Becoming a Manicurist: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a manicurist career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a manicurist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Manicurist Career

A manicurist, also known as a nail technician, is responsible for managing the nail care of clients. If you're unsure whether a manicurist career is right for you, continue reading to find out the pros and cons.

Pros of a Manicurist Career
You don't need to earn a college degree to get started*
Opportunity to run your own business*
Flexible work schedules offered by full and part-time positions*
May provide opportunities for creative nail designs*

Cons of a Manicurist Career
Low pay (a median salary of $20,000 as of May 2014 for all manicurists and pedicurists)*
Chemical use prevalent*
Often required to wear protective gear, including masks and latex gloves*
Long hours sitting in front of clients*
Typically have to work evenings and weekends*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Descriptions and Duties

Manicurists are responsible for taking care of their client's nails. A manicure refers to the cleaning, filing, polishing and painting of fingernails. Your duties may also involve soaking hands with a softening substance. As a manicurist, you may also need to assume pedicurist duties, which involves the same procedures administered to the feet. A manicurist may stock nail care products and sell them to clients as needed. Many manicurists schedule their own appointments and sometimes assist in other areas of their employment during downtimes. This career is also responsible for sterilizing their equipment and keeping their area neat.

Career Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), manicurist and pedicurists careers are expected to have faster than average growth of 16% between 2012 and 2022. As more services are developed, such as mini manicures, there's more of a chance for growth. There may also be a chance for growth due to the increase of men and women focusing on healthcare, appearance and grooming. Job openings may be caused by manicurists leaving for other fields, mobile services and additional salon openings. As of May 2014, the BLS estimated that the median salary earned by manicurists and pedicurists was $20,000.

Career Skills and Requirements

A license is required to become a manicurist in every state except for Connecticut according to the BLS. The BLS also states that in order to obtain a license, interested individuals should complete an appropriate course of study at a licensed cosmetology school. In most cases, the licensure exam typically consists of a practical and written test. Licensure varies from state-to-state, but most states require a high school diploma and a minimum age of 16 years old as reported by the BLS.

A manicurist must have strong interpersonal skills and be able to communicate easily with customers and other employees. Strong people skills may be the determining factor in rapidly building up a base of clients. To work in this field, you need to be familiar with manicurist tools, including files, cotton swabs, nail polish brushes, nail solvents, nail scissors and cuticle knives.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Manicurist positions are available on a part- or full-time basis. The primary requirement for this field is formal training and licensure. Potential employers also look for workers with an outgoing personality to attract clientele, an attention to detail to present perfectly painted nails and knowledge of various types of nail enhancement materials. You also need to know safety procedures to make sure you and your clientele remains safe. Some employers offer benefits in addition to a salary. Based on March 2012 national job postings, the following are a few employer expectations:

  • A hair salon and day spa in Illinois was looking for a full-time manicurist that was able to make product recommendations and knows how to apply various types of nail enhancements. The applicant must be willing to attend training meetings and send correspondence to existing and potential clients.
  • A hotel chain in Atlanta was searching for someone that knows how to properly sterilize manicurist instruments and accommodate clients with disabilities. Pedicure services are needed and prospects should be able to manage their time well.
  • A fitness center and spa in Illinois searched for someone that knows how to perform nail wraps and is knowledgeable in massage techniques. At least one year of experience is necessary. The compensation package includes health insurance, free gym membership and a matching 401k.
  • A vacation resort in California advertised for a manicurist who knows how to apply acrylic and nail fills and perform nail repairs. The worker would complete hand and foot massages, maintain inventory and have a professional appearance.
  • A cosmetic company based in New York City was looking for a part-time manicurist who's able to provide clients with nail, hand and foot treatments. The posting also sought someone who is prompt, organized and able to promote the salon and its services.

How to Beat the Competition

Since formal training and licensure are required of every manicurist, the American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) states that those working in cosmetology should create a positive experience for their client. To really succeed in this field, you need to have comforting, appealing and encouraging customer service skills to bring in new and loyal clientele. The AACS notes that personal appearance is important for inner confidence, but also contributes to a successful career. By remembering a client's name and following up after an appointment, manicurists could have repeat business. Further, staying current on nail trends, polishes and related areas can help you stand out.

Develop Related Skills

The aforementioned job postings collectively stressed the importance of other skills aside from education. Most of these duties could be learned during your education program. Cosmetology programs teach you how to properly sanitize manicurist instruments, prevent against infections, follow recognized manicurist roles and responsibilities, adhere to state laws and perform basic nail care procedures. Training programs usually consist of extensive hands-on training environments using hand dummies to practice techniques. You may also have the opportunity to participate in live training prior to graduation. Some of these programs also train you how to run your own business and work with computer programs used for scheduling.

Alternative Career Paths

If you would like to work in a related beauty and grooming field, you may be interested in a career as a hairdresser. As a hairdresser, you can work with clients of all ages and genders by providing a variety of services altering hair. Some of these services include administering shampoo and conditioner, changing hair color, cutting hair and brushing hair. Hairdressers usually use tools including scissors, hair dryers, sinks and curling irons. All states require licensing to work and the completion of a recognized cosmetology program. The BLS reported the employment growth as 14% from 2010-2020, which is slightly lower than that of manicurists. May 2011 data from the BLS found that hairdressers earned a median salary of $23,000.

If you would like to work with more territory, skincare specialists are also professionals related to beauty and grooming. Skincare specialists are in charge of cleaning and exfoliating skin to remove dead cells, providing light massage treatments, administering skin peels, removing unwanted hair and giving facials. Workers in this field also provide basic evaluation on skin conditions and recommend dermatologists for larger skincare issues. Like manicurists, skincare specialists have to complete a state-approved program to get trained in specialized techniques before earning a state license. This field has a faster job outlook than manicurists at 25% from 2010-2010. The BLS estimated that, as of May 2011, skincare specialists earned a median salary of $29,000.

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