An overview of the role

The role of a nail technician involves finger and toenail shaping and decoration as well as providing customers with information about proper nail, cuticle and skincare.

The day to day role involves:

  1. Applying polish
  2. Applying nail tips
  3. Applying acrylic overlays
  4. Applying and heat treating gels
  5. Creating nail art, including appliques
  6. Hand soaks
  7. Hand massages with lotion
  8. Cuticle treatments

The role is a creative one, which requires considerable artistic flair as well as solid practical skills.

A successful nail technician will be knowledgeable about contemporary fashion trends that relate to their work. They will also have a good understanding the way in which various nail colours, patterns and forms flatter different clients and will be familiar with a myriad of different styles, including:

  1. Square
  2. Squoval
  3. Round
  4. Oval
  5. Almond
  6. Coffin/Ballerina
  7. Stiletto
  8. Lipstick
  9. Flare
  10. Mountain peak
  11. Edge

What are the responsibilities of a nail technician?

Day-to-day responsibilities of a nail technician typically include:

  1. Preparing, shaping, painting and decorating nails
  2. Meeting and greeting customers
  3. Answering the phone and making bookings
  4. Cleaning and tidying equipment and the salon
  5. Planning and implementing promotional activities, either for your own services or on behalf of the salon employing you

Nail technicians may also be responsible for a wide range of business-related duties, from managerial and financial tasks to paperwork if they are self-employed or have decided to run their own salon.

One great thing about becoming a nail technician is that there are no fixed requirements or qualifications needed to start.

The Beauty Island 1

What are the key skills required by a nail technician?

Key skills for a nail technician:

  1. Excellent interpersonal skills
  2. A friendly, outgoing personality
  3. Good attention to detail
  4. Excellent hand-eye coordination
  5. Knowledge of current fashion trends related to nail art
  6. Creativity
  7. Patience

A nail technician will also need to understand the basic science behind nail procedures. Incorrectly applied acrylic nails, for example, can cause fungal infection due to the accumulation of moisture in the gap between the real nail and the acrylic. Improperly filed nails can weaken and split. In order to prevent damage to their client’s nails, the technician must be aware of such risks and why they occur in order to mitigate them.

Nail technicians that choose to work freelance or run their own salons will also need business management skills. For this reason nail technician courses often incorporate business management into their training, giving their trainees greater flexibility in terms of their future work prospects.

What qualifications does a nail technician require?

In order to become a nail technician, you will need to have completed an advanced course in Beauty Therapy like the NVQ/SCQ Level 3 or a BTEC national diploma. These courses typically require a NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Beauty therapy or at least 4 GCSES. You can also gain the recognised qualification of a VTCT Level 3 diploma in nail technology. Having these qualifications will secure your employment in a salon or as a freelance nail technician . 

Do I need relevant work experience to become a nail technician?

No work experience is generally required for an entry level nail technician job, but employers value any related work experience that demonstrates transferable skills such as:

  1. Good customer service
  2. Attention to detail
  3. A good work ethic
  4. Punctuality
  5. Trustworthiness
  6. Willingness to learn

Once trained, a nail technician’s salary is dependent on experience within the field.

What are the prospects and salary for a nail technician?

A nail technician can expect to earn:

  • Entry Level Nail Technician: £11,000
  • Nail Technician: £18,000
  • Senior Nail Technician: £25,000
  • Senior Beauty Therapist: £31,000

Apprentice nail technicians can be paid as little as £3.70 an hour and generally earn around £95 per week.

Everyone always leaves me with a smile – it’s the best feeling.

Nicole Corbett, Nail Technician 3

Is the role of a nail technician right for me?

As with any role, there are both pros and cons of being a nail technician:

  1. Good job prospects
  2. The creative and social aspects of the role are enjoyable
  3. The role of nail technician is in many ways a nurturing one, and this is emotionally satisfying
  4. The option to be self-employed or run your own business should you choose to
  5. Very flexible schedule – you can work weekdays, weekends and holidays, whatever suits you
  6. You can earn money while training instead of accumulating university debt

A qualified nail technician also has ample opportunity to travel. Cruise ships are always in need of beauty therapists of all varieties, and as such are perpetually on the lookout for professionals capable of providing luxury manicure and pedicure services. This is an experience that will be envied by many.

The myriad of transferable skills a nail technician needs will give you the opportunity to work in two different, related beauty roles, or to change careers completely later in life should you desire to do so. For example, a nail technician inspired by the massage aspect of a manicure or pedicure might then train in reflexology for a more diverse working experience.

Due to the rapid changes in fashion trends regarding nail styles and nail art, there is plenty of opportunity for learning and professional development. If you enjoy keeping up with fashion and constantly developing new skills, the role of a nail technician may be for you.

Cons of being a nail technician include:

  1. Limited room for career progression without learning other beauty therapy skills
  2. High salary roles are dependent on the company you work for
  3. Low starting salary, especially if training as an apprentice
  4. Most nail technicians buy all their supplies, which is costly
  5. Working in a customer-facing role can be stressful and demanding
  6. If you are working for yourself, willingness to maintain high levels of organisation is a must
  7. Freelancers must often travel to their clients and pay the costs associated with that

Related occupations

Occupations related to the role of a nail technician include:

  1. Beauty therapist
  2. Aromatherapist
  3. Hairdresser
  4. Massage therapist
  5. Make up artist
  6. Reflexologist