Careers in cosmetology and aesthetics can be rewarding for those who like working with customers and creating stylistic designs. There are different areas of specialization you can pursue within cosmetology, including careers related to being a nail technician. If you’re considering becoming a nail technician or already are one, you may enjoy learning about related careers in this area. In this article, we discuss what a nail technician does and other jobs you can pursue as a nail technician, along with some skill and job outlook information for this field.
What does a nail technician do?
A nail technician works with a client’s hands and feet to provide them with nail trimming, shaping, painting and designing services. They may also offer skin treatments or massages for the hands and feet. Nail technicians can specialize in manicures, pedicures, nail art or specific nail painting mediums. These nail mediums include regular nail polishes, gel nail polish, full or partial acrylic nails, dip powder nails, silk wrap extensions or repairs. Additional skin treatments involve dead skin removal, moisturizing, exfoliating, callus or corn removal.
To become a nail technician, your state may require you to complete specific state-approved cosmetology courses that teach you how to treat clients’ skin, hair and nails. The coursework involved in nail technician work allows you to pursue other jobs related to aesthetics and cosmetology. Part of nail technician training and experience includes sanitizing work equipment, selling salon products, completing sales and checking inventory. As a licensed nail technician, you also have the opportunity to conduct independent contract work or own a salon.
6 jobs in the nail industry
The following are career options you can pursue as a nail technician:
National average salary: $25,541 per year
Primary duties: A beautician conducts general cosmetic or aesthetic services including makeup, hairstyling, manicures and pedicures. Beauticians can provide basic skincare treatments and nail technician services. Other services include hair washing and blow drying.
2. Salon receptionist
National average salary: $28,098 per year
Primary duties: A salon receptionist works at the front desk of salons to greet, check in and complete sales for clients. They handle administrative responsibilities such as scheduling, answering phones, providing information and completing general maintenance tasks. Salon receptionists communicate with clients and salon staff to ensure that the daily operations of the salon run smoothly and efficiently.
3. Beauty consultant
National average salary: $28,593 per year
Primary duties: A beauty consultant represents a particular brand and provides customers with recommendations to complete a sale. Beauty consultants meet with customers to gain an understanding of what they are looking for in a product or service. These consultants may demonstrate products to customers or provide them with samples of a product to try it out before a purchase.
4. Salon manager
National average salary: $29,160 per year
Primary duties: A salon manager oversees the management and services of a salon. They work with salon professionals to maintain work schedules, conduct training and ensure that the salon has the necessary equipment and products. Salon managers monitor overall salon performance to make sure that salon services and experience satisfy their clients.
5. Cosmetology instructor
National average salary: $35,990 per year
Primary duties: A cosmetology instructor is a professional who teaches at a cosmetology institute to provide students with techniques and guidance for their cosmetology careers. Cosmetology instructors develop and teach courses according to current aesthetic trends and methods. For cosmetology institutes that have student salons, these instructors oversee students when they provide services to customers.
National average salary: $42,276 per year
Primary duties: An esthetician is a cosmetology professional who specializes in skin care. Estheticians can work within salons or spas to provide skin treatments and advice for clients. They perform skin assessments, recommend treatments and products and monitor skin health post-treatment.
Salary and job outlook
Nail technicians make an average annual salary of $46,764 per year. This salary can vary based on specific job title, employer, location, education and experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job opportunities for manicurists and pedicurist will increase 33% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the national average for other occupations.
As a nail technician working in a salon, you may receive commissions for each client you have, along with performance bonuses. For experienced nail technicians who choose to work as independent contractors, you can dictate your pricing and contract terms. Starting your salon also allows you the ability to choose which services you provide and how you price them.
Nail technician skills
Whether you currently work as a nail technician, plan to become one or want to pursue a related role, here are some helpful skills to develop:
Attention to detail
Nail technicians work on small surfaces as they trim nails and paint designs. Working on these small surfaces requires attention to detail to ensure quality work. When using sharp tools, attention to detail is also important in preventing accidental cuts or scrapes around the nails.
Other careers that you can pursue as a nail technician, such as working with a client’s skin, utilize this skill. Paying attention information that the client reports and details you see on the skin can help you provide recommendations for treatments or services.
