How To
Become A
Nail Technician

How to Become a Nail Technician

For many, ‘doing people’s nails’ starts out as a hobby, and choosing the right course can help to turn that hobby into a career.  Did you know that over 17,000 businesses in the UK currently employ Nail Technicians? From nail salons and nail bars to department stores and hotels, there is a constant demand for excellent nail work. Manicures and pedicures are sought after by many, and nail art is increasingly seen at the very forefront of fashion.

If you enjoy meeting people and have good social skills, and like the idea of making a career out of something that’s creative and helps people to feel good about themselves, then you should consider a career as a Nail Technician.  If you’ve already decided that you want to enter the fashion and beauty industry as a nail expert, where should you begin?

The short answer is that there is no exclusive route or path you need to follow to become a Nail Technician.  If you have enough natural talent and manage to earn experience in the industry then you have a good chance to go far. However, the two most common routes into the profession are private courses and nail technician apprenticeships.  Once you’ve gained a good deal of experience or have the relevant qualifications, there’s a good chance you could be earning up to £25,000 per year.

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Becoming a Nail Technician: training and development

There are some things essential to becoming a nail technician that simply can’t be taught. Good people skills will get you far, and it’s essential to have patience, dedication and attention to detail.  If you’ve got those things covered, your next step should be getting a qualification which will allow you to meet industry standards and position yourself as a much more viable candidate for employment.

Some of the courses which help you on your way are:

NVQ Level 2 (Junior) / Level 3 (Senior)

National Vocational Qualification. A work based qualification which will net you some valuable experience. You’ll need to demonstrate key skills and competencies in order to pass which can reassure prospective employers.

BTEC National Award Certificate or Diploma in Beauty Therapy Sciences

BTEC National Diplomas are highly valued by employers, colleges and universities. They’re often seen as A-Level equivalents in vocational industries like fashion and beauty.

ITEC Level 2 (Junior) / Level 3 Diploma

ITEC qualifications are arguably the best way to start a career in the beauty industry if you want to travel, as they are recognised in over 33 countries worldwide.

VCTC Level 2 Certificate in Nail Treatments

The primary outcome of the VTCT Level 2 Certificate in Nail Treatments (QCF) is to prepare you to enter the beauty industry at a junior level. Targeted at those aged 16 and over, it’s a perfect place to start.

CIBTAC Nail Technician Diploma

CIBTAC Qualifications have been recognised worldwide for over 35 years. Designed specifically for the Academy of Beauty Training, these qualifications will open you to global opportunities – perfect if you’re looking to work while travelling.

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One of the best ways to earn while you learn in the UK. Apprenticeships often lead to full-time employment directly after completion.

Apprenticeship Programs

Apprenticeships can provide incredibly valuable real work experience which can provide a solid foundation for a career as a nail technician.

Learning Approach

An apprenticeship allows you to work alongside other nail technicians and specialists which facilitates fast learning. By shadowing experts you’ll build a fast skill base and get into some good practical habits that can really benefit your career.  For many employers, an apprenticeship is considered above all else for the valuable on-the-job experience gained.

Entry Requirements

Depending on the provider of the apprenticeship, entry requirements may vary.  Typically, 5 GCSE’s between A and C grade is preferred, and these can be in any number of subjects.


The current minimum wage is £4.81 per hour for an apprentice. Typically, apprentices will work for a minimum of 30 hours per week, including one day of training which is also paid. You’ll also get an allowance of 30 days’ holiday per year.

Essential Skills

Central to the role of nail technician is creativity and a flair for the work which will ensure you stand out. As with all careers, a willingness and desire to build a career in the beauty industry is the platform that you need to take the first steps on the ladder. There are other qualities that will aid you in your work.


This is a big part of working in the beauty industry in general. It’s important to always remember that you’re working on someone’s appearance, so being able to focus for long periods of time is essential to ensure no costly mistakes are made!

Organisational ability

When it comes to booking appointments and dealing with regular customers, organisation is paramount. Time management is essential and you’ll need to handle quick decisions if there are cancellations or appointments need to be moved.

Customer service and social skills

Being a nail technician is a social job. It goes without saying that you’ll need to be courteous and responsive, but one thing that will really impress employers is being able to build a rapport with regular customers and offering a friendly and professional service at all times.


As with most roles that involve beauty, cleanliness is important. You’re going to be working very closely with people, so it’s important to make sure you’re presentable and that you take the proper steps to ensure your workplace is clean and tidy.

