How to Become a Nail Technician?

Nail Technology is an incredibly lucrative career, combining creativity with marketability, to create a profession that will always be in high demand.

Have you ever wanted to try it? A life devoted to the decoration and beautification of nails?

Firstly, I admire your taste. Any career in the beauty industry is made for people with high creativity and dedication to artistry.

But, more importantly, let’s have a look at how you can find your way into the industry. Traditionally, the beauty industry was funnelled through one-track schooling, which may not be the best option for every student. But these days we have a strong, vibrant beauty culture, and students are choosing to study in many different ways.

Not only that, but the beauty industry is varied in aesthetic and business opportunities. Your specific taste and style will likely become your biggest strength in marketing your business to potential clients. Don’t be afraid to embrace it!

What Exactly Does a Nail technician do?

We all know the basics of Nail Technology. It is the beautification of finger and toe nails, via the application of extensions, polish, and nail art.

But there is a lot more work involved in the practice of Nail Technology. First and foremost,  exemplary hygiene is of the highest importance as a Nail Technician, or in any beauty service. Good hygiene will take up a large portion of your everyday work, since it is imperative to delivering beautiful nail work without putting the client at risk.

While Nail Technicians can specialise in their favourite applications, there are some general practices that every technician will employ at some point in their career. These include: The Acrylic Nail System, Nail Polish, Gel Extensions, Manicures & Pedicures, and Nail Shaping. Along with Hygienic practices, these form the foundation of work completed by Nail Techs. For an explanation on these services, see Appendix 1 at the bottom of the page.

As well as delivering high quality nail services, Nail Technicians are also customer service reps. They liaise with clients and ensure each customer feels that they have been treated with kindness and respect. Customer service skills are imperative to any Nail Technician. As anyone who has worked in customer service knows, this is often an exercise in patience and diplomacy.

What Does a Nail Technician Earn?

In Australia, the average income of a Nail Technician is est. $55,000. This is roughly the same in the US (taking variance in $ value into account), at $24,330.

This is a median range of income, and isn’t the most accurate depiction of your potential wage. Depending on location, experience, salon or spa income, and longevity, your income could greatly exceed the median range.

Additionally, this doesn’t take into consideration the income opportunities in self employment. Should you decide to open your own business, or run a home salon, you would be in control of prices and income offered to you and your staff. And a nail salon that provides good, comfortable services, is bound for success.

Where Can I Work as a Nail Technician?

There are so many places you could work! The beauty industry is far reaching, and prominent in almost every culture and country on earth. So, you can pretty much find a nail technician working anywhere. Let’s go through some of the typical (and not so typical) places you could practice Nail Technology.

1: Nail Salon:

We begin with the obvious. A Nail Salon can be found in pretty much every shopping centre around the globe. It is a beauty salon that focuses specifically on delivering nail services. These are often incredibly busy, which bodes well for any aspiring Nail Technicians.

2: Beauty Salon:

Beauty Salons often provide nail services alongside other treatments. These include Facial & Body Treatments, Massage Therapy, Waxing Hair Removal, and Brow and Lash Treatments. It should be noted that generalised beauty salons may require Nail Technicians to be trained in other areas of beauty therapy in order to work. If you are interested in learning how to become a Beautician, check out our article How to Become A Beautician From Home.

3: Spa:

A spa is similar to a beauty salon, except it focuses heavily on relaxation services and offers spa-specific treatments like thermal baths. Again, spas may require their employees to be able to offer other treatments as well as Nail Technology.

4: Resort:

Resorts are a wonderful place to get your nails done! It’s a luxurious thing, to have your nails looking beautiful and remain that way all-holiday-long. Resorts are a hotspot for Nail Technicians who want to work in beautiful holiday destinations.

5: Cruise Ships:

Cruise Ships are essentially resorts on water. These days they are so large that they offer everything that we do on land – including Nail Services!

What Qualifications Will I Need?

In Australia and New Zealand, the beauty industry has been deregulated, meaning you only need skills and some education, whatever form that takes. Certain Nail Salons may prefer specific qualifications, however it is not necessary to seek those out to practice Nail Technology professionally.

However, this is specific to Australia and New Zealand. In the US, you will require a state license to practice.

