necessary permits and licenses for your nail salon business and the building
  7. Buy insurance for the nail salon
  8. Jump into your marketing
  1. Create or build your nail salon brand
  2. Launch social media for your nail salon
  3. Build a website for your nail salon
  1. Hire skilled nail technicians
  1. Diverse services
  1. Set up a phone or customer service system

Is Becoming a Nail Tech Right For You?

As a job, nail technicians are on the rise. With projected growth between 2026 and some even saying 2030, there is not a better time to invest in yourself and become a nail technician if that is your passion.

Education in technical and practical nail skills is a must. One can train through a series of programs or courses. There are options for cosmetology school as well as a community college. You decide whatever method of education fits best with you. The only requirements are that you be over sixteen years of age and hold a high school diploma or GED.

After training and state licensure and certification, you can begin to seek employment and grow your base as a nail technician. The typical day of a nail tech will include a series of product offerings, nails, and feet on top of cleaning, safety, sanitation, and top-tier customer service.

Customer service is a skill that must be mastered by anyone seeking to be a nail technician. Nail technicians will always face public interactions almost as much as twenty-four hours a day. Because of this, nail technicians must value skills like patience and communication to be and remain desired nail technicians.

As a nail technician, you can earn an average of about $27,000, but there is room to grow. Skilled nail technicians can earn double the rate. And, nail technicians in demand in certain areas profit well over $40,000 per year on average.

Growth opportunities are endless for nail technicians. You can find your niche as a nail technician learning and adapting the latest nail trends. Or, you can branch-off and build your own nail brand through influencer marketing and social media as a nail influencer and industry trendsetter.

Other growth opportunities can extend to teaching professionally as a nail instructor and opening your own salon on the spa as an owner. In these areas, salaries can be expected to rise from $27,000 per year to $37,000 or $47,000 per year as a nail instructor. The average profit of a salon owner is estimated between $40,000 and $75,000 per year.

The how to become a nail tech is simple. The hard part is starting. Begin your journey as a nail technician today!