Willingness to learn

Fashion moves constantly. New products come and go and trends are constantly evolving. Just because you’ve gained a qualification or certificate doesn’t mean you’ve learned everything there is to know. Be open and willing to learn from others, as well as your own mistakes.

Job Opportunities

There are multiple pathways and opportunities open for Beauty Therapists across UK salons and in the leisure industry, as well as increasing opportunities to work for yourself. There are even opportunities to work abroad, with the increasing requirement for beauty therapy in holiday locations and cruise liners. The main opportunities and pathways are:


Many beauty salons in the UK now have dedicated nail bars in them. It’s a perfect place to work if you’re interested in the industry in general, working alongside hairdressers and other beauty professionals.

Travel and Leisure

From hotels to cruise ships, people enjoy a good pampering when they’re taking a break. Nail technicians can be found in many of these places too – even airports.


It goes without saying the fashion industry needs nail technicians. Whether you’re working in a studio with actors or prepping somebody’s nails before a photoshoot.

Mobile working

Many nail technicians have made a successful career out of being mobile, going to people’s houses and even setting up in offices to offer manicures and nail art. Once you’ve got a customer as a mobile nail technician, they’re likely to be customers for a while.

Renting a chair

If you want to do things professionally and be your own boss but can’t afford to open your own premises, renting a chair might be the answer.

Opening your own Salon

Not easy at the beginning of your career, but it’s something which many nail technicians aspire to.

Entering the Industry

Once you feel equipped to try and find work as a nail technician, things can seem a little daunting. Once you’ve got your qualification and a little bit of experience, where do you start? First, you really need to get yourself a good, solid CV.

A CV should include your contact details, education and qualifications, related experience, work history and references. You should also include a brief personal statement which outlines your interest in the industry.

Tailor your CV for the role you’re applying for, displaying the relevant qualifications you think a nail technician would want to see prominently. You should aim to be professional, but don’t be afraid to add a personal touch in your personal statement to show that you have a creative side.

Regardless of whether or not you think they’re relevant, always include extra curricular activities and pursuits; these can show a real willingness to learn and develop.

You should include accurate details about your employment history, but if you’ve had a lot of work keep this to the 3 most relevant positions. Even if some of these roles aren’t necessarily relevant, display them proudly. There are many transferrable skills in the workplace, from punctuality to organisation, which may impress.

When you include references, don’t forget to add contact details for them. Ideally, your references will be previous employers and you should ask for their permission before putting them on your CV.  It’s amazing how far a kind word from a previous employer will go to securing you an interview.

Additionally, it is important that you include details of your full employment history, as employers will usually check these. You should include your most recent position, employee contact details and a description of your job roles. If you don’t have an in-depth work history or if this is your first role, then highlighting any voluntary experience or part-time roles can be a good way to demonstrate your positive work ethic and make your application stand out from the crowd.

References are an important aspect of any CV as they are testimonials of you, and something a potential employer will consider carefully. This section should include the contact details of your referees. Referees should be one of your previous employers or someone who holds a senior position in the establishment and who is not related to you, such as teachers, tutors or police officers.

Most potential employers will request a covering letter to accompany your CV when applying for a position. This should introduce yourself and outline why you have a passion for the profession, as well as why you want to work for that organisation. This needs to be short, no more than half a page, but also be concise, and make the person reading want to continue onto your CV. If your CV and covering letter matches the job role and requirements, then the employer may invite you for an interview.

If you are lucky enough to secure an interview, make sure you take the time to prepare for it and don’t just wing it! Before the interview, try to research the company and practice your interview technique. It is also a good idea to research interview techniques and common interview questions, which means you can plan and practice your answers. During the interview, try and remain calm and be friendly, this is your chance to show of you and your personality!

Income and Working Life

A Nail technician needs to be customer focused. You’ll need to be friendly and professional at all times, creating a workplace that’s comfortable and enjoyable to be in.  Customers will expect a nail technician to be a ‘consultant’, knowing all there is to know about current trends and fashions within the industry.

Throughout the course of a typical day as a nail technician, you may be expected to:

  • Opening and close the salon
  • Work with clients and style nails to their requests
  • Keep the work station clean and tidy
  • Maintain levels of products that you need in your work
  • Do administrative work like taking payments and recording appointments

According to the National Career Service, the average starting salary for a nail technician in the UK is between £12,500 to £18,250, but experienced technicians can easily earn up to £25,000. The highest salaries go to the top professionals who work in TV, film, and fashion, will often earn more.

Essential Links
Hair and Beauty Industry Authority:
National Career Service:
Information for Government services, rules and regulations:

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