In the UK, a license is not required, however it is desirable to have some certification.

It is recommended to check your country’s licensing and education requirements before applying to study Nail Technology. It may impact the institution you choose to study with. Additionally, licensing requirements could present an unexpected extra cost, so we would suggest you look into any additional expenses before beginning your tuition.

How Can I Become a Nail Technician?

This is the question! There are many pathways to nail technology. These all have different pros & cons, and the route you take will depend on your learning capabilities, time commitments, and finance. To help with your research, we have compiled a list of pathways into Nail Technology.

1: Beauty School:

The classic. Beauty School is a wonderful resource for anyone hoping to branch into the beauty industry. However, Beauty School courses usually encompass a wide range of subjects suitable for Beauty Therapists, cosmetologists, estheticians, and beauticians. Nail Technology is incorporated in these subjects, however, if you want to focus only on nails, it may not be the best option for your education.

Beauty School is also one of the most expensive routes. However, it does provide accreditation for those who need it.

2: Nail Technology Short Courses – In Classroom:

There are a few in classroom Nail Technology Courses around, running each week and giving students a couple hours with teachers to correct their technique and understand fundamentals. Unfortunately, the courses generally operate on a limited schedule, and can be expensive for the amount of contact time available. However, they are an excellent way to develop skills quickly, as they provide fundamental practices in an efficient period of time.

3: Online Courses:

If you are seeking a short course, online courses can be a wonderful solution. Due to the nature of online tuition, courses tend to be in video format, with a lot of support and ease of scheduling. Of course, this won’t offer you in-class time, and everything will be communicated either by video or message correspondence, so that is something to consider when applying. But, if you find you learn best when courses can fit around your schedule, online tuition can provide the most efficient and cost-effective education.

4: Apprenticeships:

In many situations, the best way to learn is simply to do. A salon apprenticeship may offer the most comprehensive education, since it allows uninhibited observation of the salon practices and environment, while also giving experience-based opportunities to work on clients. However, this may be a daunting education, if you lack the confidence to start with paying customers!

Additionally, apprenticeships can take a long time to develop the necessary skills to become fully qualified.

5: Self Education:

(only applicable in certain states and countries)

Self-educating is something we all do – when we are passionate about something, we learn! However, in order to become a professional Nail Tech, we would recommend some formal training. It can help round out your education and ensure best practices in hygiene and salon procedures.

Additionally, though it is not a requirement in order to work in the industry, many salons would prefer a certificate of education to prove your skills.

What is it actually like?

We all wish we could have asked this question at the beginning of our adult lives. What is it actually like? Like, yeah, it’s promoted to be great…but do people actually enjoy it?

Well, we can’t speak to all Nail Technicians, but we have some stats that can help illuminate their job satisfaction. Seek (AU) lists job satisfaction for Nail Technicians at 3.5/5 stars. That’s 70%! This is a very broad snapshot of career contentment, and may not reflect the specific ins and outs of every salon. But, it does show the general workplace attitude is one of satisfaction.

Let’s talk about the pros & cons. Because we all need a good pros & cons list in our lives!



1: Creative, Imaginative & Well Rounded (Pro):

The beautiful nail designs flooding our pinterest pages have actually come from someone’s talented brain, something that never ceases to amaze us. As a Nail Technician, you will be met with requests for a wide range of styles, from simple and chic to exquisite and complicated. But, as the Nail Tech, it is your specific interpretation of style and artwork that will make the work stand out.

1: Business, Business & Business (Con):

Nail Technology is booming, and while that means more job opportunities in the industry, it also means you gotta be business savvy. It’s a lot of behind the scenes work, whether you are self employed, or work for a salon. In arts based industries, we all know the best business is delivering top-quality work, however there is so much more involved!

2: Direct Client Contact (Pro):

As the Nail Technician, you will be front-of-house, delivering the salon’s customer & nail services. If you are people focused, and love to chat, this is a wonderful way to meet people and ensure your clients will return!

2: Direct Client Contact (Con):

I know, we already listed this as a pro. But it can honestly go either way. Sometimes, as with all customer service based professions, you will have to work with people who are unkind, or don’t appreciate your work. This is incredibly frustrating, however if you treat each interaction as a learning experience, it can help you grow enormously as a Nail Tech.

