A manicurist is a type of licensed, professional cosmetologist who specializes in the grooming of hands and fingernails. Also commonly referred to as a nail technician, these cosmetology experts are highly-skilled at giving hand massages and performing various grooming tasks to care for their clients’ nails such as cleaning, trimming, and shaping.
In addition to being technical professionals, manicurists are also talented artists who know how to coordinate colors and paint incredibly-detailed pictures and images on nails.
What Does a Manicurist Do?
Although a manicurist focuses solely on the hands and fingernails of their clients, they are responsible for numerous different job duties, many of which may surprise most people.
Greet and Assess Clients
Whether it is a regular client arriving for their scheduled appointment or a new walk-in, it is a manicurist’s duty to greet every customer in a welcoming and friendly manner as soon as they enter the salon. Next, they will ask which service the customer is interested in, assess the current state of his or her hands and nails, and discuss with them their potential treatment options.
Clean and Groom Nails
A manicurist’s primary job duty is to clean and groom their clients’ fingernails—however, the process involves much more than most realize. If their client is already wearing nail polish, a manicurist must first remove the old paint. Next, they will soak their client’s hands in a moisturizing solution so that the skin and nails are softer, easier to work with, and calluses are easier to remove. Manicurists will then trim, file, and contour their client’s nails according to the desired length and shape they specified.
Paint and Decorate
Most clients who visit a salon are there to have their nails professionally painted. Once a client picks out the color/s and design they like, manicurists then buff and smooth the surface of their nails. Next, they will apply a base-coat of nail polish, two or more coats of color, and if the client requested a design, the manicurist will either apply the appropriate applique or paint the design by hand. Finally, they will set the nail color and/or design with a clear, top coat of polish.
Depending upon the service/s requested, a manicurist will spend anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour with each individual client, and it is a manicurist’s duty to help their clients feel as relaxed as possible throughout the entire duration of their visit. One of the best ways to ensure that their customers feel welcome and comfortable is to engage with them in warm, polite conversation.
Sterilize Tools and Workspace
Manicurists clean and sterilize their tools and entire workspaces between each and every client they serve. This is important not only because a messy salon and dirty tools will turn customers away, but also because it is how manicurists can keep their patients and themselves safe from bacterial and fungal infections.
At the end of each appointment, manicurists should encourage customers to purchase additional hand, skin, and nail products before accepting and processing their payment. And to keep their business prospering, manicurists should offer to schedule the client’s next appointment before they leave the salon.
What are the Working Conditions of a Manicurist?
The working conditions of a manicurist are typically indoors a hair, beauty, or nail salon—and some even make house calls to their clients’ homes. The majority of a manicurist’s time is spent sitting and working under extremely bright lighting as they groom and pore over every details of their customers’ hands and nails.
For the most part, their work schedule is almost entirely up to them. However, if they want to have as many customers as possible, they should expect to work on the weekends and/or during lunch hours and after 5pm throughout the week.
What are the Requirements to Become a Manicurist?
Aspiring manicurists in the United States must attend a vocational or cosmetology school to complete a nail technical certification program compliant with the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences’ standards.
Although it varies from state to state, the majority of programs require candidates to hold a high school diploma or GED and be 16 years or older to apply. The average program lasts around six to eight months, but some states require candidates to study their new craft for up to a full year.
In order to learn the basic techniques and procedures for performing a manicure, the first portion of a manicurist or nail technician educational program is spent reading texts, listening to lectures, and watching tutorials The second portion, however, is spent practicing these skills on hand/nail mannequins—and finally, students spend the latter portion of their education providing their services to real people who are either volunteers or charged a discounted rate.
Licensure and Certifications
Once an aspiring manicurist has fulfilled the number of mandated practical experience hours and earned their cosmetology program degree, they must then take a licensing exam. The specifics of this certification exam vary from one state to another, but candidates are typically required to first pay a fee, usually costing around $40, and then complete a series of hands-on assessments.
However, manicurists should always look to update and modernize their repertoire of skills not only to stay competitive, but also because most states require that they renew their license every two to three years.
What Do You Learn in a Manicure Training Program?
In a manicure training program, students are taught a variety of skills and techniques that will prepare them for a long, successful career as a nail technician and/or manicurist.
The following list outlines the major concepts that candidates can expect to learn—however, it should be noted that this is not complete list as there are likely many more subjects that will be covered.