Nail technicians work directly with their clients, discussing what their client wants and how they can fulfill the client’s requests. A nail technician uses their customer service skills to listen to their clients, provide alternatives, make recommendations and ensure satisfaction throughout the nail service process. Customer service skills allow nail technicians to build trust and a relationship with their clients, which can promote client retention and may increase referrals.
Design techniques and abilities help nail technicians understand how to achieve a client’s desired look. Different nail art mediums can require various design abilities. Some clients may have art references for you to interpret and reproduce on their nails, which requires both creativity and design knowledge. Other clients may ask for abstract concepts with no references, and having a sense of creativity helps to develop art that satisfies your clients’ requests.
When developing your creativity, consider assessing your past work for strengths and areas of improvement. It’s also beneficial to stay up to date on current trends via industry resources. With aesthetic jobs where trends and styles change, keeping track of what’s popular can ensure that you provide your clients with the latest designs. Innovations in nail art material can also affect which techniques you use for certain designs, so practicing your designs with new products can be beneficial in your skill development.
What Can You Do With a Business Degree in the Beauty Industry?
Having a degree in business can allow you to pursue many exciting and rewarding career opportunities in the beauty industry. Those with business degrees can pursue careers in management, allowing them to lead a team of fellow professionals and handle several important leadership duties. If you’re pursuing a business degree and hope to enter the beauty industry, you may wonder what types of jobs are available to you.
6 jobs you can pursue with a business degree in the beauty industry
Consider these six jobs within the beauty industry to pursue as a professional with a business degree. For the most up-to-date Indeed salaries, please click on the links below:
1. Salon owner
National average salary: $41,269 per year
Primary duties: A salon owner is a person who owns a salon of any type, including a hair salon, makeup salon, tanning salon or salon and spa. Professionals in this role handle all aspects of managing and operating a functional salon. Salon owners hire and train staff, create budgets for different aspects of the salon, create payroll and ensure it’s correct, interact with customers and ensure all operations run efficiently. They may also help make purchase orders, ensure the salon has a supply of items like shampoos and towels or assist with branding. A salon owner may also perform several duties that their staff typically does, such as taking part in styling clients, assisting with cleaning duties and managing the front desk. Depending on how large a salon is, how big its customer base is and how successful the salon is overall, the salon owner may have a small staff that assists with the business side of the salon, including with finances, accounting, social media, marketing and advertising.
2. Retail store manager
National average salary: $47,202 per year
Primary duties: A retail store manager is a person who oversees a store’s daily operations and all staff involved. In the beauty industry, a retail store manager may manage stores that specialize in selling beauty products such as makeup, skincare products, nail polish and related products and hair products. As a store manager, they handle daily operations at their retail store, including ensuring that it runs efficiently and hiring, training and managing employees. They’re also responsible for guaranteeing that their store has plenty of supplies, ensuring that the store is clean and functioning and may also handle customer relations. Retail store managers can also help with generating sales, assisting with customer service, addressing customer concerns or answering questions. If needed, a retail store manager can also create budgets, ensure that the store adheres to them, send merchandise purchasing requests to ownership and take stock of inventory.
3. Account manager
National average salary: $53,890 per year
Primary duties: Account managers are people who oversee all client account activity at a company. Within the beauty industry, account managers may manage client accounts for cosmetics, hair or salon companies. Typically, account managers front most of the interaction between clients and the financial side of the company and therefore act as a representative of the company. Professionals in this role are usually responsible for maintaining communication with clients regarding their business accounts, ensuring that all accounts accurately reflect client activities, helping with sales, giving clients advice and guidance on best account practices and activities, providing customer service when needed and answering client questions.
4. Store owner
National average salary: $61,059 per year
Primary duties: A store owner is a person who owns and operates a retail location. Those with business degrees in the beauty industry may own beauty stores, such as those that sell cosmetics, salon products or equipment. They may own a franchise of a store in the beauty industry or have their own business. In this role, professionals manage all aspects of the store, including operations, staff hiring and training and handling finances. They may also establish and maintain a budget, purchase merchandise, coordinate store expansion and sell products or services. Store owners can also own one or more stores and likely have staffs who assist them with the daily operations, such as with customer service, front-end sales, stocking products and cleaning the store.
