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How to become a Nail Technician

Nail technicians or nail specialists have become increasingly in demand in recent years as households spend more on beauty treatments, with many getting nail treatments a few times a month. Nail technicians are always in demand and it’s also the perfect occupation to pick up as an extra income.

What is a nail technician?

A nail technician is someone who will provide manicures, pedicures, and other various nail treatments depending on the needs of a client’s nail care, as well as their preferences. They are usually self-employed or work in salons, spas, barbershops, or nail salons.

They help groom, shape, and paint a client’s fingernails and toenails, whilst being responsible for the care and decorating of both. With this, they need to have an understanding of the biology of these two body parts, so they know how best to treat them.

Nail technicians will also apply and design acrylic and gel false nails, groom a client’s cuticles, remove calluses and dead skin, remove shellac nail polish, provide arm and leg massage, and much more, which you can find out about in the next section.

What are the responsibilities of a nail technician?

  • Checking their client’s hands for skin and nail problems.
  • Discussing what the client wants and advising on the most suitable treatment.
  • Provide manicures and pedicures, cosmetic treatments which are done to shape the finger and toenails, soften the skin and improve the appearance of the hands and feet.
  • Massaging the client’s forearms and hands using the fingers, knuckles, and palms to alleviate pain and provide pleasure during a manicure.
  • For a pedicure, the same will be done but this time on the lower legs and feet.
  • Preparing the client’s nails by removing old extensions or polish.
  • Cleaning and softening the cuticles.
  • Treating the skin around the nails.
nail technician with a client
Nail technician working on client's nails
  • Filing the edge and the surface of the nails.
  • Use acrylic, gel, fibre glass, or silk wraps to apply nail extensions.
  • Cutting, filing, and shaping each nail into the designed style.
  • Apply a wrap to the nails before a fitting to strengthen the nail to make nails last longer.
  • Applying different types of nail polish in the colour of the client’s choice.
  • Applying gel nails to create a glossier, natural look.
  • Using a special UV lamp to set the gel nail polish.
  • Using a stencil, or going freehand, to paint patterns and colours on nails.
  • Advising on aftercare to not only prevent infection but also to lengthen the life of extensions and polish.
  • Ensuring all tools are sanitised to prevent the spread of germs and infections and to ensure they have a hygienic workstation.
  • Provide hot oil therapy, an expensive and luxurious nail treatment that is designed to heal damaged cuticles.
  • Apply artificial nails for sturdiness and ability.
  • Make adaptions to the nail, known as nail fills, to prevent the need to get replacements all the time.
  • Apply a wrap to the nails before a fitting to strengthen the nail to make nails last longer.
Nail technician conducting consultation

Although nail technicians don’t necessarily need formal qualifications, at least some basic form of training or experience with nail treatments is needed and you will need to obtain professional insurance in order to legally carry out nail services to clients.

It is a great start to get as much work experience as you can and build up a portfolio in order to attract clients or get a job in a salon or spa.

You may also want to gain formal qualifications in different treatments so you can show your skill set off to future employers. One thing that is certain when it comes to becoming a nail technician is that you will need to put the work in to make it a successful career.

What equipment does a nail technician need?

  • Nail clippers
  • Different types of nail
  • Nail files
  • Glue
  • Buffers
  • Sanitisers
  • Cuticle clippers
  • Cuticle oil

How much do nail technicians earn?

A nail technicians’ salary will be dependant on where they work. Freelance nail technicians can set their own rates, whereas in some salons, you may have to pay for chair rental. Some salons will offer an annual salary and others may offer an hourly pay rate. High end spas may offer higher salaries.

According to National Careers Service, the starting wage for a nail technician is £15,500 per year, going up to £25,000 for a more experienced technician, all dependant on experience and place of work.

Becoming a nail technician on the side of another job is also a good way of earning extra money and can be a flexible career choice. The average rates of a freelance nail technician is between £14-£35 per nail treatment. You will need to do your research in order to offer competitive prices and you should also factor in costing of products and insurance. If you choose to go mobile, you should also factor in any travel costs.

Nail technician organising nail polish

What skills does a nail technician need?

Customer services

Having good customer service skills allows nail technicians to build a client base as it helps to boost trust between them and their client’s. If they’re treated to a pampered service, they are more likely to tell their family and friends about it. Referrals will allow the technician to grow their business.

