Manicures and pedicures are one of the few luxuries many women and men can’t live without. It’s no wonder, then, that the U.S. market for nail services saw revenues of $7.4 billion in 2012, according to Nails Magazine. Nail technicians, also referred to as manicurists and pedicurists, will reap the rewards of this thriving industry and see employment growth of 15.6 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There should be more than 13,500 new nail technician positions in this decade, which is one of the reasons this profession landed on the No. 49 spot of our Best Jobs of 2014 list.
Nail technicians provide nail services to customers at salons, spas and barber shops, while some technicians operate their own business. Nail techs clean, file, trim, polish and repair fingernails and toenails. They discuss treatments with clients, such as applying artificial nails or moisturizing hands and feet, and sell additional services and products. They also clean and disinfect their tools and work area after every appointment. “You should be health conscious, keep your station clean and your instruments sanitized, dress appropriately, be polite and willing to learn, learn, learn,” advises Tina Panariello, a nail technician for 33 years, former educator for nail lacquer manufacturer OPI and author of “Polished: Filing Away at Life’s Truths.”
To encourage repeat customer visits, manicurists and pedicurists must also have excellent customer service skills and listen to the client’s needs – including personal problems and juicy gossip — so being a “people person” is a must.
According to the BLS, nail technicians earned a median salary of $19,220, or approximately $9.24 per hour, in 2012. The best-paid earned about $29,560, while the lowest-paid earned less than $16,650. The top-paying metropolitan areas for this occupation include Columbia, S.C., Barnstable, Mass., and Nashville, Tenn.
Nail technicians are required to complete a state-approved cosmetology or nail technician program. Most areas have a local cosmetology school or offer trade classes in personal care. Training programs include courses on the tools and products used to provide manicures and pedicures, identifying skin and nail disorders, disinfecting techniques and sanitation.
After completing the program, nail technicians must take written and practical exams to get a license through their state board, which all states require except Connecticut. Applicants for licensure must be at least 16 years old and have a high school diploma or its equivalent.
The BLS estimates that there will be more than 100,000 manicurists and pedicurists by 2012, and job prospects should be good, given the growing number of spas and services that offer manicures in clients’ homes. Nail techs who seek additional training and certifications above any state license may be more desirable employees for upscale salons. But Panariello says hands-on education is always the best. “Most nail technicians have worked on their friends or clients in school, so they have some hands-on practice,” she says. She adds that it’s beneficial to be comfortable using a diverse toolkit of products, including acrylics, gels, wraps, linen, silk and fiberglass.
Entry-level technicians shouldn’t expect to fashion hot-pink acrylic nails on clients on day one. “When you first start, you are an assistant just manicuring and polishing,” Panariello says. Moving up in this field depends on the size of the shop. If there are only a few nail techs, including the owner, advancement is slim, but you should receive raises based on your job performance.