Bacteria, Sanitation, and Safety – Aspiring manicurists will first learn about the types of disease and bacterial infections that can contaminate their tools, workspaces, and ultimately spread amongst nail salon patrons. They are also taught how to perform proper sanitization and disinfection in order to keep both themselves and clients safe.
Fundamental Grooming Skills – Students learn the fundamentals of grooming hands and fingernails such as how to safely trim and file nails, painlessly remove calluses and cuticles, and buff/smooth the surface of nails.
Nail Repair – A manicurist training program teaches students why fingernails peel and become damaged, how to temporarily mend those damages, and the ways they can advise clients to help heal their nails heal and prevent more damage in the future.
Hand Reflexology – Aspiring manicurists learn about the pressure points of the hand, various reflexology techniques, and how and which areas to firmly massage their clients’ hands to help them relax.
Customer Relations – Students learn how to greet customers when they first arrive, make customers feel comfortable and welcome by chatting politely with them throughout their manicure, and how to develop relationships with customers that are both personable and professional.
Paint and Patterns – A manicurist training degree program teaches students how to paint and create intricate designs that will impress their clients and last until their next appointment.
Business Management – Because many manicurists aspire to one day open and own their own salon, students are taught the basic principles of starting a small business, navigating their state’s licensing and operation laws, and how to manage a team of employees.
Retail Sales Course – An important part of a manicurist’s job is to promote tools and products that clients can use between visits to maintain their manicures and keep their nails as healthy as possible.
What Skills are Needed to be a Manicurist?
There are many skills an aspiring manicurist needs to possess for a successful career in the field. While some of the following items are traits that should come naturally, many of these skills can only be learned by earning a degree in cosmetology.
People Skills – Every manicurist needs exceptional conversational and people skills. They must make clients feel welcome when they enter the salon, converse with them as they receive nail treatments, sell products, and secure future appointments when accepting payment.
High Tolerance – Manicurists should have a high level of tolerance for sensory stimulation such as bright salon lighting which is necessary to see the intricate details of their work. They should also be able to tolerate powerful scents and fumes that accompany the chemicals with which they work.
Patience and Diligence – From thoroughly cleaning nails, painstakingly applying acrylics and painting, and waiting the appropriate amount of time for their work to dry, nearly every task a manicurist performs requires a great amount of patience and diligence.
Ability to Work Efficiently – It can be quite overwhelming for a manicurist to multitask due to the level of thoroughness each of their duties requires. However, they must often juggle more than one client at time—because the more people they tend to the more money they can make. Therefore, manicurists need to work efficiently throughout their entire day.
Technical Abilities – Many of the technical abilities required of manicurists can only be obtained by attending a cosmetology degree program. They must know how to sculpt acrylics, shape nails symmetrically, smoothly apply nail polish, and remove old polish and old acrylic in a manner that does not damage the client’s natural nail.
Creative Skills – Aside from trimming and grooming nails, manicurists are essentially nail artists. They need to possess a variety of creative skills in order to coordinate colors and create exciting designs to keep their clients loyal and coming back for more.
Dexterity – Manicurists use tools that are small, sharp, and when in the hands of someone who does not possess the dexterity to handle them, can be hazardous.
Cleanliness and Hygienic Skills – The types of bacteria that can spread in a nail salon are dangerous to one’s health, and in some cases have even led to amputation. A manicurist needs cleanliness and hygienic skills in order to properly sterilize and store nail instruments and to disinfect their workspace.
What Tools are Used by a Manicurist?
Manicurists use a wide variety of tools to clean, groom, shape, and decorate their clients’ nails. Listed below are some of the most common tools of the trade, but it should be noted that this is not a complete list and there are potentially many more.
Clippers – Similar to what the average person has in their own home, clippers are used to cut and trim fingernails.
Nail File – Another commonly known manicurist tool is the nail file. Manicurists use these to shape and smooth the ends of the nail.
Cuticle Knives or Nippers – Cuticle knives and/or nippers are sharp clipper-like instruments used for removing cuticles from the nail bed and from in-between the nails and surrounding skin.
Electric Buffers – Electrical buffers are most often used by manicurists to buff, shape, and smooth fake nails that are made from acrylics. In some cases, however, they can be used on natural nails, too.
Soak-Off Solutions – Manicurists create soak-off solutions using a combination of harsh chemical-strippers such as acetone and moisturizing oils to help prevent the damaging and drying-out of skin.
LED or UV Lamp – LED or UV lamps are used to efficiently dry thick, gel-like nail polish between coats and before their clients leave the salon.