5. Sales executive
National average salary: $82,638 per year
Primary duties: Sales executives are people who help build a business’s client base and sell products. As a professional in the beauty industry, one may specialize in selling beauty products, services, programs or equipment for the company that they work for. In this role, professionals meet with potential clients, inform them of any products or services that they offer, maintain communication with current clients, negotiate on prices and quantity, solidify deals and partnerships and, ultimately, expand a company’s client base to increase its overall success. Sales executives in the beauty industry may focus on selling certain products to certain places, such as nail polish products to nail, salons, creams and moisturizers to tanning salons or hair products to hair salons.
6. Business owner
National average salary: $93,350 per year
Primary duties: A business owner is a person who owns some of or most of a business. As a person interested in the beauty industry, a business owner may own cosmetics businesses, wig businesses, nail polish or nail art businesses, makeup artist businesses or another related business in the industry. In this role, professionals maintain a business plan and oversee all business operations. A business owner is also typically responsible for hiring and training staff, reviewing business budgets, analyzing sales, determining sales forecasts, acting as customer service, creating strategies for improving and expanding businesses. Depending on the size of their business and how successful they are, business owners may have staff who assist them with tasks such as accounting, marketing, accounting, finances.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Cosmetologist?
The cosmetology profession can be an exciting career where you help clients with their physical appearance. If you are interested in becoming a cosmetologist, it is important you know how much time you need to invest to be trained and licensed. In this article, we explore how long it takes to become a cosmetologist and the various career options available to you once you are licensed.
What is a cosmetologist?
A cosmetologist provides cosmetic services to clients. This frequently involves cutting, styling and coloring hair, but can also include a range of other services, such as facial hair treatment, pedicures, manicures and makeup application. Cosmetologists often work in salons, but they might also work in spas and resorts. They typically use scissors, clippers, heat tools, combs, brushes and sometimes chemicals. A cosmetologist’s hours are usually full time, though it is not uncommon to work part-time with flexible scheduling. Some cosmetologists work nights and weekends to accommodate their customers.
How long does it take to become a cosmetologist?
To start your cosmetology training, you need a high school diploma, GED or equivalent. After that, the length of time it takes to become a cosmetologist depends on regional requirements and the program in which you enroll. A full cosmetology program typically takes longer to complete than if you train only in a particular area, such as makeup or barbering. After completing classroom training, you normally need to complete an internship where you receive supervised practical experience. Only then can you take the licensing exam and be ready to work at a professional salon.
There are regional variations, but on average, the length of time to complete cosmetology training and licensing can be four to five years, not including high school. If you study part-time, it could take longer. During this time you will spend:
Two years earning an associate degree. Depending on your goals, you might be able to enroll in an accelerated program, which takes about nine months to complete.
Two or more years completing an internship. Most salons require you to have plenty of practical experience before they will hire you. An internship is one of the best ways to get that experience.
Types of cosmetologists
Becoming a licensed cosmetologist opens a variety of career options for you. The areas of specialization available include:
Beauty writer or editor
Cosmetology sales representative
1. Hair stylist
National average salary: $13.88 per hour
Primary duties: A hairstylist or hairdresser cuts, styles, washes, dries and colors customers’ hair. Hairdressers also use chemicals to straighten or curl hair. They usually work according to the specific wishes of the customer. Alternatively, they may recommend a particular style or cut based on an analysis of the customer’s hair and the customer’s personal taste. Hairdressers often instruct customers on the best care for their hair as well as sell hair products. You normally need a license to be a hairdresser and work in salons, spas or hotels.
2. Cosmetology instructor
National average salary: $18.68 per hour
Primary duties: A cosmetology instructor teaches students a variety of cosmetology skills, including hairstyling, manicure, pedicure and makeup. As well as the practical aspects of cosmetology, cosmetology instructors also teach the health and safety procedures standard to most salons. To become a cosmetology instructor, you usually have to be a licensed cosmetologist with two or more years of experience. Some regions also require you to have an instructor’s license. Cosmetology instructors typically teach in community colleges, vocational schools and cosmetology schools.
