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Written by:
Martin Barrett
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How To Learn How To Do Nails

How To Learn How To Do Nails

The title of this article can mean anything from doing DIY nails at home to becoming a qualified acrylic nail technician.

As you might expect, there’s a big difference between the two, and hundreds of hours of education are needed to become qualified. 

If you want to know how to do nails to a high, professional standard, then you have your work cut out for you.

While you can simply follow online tutorials step by step to learn how to do nails for fun with a starter kit, a YouTube tutorial won’t cut it if you want to start your own business with professional tools and nail technology.

There are a number of online courses you can take to jump-start your career and business, but written and practical tests are required, too.

To find out more about the basics of learning how to become a nail technician, or simply learn how to do acrylic nails, keep reading. We’ll cover what you need to know in the sections below. 

How To Learn How To Do Nails

There are three options when it comes to learning how to do acrylic nails. Unfortunately, all three of these options will not result in being a licensed nail technician.

However, if you want to know how to learn how to do acrylic nails in a non-professional setting, you can become a self-taught nail artist, or do online courses to learn nail art. 

For a professional license to open a nail salon, most states require you to complete a state-approved nail technician program.

Each state also has a minimum number of hours you need to train for, as well as a written and practical exam at the end. We will cover these things later on in the article. 

Online Courses

Online nail tech courses alone don’t usually allow you to become a certified nail technician in the US, as the work is very hands-on and not just theory.

Without live models to practice on, you cannot get the practice you need in order to be a qualified professional, so it is usually advised to find nail schools near you. 

However, nail courses can be done online to further your knowledge of specific skill sets if you wish. Some states offer online courses to help their students, but, know that this is not the standard. 

If you would like to become a certified nail technician by doing an online course, you are unlikely to be able to do so. Double-check any online courses you see that claim to make you a qualified nail technician. 

Self-Taught

You can be self-taught in the field of acrylic nails, but this will not make you a qualified nail technician. Like with online courses, being self-taught means that you will not get to have the needed practice to be considered a professional. 

As there are issues of sterilization, infection, and general cleanliness involved in working with nails, these things cannot be guaranteed if you are self-taught.

This is part of the reason why both self-taught and online courses don’t generally work for becoming a qualified nail technician. 

You can try doing your own acrylic nails as a self-taught nail technician, but even this is not recommended.  

Doing Nail Technician College Courses, Apprenticeships, or Internships

The only way to become a nail technician legally is to be properly educated in that industry. This is done by attending college and doing a cosmetology or nail technician degree, and doing apprenticeships or internships to learn advanced techniques. 

Doing this will ensure that you are educated properly, and also have the opportunity to improve your skills in a safe and sterile environment with professional nail products.

This ensures that the risks are minimized, and you can be monitored throughout your journey. 

At the end of your degree and internship, you will need to complete an exam to prove that you have the necessary skills and techniques to continue.

You will also need to ensure that you have the number of hours/education required by your state by law in order to be a qualified nail tech. 

There are a number of beauty schools in every state to look into. A nail tech school typically requires the applicant to be over the age of 16 and with a GED. However, this can vary from state to state and may be different where you live.  

The Legalities of Becoming a Nail Technician

The Legalities of Becoming a Nail Technician

There are legalities to consider when looking to become a qualified nail technician, and they vary greatly from state to state.

We will go through the legalities of becoming a nail technician/manicurist in the sections below to help give you an idea of what is required.

Overall, becoming a nail tech has the 60th most burdensome licensing requirements among moderate-income occupations. It’s also the 13th most heavily regulated occupation for moderate-income houses.

Do You Need a License to Become a Nail technician?

The only state in the US that does not require a license to become a nail technician is Connecticut.

All others require a license to be a qualified manicurist. We will go through the various statistics and legal requirements for each state in the sections below. All information can be found here.

Minimum Age Requirements

The majority of states require anyone enrolling in a nail technician program to be at least 16 years old. The upper age requirement is 18, which only nine states outline. 

