Looking to nail a career that blends creativity, flexibility, travel, entrepreneurship, social connections and more? Hands down, nail technology offers unlimited possibilities. The “tiny canvasses” topping off fingers and toes are essential style staples on fashion runways and in the real world of everyday life. How much does a nail tech make and what are some nail tech jobs available to licensed professionals? Below, we’ll delve into a career that’s limited only be imagination and hard work. We’ll also share with you some of the “back story” of this amazing carer and offer some insights into how the industry is expected to evolve in the future.
The evolution of nail care
Simply stated, today’s nails and the nail techs who stand behind today’s talons go beyond the “manicurist” label that defined nail techs for decades. And the tools and technologies used by today’s nail techs have evolved to transform nail services.
Professionals in the nail industry blend the creativity of an artist with the precision skills of a technician and the listening and empathy of a counselor. But at the end of the day, the primary responsibility of a nail technician is to achieve a flawless fingertip – or toe tip – that makes the client smile. Nail services might range from a simple “buff and shine” manicure and classic red pedicure to a work of art that integrates three-D elements and sophisticated textiles. Check out fashion runways and you’re likely to see nails integrating fur, metals, and mirage-like effects. Three-dimensional nail art and ultra-long extensions have transformed the world of nail design. And innovations such as gel and powder “dip” techniques are further transforming what it means to have a nail tech job.
Fun fact about Nail Tech from Tinsel Town
Before the role of celebrity manicurist was established, one of Hollywood’s most iconic actresses play a role in making manicures a marquee part of self-care. Film actress, animal activist and humanitarian Tippi Hedren started in iconic movies of the 20th century, including Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Working with other actors and actresses to entertain Hollywood troops during the Vietnam War, Tippi sought opportunities to assist Vietnamese refugees following the fall of Saigon. Her humanitarian efforts were influential in helping thousands of refugees find careers in the American nail industry. Since those early days, she has continued to give back to the nail industry and in 2013 was honored by Beauty Changes Lives for her efforts to advance the professional nail industry.
The role and requirements of a nail tech
The role of nail tech may include being a consultant who advises clients on nail care and the appropriate products to maintain the salon look at home. Many nail techs enjoy working as educators to teach “next-gen” talent. Still other nail techs work as brand representatives, helping professionals in the industry learn about the latest technologies.
What’s required to be a professional nail tech?
Success in the nail industry requires some core competencies that include both technical and soft skills. A creative mindset is essential to continually developing fresh and innovative designs that will keep clients returning. Being able to look at the world, at nature, and at trends in society and bring that ethos down to nail level is a skill that sets apart true artists. From the perfect Barbie pink to a look that sets the right tone for a Taylor Swift concert, nail professionals capture the moods of the zeitgeist and produce them at fingertip scale.
Of course, precision also plays a role. Attention to the most minute details is essential. And safety must always be job one; especially considering the tools and chemistries that are part of the nail professional’s work. Finally, nail technicians must be patient as techniques can take incredible amounts of time to achieve. In events such as fashion shows, this level of calm must be exercised in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment. Communication also comes into play. Being able to understand a client’s desired look and then interpret it is part and parcel of the nail techs job. From a social perspective, it’s important to be able to “read” a client. Does the client want to engage in chitchat or is she wanting to “chill” while enjoying a service. The best nail techs are able to relate to clients in the way that makes them most comfortable.
Learning and licensing
Think a career as a nail tech might be the right fit?
Therefore, the next stop is education. Enrolling in a respected nail technician program is the starting point for learning the art, craft, science, and care that distinguish top nail professionals. A high-quality program will teach the basics of nail care, sanitation and hygiene, and the techniques that stand behind nail art.
However, a quality nail program will also cover the business aspects of a nail career. A good program will include instruction on marketing and social media, building a portfolio and recruiting and retaining clients. And it’s important to remember that learning never ends in the professional beauty industry. Industry-leading brands such as CND, Essie, and OPI are continually offering workshops and programs that aspire to the next-gen professional. Nail professionals who seek to work in a particular industry – such as bridal, fashion or destination spas – may seek out additional training focused on these areas.
Most importantly, licensing provides a standard for assuring professionalism and is a common requirement around the globe. The specific requirements for licensing will vary based on geography. Some general requirements for licensing include satisfactorily completing a nail professional program, passing written and practical exams, and complying with any additional requirements. And as mentioned earlier, nail professionals must comply with health and safety regulations in their jurisdiction. With license in hand, nail professionals are equipped to tap opportunities in the nail industry.
Putting your mark on a beautiful career as a nail tech
Whether a professional seeks to work in a salon, resort, spa or specialized area like fashion and entertainment, opportunities abound. Some nail professionals favor a freelance environment while others opt for the routine and security of a salon environment. Some nail techs become enamored with the chemistry and formulation of nail products and launch their own product lines.
For those who seek to focus on the artistic aspect of the nail industry, specialization areas abound.