The ability to work well with your hands

This one is an obvious one, but an important one, nonetheless. Nail technicians are constantly working with their hands, be that giving a manicure, pedicure, a massage, or something else. They need to be able to work succinctly with their hands.

Excellent verbal communication skills

There are times when clients will have questions to ask about what treatment they need, so it’s important for nail technicians that they can communicate effectively to answer any queries, explain the processes of treatments, and resolve any issues that come up.

Active listening skills

Again, nail technicians will need to listen carefully to what their clients want and need, to then advise them on a treatment.

To be thorough and pay attention to detail

Attention to detail will allow technicians to perform their job to a high standard. The need to be able to follow precise instructions when creating designs for clients, or even following protocols for sterilising tools and equipment. This also allows them to maintain cleanliness in the salon to ensure that it meets the health and safety regulations by paying attention to detail.

The ability to sell products and services

The art of sales is something a nail technician will need, as they must be able to sell the idea of a treatment to a client for them to want it.

Nail technician using efile on client
Nail technician with client

Patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations

A nail technician will need to be patient to work meticulously, while also paying close attention to the details. When it comes to caring for a client’s cuticles, trimming their nails, and applying polish, patience is required. When things go wrong, it’s important to remain calm and not buckle under stress.


An artistic style is imperative when it comes to being a nail technician, as it’s so much more than just manicuring nails. They can use their artistic ability to sketch out new ideas for new nail art or to draw attention to specific areas of the nail. Both men and women will pay good money for this art form.

Knowledge about the latest trends

Nail technicians need to be able to keep up with the latest beauty trends and techniques, something their clients will rely on them for. The technicians can suggest and encourage the clients to maybe try a new gel or polish colours that they would have never tried themselves. You can keep up with the latest trends by following the beauty industry influencers on YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and so on.

What qualifications do you need to become a nail technician?

To become a nail technician, it isn’t a requirement to have a qualification, however, it will be very desirable to employers. Studying for a nail technician course will certainly help you stand out against other candidates, particularly if you have a qualification in a specialist nail service such as acrylic nails for example. If you take a qualification, it will improve your chances of landing a job in a high-end salon or spa.

You will also need to have gained professional insurance in order to carry out your services legally to clients.

There are many level 2 and 3 courses in nail technology or nail treatments that you can take. You can seek out local college courses or apprenticeships that offer this course. You can also take these qualifications through distance learning and study alongside other commitments.

Our Complete Nail Technician Diploma will give you a strong basis for both the business side of becoming a nail technician and also the key skills.

Specialist nail technician courses

The more skills and specialisms you have as a nail technician the better as you will in turn, be able to offer more services. This is very desirable especially to salons and spas as it will mean they have more to offer on their treatment menu.

You don’t need to have them all, but it’s always recommended you choose a specialist route as opposed to just applying standard French manicures for clients.

You can choose to specialise in a variety of different treatments including:

What to expect as a nail technician?

An attractive aspect to this job role is the flexibility it can bring. If you are a freelance nail technician and work for yourself, you can pick and choose your own hours to fit around your lifestyle.

If you work in a salon or spa, your hours are often set. Most of the time you will be required to work weekends as Saturday tends to be a salon or spas busiest day, so you must be prepared to give up some of your weekends. You should also be aware that you will be required to work in the afternoons or evenings, as this is when people book most of their treatments.

Some nail bars offer chair rental, so you are working in a salon meaning you may only receive a percentage of each clients’ money paid and will need to pay the salon a monthly or daily fee.

If you market yourself well and get yourself a loyal client base, being a nail technician can be a very flexible and rewarding career choice.

Can I become a qualified nail technician through distance learning?

Although most people would prefer to attend a college, you can actually become a qualified nail technician through distance learning, meaning you can study alongside your current job or life commitments.

Many distance courses will not only offer the theory side, but you are also able to attend a practical day to put the theory you have learnt to practice.

A number of courses offered by Open Study College enable you to become fully qualified and obtain professional insurance without having to attend a practical day, meaning you are able to upload evidence of your work for it to be marked. This is perfect if you want to retrain or study alongside your other life and work commitments.

Nail technician courses