Below is a list of age requirements for each state:

  • Alabama – 16 years old
  • Alaska – N/A 
  • Arizona – 16 years old
  • Arkansas – 16 years old
  • California – 17 years old
  • Colorado – 16 years old
  • D.C. – 18 years old
  • Delaware – 16 years old
  • Florida – 16 years old
  • Georgia – 17 years old
  • Hawaii – 16 years old
  • Idaho – 16 years old
  • Illinois – 16 years old
  • Indiana – 18 years old
  • Iowa – N/A
  • Kansas – 17 years old
  • Kentucky – 16 years old
  • Louisiana – 16 years old
  • Maine – 17 years old
  • Maryland – 17 years old
  • Massachusetts – N/A
  • Michigan – 17 years old
  • Minnesota – N/A 
  • Mississippi – 17 years old
  • Missouri – 17 years old
  • Montana – 18 years old
  • Nebraska – 17 years old
  • Nevada – 18 years old
  • New Hampshire – N/A
  • New Jersey – 17 years old
  • New Mexico – 17 years old
  • New York – 17 years old
  • North Carolina  – N/A 
  • North Dakota – N/A 
  • Ohio – 16 years old
  • Oklahoma – 16 years old
  • Oregon – N/A
  • Pennsylvania – 16 years old
  • Rhode Island – 18 years old
  • South Carolina – 16 years old
  • South Dakota – 18 years old
  • Tennessee – 16 years old
  • Texas – 17 years old
  • Utah – N/A
  • Vermont – 18 years old
  • Virginia – N/A
  • Washington – 17 years old
  • West Virginia – 18 years old
  • Wisconsin – 18 years old
  • Wyoming – 16 years old

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Nail Technician?

The estimated fees vary greatly from one state to another. The most affordable state to become a nail technician or manicurist is Ohio, costing only $51, followed by Oklahoma ($60), Florida ($71), and Oregon ($90).

The most expensive states to get a license are Wisconsin ($391), Alaska ($390), and Vermont ($360).

The fees associated with becoming a nail technician are as follows:

  • Alabama – $235
  • Alaska – $390
  • Arizona – $247
  • Arkansas – $125
  • California – $110
  • Colorado – $177
  • D.C. – $230
  • Delaware – $267
  • Florida – $70
  • Georgia – $139
  • Hawaii – $110
  • Idaho – $186
  • Illinois – $210
  • Indiana – $92
  • Iowa – $118
  • Kansas – $195
  • Kentucky – $100
  • Louisiana – $75
  • Maine – $148
  • Maryland – $104
  • Massachusetts – $188
  • Michigan – $200
  • Minnesota – $285
  • Mississippi – $233
  • Missouri – $150
  • Montana – $254
  • Nebraska – $78
  • Nevada – $145
  • New Hampshire – $198
  • New Jersey – $169
  • New Mexico – $153
  • New York – $70
  • North Carolina  – $168
  • North Dakota – $205
  • Ohio – $51
  • Oklahoma – $60
  • Oregon – $90
  • Pennsylvania – $110
  • Rhode Island – $100
  • South Carolina – $175
  • South Dakota – $80
  • Tennessee – $190
  • Texas – $176
  • Utah – $234
  • Vermont – $360
  • Virginia – $175
  • Washington – $210
  • West Virginia – $159
  • Wisconsin – $391
  • Wyoming – $123

Do You Have to Do Any Exams to Become Qualified?

A number of states don’t require any exams to become a qualified technician, but the majority require at least one exam. Some states have up to three exams to complete before you are a qualified nail technician. 

Only seven states require three exams, while more than 30 require two. Below are the number of exams that each state requires you to complete before becoming a nail art technician or manicurist:

