Nail Technician

The Job and What's Involved

Nail technicians care for, repair and sometimes extend nails to improve their appearance. They may also use nail art techniques to decorate nails.

Before starting any treatment, the technician consults with their client about the results they hope to achieve. They also ask clients about any health problems they may have that could be affected by the treatment. Then they check the nails and the surrounding skin for signs of skin or nail disorders.

After making their assessment, they discuss various options and make recommendations. If they have concerns about the client's nails or health, they may refer them to their doctor. The technician records details of the consultation and any treatment on the client's record card.

Nail technicians offer a range of treatments such as:

  • Manicures and pedicures - improving the appearance of the natural nails and cuticles on the hands or feet. This may include a massage of the hand and forearm, or the foot and lower leg.
  • Applying artificial nail systems and extensions - using, for example, gel nail overlays, fibreglass, and sculptured or UV cured acrylic. This will include application, setting, shaping, filing, buffing and finishing.
  • Repairing, maintaining and removing artificial nail systems.
  • Applying nail art, such as painted designs, stones and transfers, to natural or enhanced nails. Some technicians may also offer nail piercing and nail airbrushing.

As part of a treatment, nail technicians need to:

  • Prepare, clean and help to look after their work area.
  • Make sure that their client is kept informed of what is happening and is comfortable at all times.
  • Follow health and safety rules on hygiene, sterilising tools and equipment, and storing and using chemicals.
  • Give advice about aftercare and suggest suitable nail care products.

They may work alone or with other technicians, beauticians, hairdressers and therapists.

Nail technicians work between 37 and 40 hours a week, and often do evening and weekend work. There are opportunities for part-time work and flexible hours.

Technicians work indoors in nail studios, treatment rooms, cubicles or salons. They spend most of their time sitting at a manicure workstation and may wear a uniform for work.

Some nail technicians are self-employed and work freelance, visiting customers at home, or offering their services to businesses like spas.

A driving licence may be useful.

Starting salaries may be around £8,000 a year. Self-employed nail technicians can earn more than this, but overheads such as premises, running costs and transport will affect total earnings.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Around 17,000 UK businesses employ nail technicians. There are opportunities throughout the UK in beauty or hairdressing salons, spas and specialist nail salons. Nail technicians can also work in large department stores, hospitals, airports, luxury hotels and shopping malls. There are also opportunities to work overseas in spas, hotels and on cruise ships.

There are numerous vacancies for qualified applicants. Vacancies are advertised in the local and national press, trade magazines, Connexions centres and in Jobcentre Plus offices.

Education and Training

It is possible to study to become a nail technician at colleges throughout the UK. Some colleges may accept students without formal academic qualifications, although four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications, may be required for some courses. It is important to choose a course leading to a nationally recognised qualification. These include:

  • NVQ's/SVQ's in Nail Services at Levels 2 and 3.
  • CIBTAC Nail Technician Diploma.
  • ITEC Level 3 Diploma in Nail Technology.
  • VCTC Level 2 Certificate in Nail Treatments.
  • NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Beauty Therapy (with a specialist unit in artificial nail techniques).
  • BTEC National Award, Certificate or Diploma in Beauty Therapy Sciences (with a specialist unit in nail technology).

In many areas, nail treatment businesses need to be licensed by their local environmental health department. Qualifications for licensing vary - some authorities accept any nationally recognised qualification, while others insist on an NVQ/SVQ. Regulations can be checked with local environmental health departments.

Apprenticeships are available in nail services. They lead to an NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Nail Services at Apprenticeship level, and to an NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Nail Services at Advanced Apprenticeship level.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Nail art fashions change, and new products and techniques are introduced all the time, so nail technicians need to keep their skills up to date. Product manufacturers offer short courses on new nail products and techniques. The Association of Nail Technicians issues newsletters, magazines and guides on choosing training courses.

Nail technicians can also take additional qualifications to extend their skills in areas such as nail art, skin painting, make-up, massage, ear piercing and waxing. Specific nail art qualifications include:

- ITEC Levels 2 and 3 in Nail Art
- VTCT Level 2 Certificate in Nail Treatments

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A nail technician should:

  • Have excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Have good hand-to-eye co-ordination and dexterity.
  • Have a smart appearance and excellent personal hygiene.
  • Be artistic and creative, with a good sense of colour.
  • Pay attention to detail.
  • Have an awareness of health and safety issues.
  • Have good listening skills and be tactful and discreet.
  • Be patient - it can take up to two hours to apply and decorate a set of extensions.
  • Be methodical and well organised.
  • Be punctual, calm and confident.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is no formal career progression for nail technicians. Many aim to become self-employed.

Technicians working in beauty salons or spas may get the chance to take additional qualifications and progress into beauty or spa therapy. There may be opportunities to progress into management, or to teach nail techniques in colleges or for nail product manufacturers.

A few technicians work with photographers and fashion designers, producing spectacular nails for photo shoots or fashion shows.

Get Further Information

British Association of Beauty Therapy
and Cosmetology (BABTAC),
Meteor Court, Barnett Way,
Barnwood, Gloucester GL4 3GG
Tel: 01452 623114
or for CIBTAC qualifications:

Habia, Oxford House,
Sixth Avenue, Sky Business Park,
Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster DN9 3GG
Tel: 0845 230 6080

International Therapy Examination Council (ITEC),
2nd Floor, Chiswick Gate,
598-608 Chiswick High Road, London W4 5RT
Tel: 020 8994 4141

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