Fine-Haired Brush – Manicurists use fine-haired brushes to paint small, intricate designs onto nails.
Oils and Lotions – Once nails are groomed and nail polish is dry, manicurists finish off each client’s visit by applying oils and/or lotions to gently massage their hands.
What are the Benefits of Being a Manicurist?
There are numerous reasons why manicurists love their career and listed below are just a few.
Freedom in Flexibility – For the most part, manicurists can create their own work schedules. Whether they like working weekends, weekdays, lunch hours, or evenings, manicurists enjoy the freedom that comes with having a flexible work schedule.
Artistic Creativity – From color mixing and coordination to creating fun, hand-painted designs, manicurists love the fact that they get to be creative and use their artistic imaginations each and every day.
Building Relationships – When people find a manicurist they love, they become loyal customers! Manicurists enjoy building relationships and sometimes even getting to know their regular clients on a personal level.
New People – In addition to serving and getting to know their regularly-scheduled clientele, manicurists also enjoy meeting numerous new and different people.
Immediate Satisfaction – Although most of their job duties require plenty of patience and thoroughness, one of the greatest benefits of being a manicurist is the immediate sense of satisfaction they receive with each happy client and completed manicure.
Tips – On top of their hourly wage, manicurists also receive tips from their clientele at the end of every appointment. These tips can add up over a busy shift, especially if a manicurist has many regular clients.
Industry Perks – Manicurists love the industry perks that come with their job. Sometimes working for large salons and/or spas, manicurists enjoy significantly-discounted cosmetology services. And because it is important for all cosmetology professionals to always look their best, more often than not these services are free.
What are the Disadvantages of Being a Manicurist?
Before deciding to become a manicurist, candidates should first weigh the pros and the cons. Listed below are four of the most common disadvantages of being a manicurist.
Surrounded by Toxins – A serious downside of being a manicurist is that each day they are surrounded by hazardous chemicals and fumes. A large portion of toxins come from the harsh substances with which they have to work—such as glues, nail primer and hardener, acetone from nail polish remover, and even the nail polish itself.
Strain of Sedentary Work – Although their duties do not require heavy labor or lifting, sedentary work comes with its own set of physical strains. Sitting all day while leaning over a table can cause neck, upper back, and even lower back pain. Additionally, because manicurists work with their hands, the delicate joints and ligaments of the fingers can also become strained.
Exposure to Open Wounds and Bacteria –As most of their work requires fine and intricately-detailed artistry, the amount of time manicurists can reasonably wear gloves is limited. Consequently, manicurists are often exposed to open wounds on their clients’ hands, blood, and different types of infectious bacteria—all of which can be seriously hazardous to one’s health.
What is the Job Outlook for Manicurists?
Significantly faster than most professions, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that both manicurists and pedicurists should expect to see a 19-percent increase in job employment opportunities by 2030. As of May 2021, the state of California employed 27,930 manicurists, which is the largest number in the country. In New York, 16,970 manicurists found employment that same year, and New Jersey came in a distant third employing 8,240.
California, New York, and New Jersey may have offered manicurists more employment opportunities, but these states did not pay nearly as well as others. For example, manicurists in New York earned a median wage of $13.97 per hour/$29,060 - per year, and in California, manicurists made $15.59 an hour.
What Professions Are Similar to Manicurist?
Laser technicians are cosmetology professionals who use this new technology to meet a variety of different client needs. For example, lasers can be used to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots on skin due to aging and/or sun exposure. They can also remove unwanted hair over the course of several incremental treatments and can also help eliminate varicose veins.
Applying therapeutic lotions and oils, massage therapists help to relieve sore, tense, and stiff muscles by kneading and massaging various areas of the body. In addition to therapeutic touch, they also teach clients muscle relaxation and breathing techniques they can use at home to sooth themselves between appointments.
Not to be confused with dermatologists, who are licensed medical doctors, skincare specialists are cosmetology professionals who help treat a variety of minor skincare concerns. For example, they are most well-known for giving moisturizing and exfoliating facials, recommending skincare routine products such as lotions and soaps, and numerous other treatments for making minor yet noticeable improvements to the outer appearance of skin.
Hairstylists are perhaps most similar to manicurists. In fact, these two aspiring professionals will typically attend many of the same classes in cosmetology school. Hairstylists are responsible for shampooing, cutting, trimming, dying, blow drying, and styling their clients’ hair.