  • Alabama – 2 exams
  • Alaska – 1 exam
  • Arizona – 2 exams
  • Arkansas – 2 exams
  • California – 2 exams
  • Colorado – 2 exams
  • D.C. – 2 exams
  • Delaware – 2 exams
  • Florida – 0 exams
  • Georgia – 2 exams
  • Hawaii – 1 exam
  • Idaho – 2 exams
  • Illinois – 1 exam
  • Indiana – 1 exam
  • Iowa – 1 exam
  • Kansas – 2 exams
  • Kentucky – 2 exams
  • Louisiana – 2 exams
  • Maine – 2 exams
  • Maryland –2 exams
  • Massachusetts – 2 exams
  • Michigan – 2 exams
  • Minnesota – 3 exams
  • Mississippi – 2 exams
  • Missouri – 2 exams
  • Montana – 2 exams
  • Nebraska – 1 exam
  • Nevada – 2 exams
  • New Hampshire – 2 exams
  • New Jersey – 2 exams
  • New Mexico – 2 exams
  • New York – 2 exams
  • North Carolina – 2 exams
  • North Dakota – 3 exams
  • Ohio – 2 exams
  • Oklahoma – 2 exams
  • Oregon – 3 exams
  • Pennsylvania – 1 exam
  • Rhode Island – 2 exams
  • South Carolina – 2 exams
  • South Dakota – 3 exams
  • Tennessee – 2 exams
  • Texas – 2 exams
  • Utah – 2 exams
  • Vermont – 3 exams
  • Virginia – 2 exams
  • Washington – 2 exams
  • West Virginia – 3 exams
  • Wisconsin – 2 exams
  • Wyoming – 2 exams

How Many Hours of Experience Do You Need to Become Qualified?

The state that requires the most clocked hours or nail technician experience is Alabama, with 750 hours. This equates to roughly 175 days of education.

Massachusetts requires just 100 clocked hours in order to qualify as a nail technician, which is around 23 days. 

The majority of states require between 300 and 600 hours of clocked time. You can find the full list of clocked hours required to become certified below:

  • Alabama – 750 clock hours
  • Alaska – 250 clock hours
  • Arizona – 600 clock hours
  • Arkansas – 600 clock hours
  • California – 400 clock hours
  • Colorado – 600 clock hours
  • D.C. – 350 clock hours
  • Delaware – 300 clock hours
  • Florida – 240 clock hours
  • Georgia – 525 clock hours
  • Hawaii – 350 clock hours
  • Idaho – 400 clock hours
  • Illinois – 350 clock hours
  • Indiana – 450 clock hours
  • Iowa – 325 clock hours
  • Kansas – 350 clock hours
  • Kentucky – 600 clock hours
  • Louisiana – 500 clock hours
  • Maine – 200 clock hours
  • Maryland – 250 clock hours
  • Massachusetts – 100 clock hours
  • Michigan – 400 clock hours
  • Minnesota –  350 clock hours
  • Mississippi – 350 clock hours
  • Missouri – 400 clock hours
  • Montana – 400 clock hours
  • Nebraska – 300 clock hours
  • Nevada – 600 clock hours
  • New Hampshire – 300 clock hours
  • New Jersey – 300 clock hours
  • New Mexico – 400 clock hours
  • New York – 250 clock hours
  • North Dakota –  300 clock hours
  • North Dakota – 350 clock hours
  • Ohio – 200 clock hours
  • Oklahoma – 600 clock hours
  • Oregon – 600 clock hours
  • Pennsylvania – 200 clock hours
  • Rhode Island – 300 clock hours
  • South Carolina – 300 clock hours
  • South Dakota – 400 clock hours
  • Tennessee – 600 clock hours
  • Texas – 600 clock hours
  • Utah – 300 clock hours
  • Vermont – 400 clock hours
  • Virginia – 150 clock hours
  • Washington – 600 clock hours
  • West Virginia – 400 clock hours
  • Wisconsin – 300 clock hours
  • Wyoming – 400 clock hours

Process of Becoming a Nail Technician

The process of becoming a nail technician can vary, but the general route that most people follow is set out below: 

  1. Enroll in a nail technician program – when you reach the minimum age requirement for your state and have the minimum education level, you can enroll in a nail technician program. This will usually be at a cosmetology college or something similar.
  2. Complete the program – depending on the state, program lengths can vary greatly. Some can be less than a month long, while others can be close to a year. During this time, you should be clocking in hours of practice on models to get the required amount of learning hours done.
  3. Pass the written and practical exam – at the end of the program, you will likely have an exam to do. This depends on the state, as some have no exams at the end of their courses, while others have three. 

You may also do an apprenticeship at some point to further your skills and knowledge of acrylic nail technology so you can work professionally. This is often done after the exams have been passed and will allow you to get a better feel for the field and still be monitored if needed. 

Final Thoughts

You can learn how to do acrylic nails in three different ways, but only one route leads to becoming qualified in the nail industry.

While online courses are available in many states, the hands-on nature of the work dictates that in-person learning is a requirement for safety and quality purposes. 

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