3: Work Where You Like (Pro):

Nail Technology is literally offered everywhere. On a cruise in the middle of the ocean? Check. In a resort in Bora Bora? Check. Some cute salon in the middle of your favourite shopping centre? Check.

3: Confidence May Take Years (Con):

There are some Nail Technicians who believe it took at least 2 years of working on nails professionally before they became confident in their work. However, it is important to note that with passion comes practice, and if you find yourself truly dedicated to the art, you may find confidence in a much faster time frame.

4: Work Alongside Like-Minded People (Pro):

Working in a salon provides a unique experience of working alongside many other nail technicians. This allows you the enormous advantage of being able to observe and learn from the people around you.

4: Nail Salon Chemicals (Con):

As detailed here, many Nail Technicians are exposed to harmful levels of chemicals over the course of their career. Unfortunately, this can cause serious health issues, as some of the chemicals are known human carcinogens.

However, don’t let this dissuade you! In order to work safely in a nail salon, management should implement proper procedure in wearing charcoal face masks and nitrile gloves, while also ensuring the salon has adequate ventilation. This ventilation (particularly on-table ventilation) should be running constantly while Nail Techs are at work.

Additionally, dust safety is incredibly important to your longevity as a Nail Technician. Dust shavings from nails and acrylics can settle onto the skin or be inhaled if proper precautions (as listed above) aren’t taken.

Many Nail Technicians have pursued this career because they have always enjoyed the application of nails and nail art. If this sounds like you, we have no doubt that you would enjoy the day-to-day work as a Nail Technician.

5: Job Security (Pro):

Because we like to end on a happy note (And because there really are more pros than cons to this business). Nail Technology has an enviable level of job security. No matter the economic times (Hello 2020 recession), nail salons are able to retain business. Not only do nails make us feel better, but it’s usually an easy sum of money to part with – even in difficult times!

This is referred to as The Lipstick Effect. In times of uncertainty, we like to be able to have some sense of control. In 2020, skincare sales have skyrocketed, and there’s no doubt that once nail salons re-open, we will see the same trend.

While this can be a troubling statistic in many ways, it does provide an enormous part of our economy, the entire beauty services industry, with formidable job security. Which makes it an incredibly exciting industry to be a part of!

Appendix 1: Explanation of Services

Acrylic Extensions / Nails:

The Acrylic Nail System mixes polymer powder & monomer liquid by coating the brush in liquid first and then rolling through the powder. It forms a ball-like substance which can then be worked into the preferred shape on the original nail. Acrylic Nails are very durable, long wearing, and support 3D nail art easily. Also bond well with normal nail polish, creating colour that can last up to 4 weeks.

Gel Extensions / Nails:

The Gel Nail System does the same sort of thing as Acrylic nails, however doesn’t dry as strong or durable. But, it uses less potent chemicals, and is easier to mold into place. These use a layer of thick, transparent gel over the top of the original nail, which is then hardened using light therapy. Gel tips can also be applied.


The manicure is an overall nail treatment on the hands – involving cutting cuticles, treating nails, trimming & filing to shape, polish or nail design, and a hand massage (if you’re lucky). This can also be applied to French Manicures.


A pedicure is essentially a manicure for the feet, however there are some differences in the process. It begins with a warm foot bath to soften skin, then filing back hardened skin on toes & sole, and then nail trimming & filing to shape, and application of colour.

Nail Shaping:

Nails come in many different shapes and sizes. Nail Technicians can be asked to shape nails into almond, oval, rounded, coffin, square, flared, ballerina, or lipstick shapes. There are many others, but these are the most common nail shapes.


Nail polish is the process of adding colour to decorate the tops of finger and toe nails. This can be done using traditional polish, or Shellac, Gel Polish, or the Dip System. Traditional nail polish will last a week (at best), however Shellac, & Gel polishes can all last upwards of 2 weeks. For longevity, the Dip System is your best bet, which usually lasts between 3-4 weeks.

Cuticle Oil:

Cuticle oil is used to moisturise cuticles and skin surrounding your nails. It is made up of varying vegetable oils, and often contains vitamins and citric acid. Jojoba, flaxseed, and safflower oil are common ingredients in cuticle oil.