3. Salon manager
National average salary: $39,613 per year
Primary duties: A salon manager is responsible for the daily operation of a hair, beauty or spa salon. This includes hiring, training and, when necessary, dismissing salon staff. The salon manager is also responsible for making sure the salon is profitable and follows appropriate health and safety regulations. To be a successful salon manager, you need to be a licensed and experienced cosmetologist and have excellent organization and communication skills.
4. Nail technician
National average salary: $42,089 per year
Primary duties: A nail technician specializes in the care and presentation of finger and toenails. This includes nail trimming, cleaning and filing, as well as cuticle removal, acrylic nail application and removal and hand or foot massaging. Nail technicians are also responsible for keeping their tools and work areas sanitized. Some nail technicians may prefer to work as either a manicurist or a pedicurist, but they are trained to do both. Nail technicians often work in full-service salons or department stores. Some take their services to their clients’ homes.
National average salary: $21.44 per hour
Primary duties: An esthetician, or aesthetician, is trained and licensed specifically in the area of skincare. An esthetician’s services include facials, skin treatment, hair removal and exfoliation. While cosmetologists are trained in some skincare techniques, estheticians receive broader and more specialized training. In many places, you need to be licensed to practice as an esthetician. An esthetician’s training includes being aware of the allergic reactions a client may have to various skin treatments and making recommendations on how to manage them.
6. Beauty writer or editor
National average salary: $23.80 per hour
Primary duties: A beauty writer or editor works for a publication to provide content for their appearance-related sections. This can include features related to skincare, hair products or cosmetics as well as articles on advancements, procedures and services within the beauty industry. You might need qualifications or experience in journalism to be a beauty writer, depending on the needs of the publication. A background in cosmetology may give you an advantage, since you will have an informed basis from which to write.
7. Massage therapist
National average salary: $28.19 per hour
Primary duties: Cosmetologists learn some massage techniques, particularly regarding the hands and feet. Becoming a massage therapist extends this training to providing pain and stress relief to a client’s entire body. Massage therapists use touch to manipulate a client’s muscles and soft tissue to help them relax and to promote wellness. They normally discuss with their clients their medical history, the specific areas of the body in need of attention and possible causes of pain, stress or injury. The massage therapist then provides targeted service based on this discussion.
8. Cosmetology sales representative
National average salary: $58,011 per year
Primary duties: Cosmetology sales representatives normally work for a beauty product manufacturer and distributor. They are responsible for selling the company’s products as well as educating customers on how best to use them. This might include giving product demonstrations and interacting with potential customers at trade shows or in stores. Successful cosmetology sales representatives need to be knowledgeable about the products they sell as well as stay informed about the beauty industry and competing brands.
National average salary: $60,326 per year
Primary duties: Beauticians are hairstylists who are also trained to offer other beauty services to their clients. These might include facials, waxing, manicures and makeup application, depending on the beautician’s training and licensing. While the services offered by beauticians and cosmetologists seem very similar, the jobs are not quite the same. Beauticians offer fewer services to their clients compared to cosmetologists.
10. Makeup artist
National average salary: $31.65 per hour
Primary duties: A makeup artist applies various forms of makeup to a client’s skin, either to enhance or to change the client’s appearance. Makeup artists work in various environments, including fashion shows, photography studios, theaters, movie studios, television studios and mortuaries. Aside from the training you need to be a professional makeup artist, you also need artistic skill and a good eye for color and design.
Frequently asked questions
How do I gain experience in cosmetology?
Many aspiring cosmetologists begin their careers by working as assistant nail technicians or stylists. You can gain some experience in the field by completing an apprenticeship at a local salon or beauty parlor. This experience may make it easier to determine which aspect of the field interests you the most.
What type of license does a cosmetologist need?
To perform their duties, cosmetologists need a license from their state’s licensing board. This typically entails completing a cosmetology program and earning a passing score on the accompanying exam. The exam may contain questions about general cosmetology practices, nail technology, salon management and skin care.
Is earning a degree worth it for cosmetologists?
While it’s not necessary to work in the field, completing an associate degree program in cosmetology may make it easier to gain the training required to fulfill your state’s licensing requirements. A degree can help you acquire valuable time management and customer service skills. It can also allow you to establish your credibility in the field, increasing your chances of eventually advancing into a higher-level position as a salon or spa manager.