For example, some of these areas of specialization include:
- Dimensional design diva – Employing materials like acrylics, gels and embellishments, artists can create complex and detailed designs. This can seem to “pop” from the surface of the nail.
- Great lengths genius – Extensions including faux tips bring shape and stature to the enhance natural.
- Sculptress – Sculpting isn’t just for the art gallery or architectural wonders. Nail sculpture ranging from coffin nails to the perfect oval can shape a specialty area.
- Trend leader – Just a few of the looks trending in 2023 include mermaid nails, milk nails lip gloss nails, or chrome finishes. Nail trends evolve as fast as fashion. Nail techs with a passion for fashion and pop culture can be bring emerging trends to their clients’ fingertips.
- Mobile manicurist – Some nail techs take their talent on the road, quite literally, operating a mobile boutique nail service. Others with a passion for travel may enjoy working in an airport salon, resort or even on a cruise ship.
- Men’s grooming expert – Men’s grooming is booming. In recent years, salons dedicated to men’s grooming have emerged while barber shops have also added these services.
- Authority – Trade shows, beauty schools and advanced education workshop are some of the venues seeking authorities to educate nail pros. Venues ranging from America’s Beauty Show to local market events provide a platform for teaching the craft to the next generation.
Above all, finding the right educational program sets aspiring nail techs on a career for success. A scorecard can help students evaluate a school.
Questions to ask on your nail school visit
What are the core services I’ll learn to perform? Naturally, manicures and pedicures, acrylics and gel nails will be on the list. But more sophisticated programs will offer additional education.
Take for example Bellus Academy. We are an internationally recognized beauty and wellness academy with campuses in California and Kansas. In our nail education we include aromatherapy and reflexology.
What kinds of scholarships are available? Did you know that you can earn a scholarship to help fund your nail education? Beauty Changes Lives is a non-profit that equips and empowers future beauty and wellness professionals through scholarships and mentoring.
Some of the nail scholarships available include:
These scholarships offer thousands of dollars in tuition assistance.
Do you have guest experts or celebrity nail experts visit to speak with students? As a result, networking plays a big role in putting a career on a fast track. That’s why schools like Bellus Academy forge relationships with leaders in the nail industry – like CND co-founder Jan Arnold. Connections with top tier talent can help accelerate success and open doors in the industry.
What are some of your student success stories? Have students won scholarships, been featured in media outlets or opened their own businesses?
Listen and Learn in the Pod-o-sphere
One of the best ways to get a feel for a community is to listen to a podcast – including podcasts for nail pros. The pod-o-sphere is home to podcasts that allow listeners to learn about what’s involved, including the highs and lows of a life in nails.
For instance, some podcasts worth popping the ear buds in for include: Young Nails Biz Talk, The Nail Room, Confessions of a Nail Tech, Pressed for Nail Knowledge, Nail Shizz, The Nail Podcast, the Nail Shop and Tech Talk: A Podcast for Nail Techs
Be Alert to Future Trends
Like many aspects of industry, sustainability is playing a big role in the beauty industry. For example, vegan and natural products are bringing new solutions to beauty salons and nail spas. Clients are looking for products that will not harm the environment and are kind to animals. Sustainability is likely to be an area of growing importance.
As work from home becomes more common, nail professionals may see an increase in work from home services. Whether working in an office or showing off hands on a videocall, clients will always want to put their best hand forward.
Technology will continue to change how nail services are provided. For example, in the future, clients may turn to artificial intelligence to make recommendations regarding their nail shape or color palette. One of the benefits of choosing a career in the nail space is that the skill cannot be outsourced to a “bot” or a call center. While clients may go online to influence their styles, they will turn to licensed professionals to provide those services.
Nail Trends in Social Media
An ongoing trend relates to social media.
In other words, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube are all popular sources for nail enthusiasts. Manicures are a mainstream “core” beauty service and as nail design has become more sophisticated, people are increasingly going online to learn about emerging trends. These sites have given rise to a range of nail influencers. In 2023, some of the nail tech influencers to watch include Park Eunkyung, Britney Tokyo, Steph Stone, Helen, Lexi Martone, Michelle Lee, and Elvira Safina.
Many nail professionals find that they want to expand their knowledge into other areas, such as esthetics or lash extensions. Choosing a school that provides education beyond its nail program can help you learn about other career paths. For example, Bellus Academy nail students can also explore opportunities in makeup artistry, cosmetology, and barbering. The beauty and wellness industry as a whole is continuing to grow, bringing new career prospects to nail technicians and other beauty professionals. Selecting a school with a diversified educational curriculum can open up doors to additional opportunities beyond nails.
How much does a nail tech make doing nails?
Once a nail tech is licensed, possibilities abound to take a career to great lengths. But the first step remains education. In conclusion, speaking with a dedicated Bellus Academy career advisor can help put you on the path to a nail tech career.