A nail technician is a health and beauty professional who works to improve and decorate a customer’s nails.
The purpose of this job is very close to the definition given in the summary. It is a cosmetic position, in that a nail technician will work to improve the look of their clients’ nails, as well as looking after the health of the nails themselves. The work itself tends to take place in a beauty salon, which usually rents rooms out to nail technicians where they can take care of their clients.
The process of nail technician work tends to run as follows. You greet your client and inspect the hands for signs of disease either of the hands or nails. You then discuss what work the client wishes to have carried out, which could be anything from a basic manicure (or pedicure), as well as cleaning, filing and preparing the nails for other treatments. These decorative treatments could be glitter, gemstones, extensions or almost any design of the customer’s choosing. The technician can also be asked to maintain, fix or simply replace existing nails too, and will be expected to have the knowledge to advise on aftercare, so that the nails are looked after and look their best for as long as possible.
A good thing about this job is that being a nail technician strikes a nice balance between science and art, as there are routines and techniques that you must master in order to become proficient at it. However, when you do bespoke designs on people’s nails, including stencilling and freehand, it gives the nail technician the latitude to use their own imagination to create unique patterns.
As you might imagine, a large majority of clients wishing to see a nail technician tend to be female, though males having manicures and the like is not completely unheard of. Consequently, you will find that the vast majority of nail technicians will be female, and indeed the health and beauty sector as a whole is an industry very much dominated by females.
One thing that is very important, as it is with anything involving the wellbeing of people, is Health and Safety. A nail technician has certain tools, such as files and brushes, and these must be used carefully. Furthermore, due to the contact with various people, these tools must be kept clean and ready to use at all times, and there are usually strict hygiene rules that ensure that this is the case. With the need to use certain chemicals when applying different shades of varnish and false nails, a nail technician must also store and utilise these chemicals in the correct way, as well as ensuring adequate ventilation for themselves and the client when they are being used.
In terms of hours, it can be almost whatever the technician wants. As you can work on an appointment basis you can take on as little or as much as you want, structuring the work around a full day or half day. As well as just doing nails, a lot of technicians are experienced and qualified in other areas of beauty treatment, and as such do nails as part of an overall work day. It is really up to the individual.
As mentioned above, working hours can vary and, as such, so do earnings. However, a nail technician can expect to earn, on average between £12,000 and £20,000 a year. More senior and experienced nail technicians can expect to earn anything up to £25,000 per annum. A lot of nail technicians and other beauty professionals often choose to open their own businesses, catering for a variety of different beauty specialties under one roof. Of course, individual circumstances can change earning expectations, and the above should be used as a guideline only.
Day to day tasks for a nail technician can include any and all of the following:
- Making and scheduling their appointments if they rent their own room and taking care of the billing and other administrative tasks too.
- Greeting their clients and taking time to get to know what they would like to be done, as well as making them feel comfortable.
- Making sure hygiene procedures and safe usage and storage of chemicals are carried out.
- Carrying out the actual nail work itself.
- Finally, if a technician works in a beauty salon, it might be the case that they are asked to help out in other areas, for example, carrying out ad hoc reception and administrative duties as required.
Like any skilled occupation, you will have to pass tests and exams and gain certain qualifications to prove your proficiency as a nail technician. There are a few different qualifications available in this area, including the NVQ Level 2 in Nail Services (for junior technicians) and NVQ Level 3 in Nail Services (for senior nail technicians). Other suitable qualifications include the BTEC National Award, Certificate or Diploma in Beauty Therapy Sciences, the ITEC Level 3 Diploma in Nail Technology, the VCTC Level 2 Certificate in Nail Treatments and also the CIBTAC Nail Technician Diploma. These can be studied at colleges and private institutions all over the United Kingdom.
In some cases you can also find that you can train to become a nail technician as an apprentice where a salon will take you on and put you through the process.
As an addendum, it is worth noting that if someone wishes to set up a salon for themselves they will need a licence from their local environmental health department.
To become a nail technician, you will need to display or develop the following abilities:
- Must be creative, in order to think expansively about designs for the nails
- Must be patient, as it is often delicate work that requires some dexterity
- Being able to use your initiative in identifying and carrying out work for clients is important.
