How To Become A Manicurist – 4 Simple Steps

Aug 23, 2021

If you have a passion for nail art and nail health, you may have considered a job as a manicurist. But what does it take to become a manicurist?


Should I Become a Manicurist?


Before you begin pursuing a manicurist career, you’re probably wondering if the job’s right for you. What does a manicurist’s day-to-day look like? How do you do well as a manicurist? Are you cut out for the job? How exactly do you become a manicurist?

First, a manicurist’s daily work is pretty predictable (in certain regards). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a manicurist is likely to…

  • Discuss the available nail treatments.
  • Clean, trim, and file nails.
  • Reduce calluses on rough skin.
  • Apply nail polish
  • Advise clients about, promote, and sell nail and skincare products.
  • Clean and disinfect their work area and tools.

It’s not uncommon for manicurists to also perform tasks related to running a nail salon. Moreover, a manicurist’s secondary duties can vary from workplace to workplace. 

You’ll likely fare better in a manicurist’s position if you’re a people person. Most manicuring work involves dealing with clients and customers, and you’ll need to hold your own in a conversation. You’ll also have frequent hand’s-on contact with customers, so you should take that into account.


1. Choose & Apply to a Manicuring Program


Before you can become a manicurist, however, you need to complete a manicuring program. Not only do you have to consider which school you’d like to attend, but you might have to decide the specific program you’d like to pursue. 

Alongside taking into considerations like price, class size, program length, and et cetera, you’ll also want to think about whether you want a program specifically for manicurists or a more general cosmetology program.

While a manicuring program will specifically cover the information and training specifically for nailcare, cosmetologists also learn skills related to skincare and haircare. Cosmetology programs, however, are generally much longer and cost more than a manicuring program. If you want a stand-along manicuring program, Chattanooga College is the only school in the Chattanooga area that offers one. 

Once you’ve decided between a manicuring program or a general cosmetology program, you’ll want to look into the cosmetology program you’re considering and find information about the following factors:

  • Accreditation. You’ll want to make sure your program is through an established and recognized school. If a school’s accredited, that means their curriculum’s met regional agencies’ requirements. If a school’s not properly accredited, then most employers won’t consider it valid.
  • Course Offerings. You need to check the curriculum for their manicurist program to make sure its courses cover everything you’ll need to know as a manicurist. This includes basic manicure and pedicure, nail and cuticle cleaning, gel application, hand massage, foot massage, nail condition assessment, skin condition assessment, nail art designs, nail art trends, health and sanitation, knowledge of nail products, and client relations. Some programs may also include basic sales and marketing courses.
  • State Board Preparation. To become a manicurist, you’ll need to earn a license from your state. We’ll talk more about this later, but for now you should know that a good program will have a record of preparing students for the state board exam. For this information, you’ll probably have to dig up program reviews from previous students. If you know someone who graduated from this program, ask them for their opinion.

After you’ve found your perfect manicuring program, you only need to apply.


2. Complete Manicuring Program


Once you’ve found and applied to the right program, it’s time for the real work to begin. You’ll need to start taking classes towards your certification. A good program will likely include training in nail techniques, business basics, and sanitation education. Performing well in each of these classes will require study and hard work. Don’t try to cut corners, since everything you learn in a technical program will directly correspond to your on-the-job duties.


3. Earn Your License


After completing your program, you’re ready to earn your license. Though examination requirements vary from state to state, they generally require a written exam and a practical exam.

In Tennessee, your school must submit an online application to PSI (the state government’s testing company). Once PSI has approved the eligibility for testing, they will email or mail an “Approval Postcard” with instructions on paying for and scheduling the examination.

First, you’ll take the written exam (also called the theory portion). If you pass the theory portion, you will receive information about taking the exam’s practical portion. Once you’ve passed both exam portions, you’ll receive a form for obtaining your license. 


4. Find the Right Manicuring Job!


Now it’s time to find the right manicuring job for you! In Tennessee, you should expect your average salary to be around $20,400 a year. However, they can range from $16,800 to $37,100. You should also anticipate working a variety of hours if you work at a salon or spa. There will generally be both full-time and part-time work available, and the days worked can vary from location to location.

While you can generally find work in a nail salon or spa, you may be surprised to learn you can work in a variety of locations. Airports, cruise ships, and doctor’s offices may need your services. You may also find employment as an instructor, teaching others the skills you’ve learned.




Becoming a manicurist is a great option for those passionate about nails, nail art, and skincare. If you’re social and hard-working, then you can learn more about Chattanooga College’s manicure program here!