- As it is very much a face to face business, having good people skills and an outgoing and amiable character is very useful.
- It pays to have the diligence to ensure you stick rigidly to health and safety procedures too.
- Organisational skills
Working conditions for nail technicians will tend to be indoors, seated at a table with the client in a nail salon or bar, or in a beauty salon or hairdressers. There is also the option for some nail technicians to work out of their own home, or visit clients at theirs. The job is not particularly physically arduous, though concentrating for a long time on an intricate piece of work can get tiring. A nail technician will be expected to attire themselves appropriately, either with a salon uniform or a white coat. A nail technician will also be expected to help keep a hygienic workspace, as with the rest of the beauty salon, and part of the conditions will be to keep their area clean and tidy. Working hours, as mentioned above, are really up to the individual, and can possibly entail some weekend and/or evening work to fit in with clients’ requirements.
In a sense, there is no real requirement for experience to do this job as that gained through obtaining the correct qualifications above will normally suffice. Of course, it will bolster any application if you have taken the time to do some work experience in a salon, but it is not essential by any means.
The good thing about being a nail technician is that there is always the scope for employment, as there are many beauty salons dotted around almost every town and city in Britain. Furthermore, a nail technician can work in a mobile capacity so it is easy to set oneself up to work almost anywhere. Other large employers will be hotel and leisure chains, who need nail technicians to work in their spas and hotels, and also cruise ships with onboard spas.
There is no regimented career path for nail technicians, which allows for a lot of flexibility. Many look to gain enough experience to set up a salon of their own, or become self-employed, so that they can manage their work themselves. Others too can go on to work for larger groups, such as the cruise ship option mentioned above.
There is also of course the choice to go on and teach other nail technicians in colleges and schools, taking on extra training to become an assessor in the requisite exams. There can also be work doing nails for photographers, models, fashion designers and/or film and television companies too.
Also known as…
- Beauty Specialist
What’s it really like?
What is your name?
I’m Corinne Wheatley and I come from Coventry.
What is your job title?
I’m known as a beauty therapist, although as part of this job I am a trained nail technician as well as offering other treatments such as massage too.
How old are you?
I am 24 years young!
How long have you been a nail technician?
I have been a beauty therapist for eight years, and working with nails has been a large part of this.
What did you do before this job?
I went to school, completing GCSEs and then going on to college to get my beauty qualifications.
Can you describe a fairly typical day in your work?
My typical day at work revolves around nails, as it’s a big part of my job. I have scheduled appointments for nails and do those as a priority but I also do other beauty treatments too, such as waxing, facials, massage etc should people want those.
What are the things you really like about the job?
I enjoy pretty much every aspect of my job, but what I especially like is meeting new people, though my most enjoyable part is doing nails as I like the creative side of painting and designing nail decorations.
What do you dislike about the job?
As I said, I love my job but if I had to pick one minor fault I would say that I dislike the hours I have to work sometimes, as they can be at weekends or after-hours when other people are off doing other fun things!
Is there any advice you would give to someone thinking of becoming a beauty therapist/nail technician as a career?
The advice I would give to someone who wanted to do this job is be prepared to do long hours, as sometimes you will have to work around other people to ensure you can fit them in. Also, always remember that “practice makes perfect”! Sometimes the things you need to learn to become good at when doing nails don’t come naturally, and like anything must be worked at. But don’t give up, it always comes good in the end!
Are there any other jobs you would like to do? And how do you see your career progression going, i.e. where would you like to go from here?
I think maybe one day I would like to own my own salon and have lots of girls working for me, so I could assume a more managerial role. Of course I would still like to “get my hands dirty” doing treatments but it would be good to go on to owning my own salon.
Is there any “insider info” or special tips you would give to anyone who came to you asking about a career as a nail technician?
For someone considering being a nail technician my advice would be to work hard, always try your best to accommodate clients old and new and never gossip about fellow staff or clients or you will give yourself a bad reputation! A lot of beauty work tends to come through word of mouth, so if you are honest, friendly and, most importantly, you work hard to be good at your job, it will serve to make you very successful. So, basically, keep yourself to yourself.