How do I get a nail technician’s license in the US?

First, to start working in the US as a nail technician, you must have legal status that allows you to live and work here. This implies having documents that give you the right to work in the US. For example, this can be a work permit, Social Security Number (SSN), green card, or US citizenship.

As an example, when I first came to the United States in 2016, my status did not allow me to work or attend beauty school to get a license. It wasn’t until a year later, when I received a social security number (SSN) and work permit, that I was accepted to beauty school and started working part-time as well. However, if you already are a permanent resident or citizen, this should not be an issue for you.

The second prerequisite is that most states in the US require a license to work as a nail technician (Exception: Connecticut does not require a license). Requirements vary from state to state. To check your local requirements, follow this link, scroll almost to the bottom of the page, select – Nail Technician Schools Near Me, and select your state: Beauty Schools Directory

Enrolling in beauty school

To obtain a manicurist license, you must attend any certified Beauty School and then pass a state exam. (Exception: some states, such as Florida, do not require you to take an exam). To find such a college, simply search for a beauty college on Google Maps and find the nearest one or use the link in the previous paragraph.

Beauty School photo 01

As an example, I enrolled in this college near Los Angeles: Advance Beauty College

They teach in English and partly in Vietnamese, by the way. At that time, I didn’t understand English very well and didn’t understand Vietnamese at all. I was able to make it work, however, and I am very grateful to them for their help in preparing for the state exam.

Here are some of the requirements to enroll in these schools:

  1. You must be at least 17 years old (some states allow 16-year-old students).
  2. Have a GED or high school diploma.
  3. Have a social security number (SSN).
  4. Have either a work permit, green card, or U.S. Citizenship.
  5. Apply and pay the appropriate fees. The cost of tuition ranges from $1,500 to $8,000 depending on the school. The longer the course, the more expensive it will be. If you are considered low-income at the time of enrollment, your tuition may be completely free and covered by government grants. If you are low-income, state this at the time of enrollment and your school will help you to find out if you qualify for a grant.

Most manicure programs require an average of 300 to 600 hours to complete. In California, starting Jan. 1, 2022, you will need 400 hours of classroom instruction and will need to pass a state written exam. In Florida, the curriculum is 180 hours without an exam. In New York State, it is 250 hours and an exam, which is divided into a written and a practical portion.

In my case, I attended a college in California two days a week for 8 hours each day, from 8 AM to 5 PM. Fortunately, our school allowed us to set our own schedule, with a minimum of 16 hours a week. This flexibility was convenient for me because on the other days of the week I could work and earn a little money. In the end, it took me almost 7 months to complete the course. I then waited another two months to be called for an exam.

Can I avoid going to school?

Yes, you can. If you moved from another country and you have the necessary education and experience as a nail technician, you have the right to immediately apply for the exams, but you must provide evidence that you meet the minimum hour/experience requirements.

For example, a lease agreement of a beauty salon you owned or a salon where you worked, employment records, reviews on the Internet, or a certificate of course completion with required training hours. If the certificate of course completion does not list the hours of training received, then three months of work is equated to 100 hours of training.

All documents must be translated into English and submitted to the same place where you are going to take the exam. Once again, these are the requirements for California, so if you live in a different state, please check with your local licensing authorities.

Nail Technician License

After you graduate, if your state requires you to take an exam, your teachers will help you apply for it. The exam will not be given at your school but at a state institution. Although most states only require you to take a written exam, some also require you to take a practical exam. If you do not pass the exam the first time, you can always retake it.

I passed the exam the second time around! I failed the practical portion and had to retake it.

If English is not your native language, and you are worried about understanding the questions in the exam, you have the right to bring an interpreter with you. Make sure to ask your college in advance about the right way to do this! In most cases, you will usually receive your License either right after the exam or later in the mail.

Nail Technician License photo 01

The license is issued for 12 months to three years and requires renewal when it expires. In most cases, this can be done online by paying renewal fees. If the license has expired and is not renewed by the deadline, you will have to retake the exam.

My private training courses

I can teach you how to do a manicure that clients are willing to pay you $100 an hour for. I can also share my experience on how to start a business from scratch, what paperwork is needed, how to find regular customers, and what equipment and materials you will need. The training is offered at my studio in Huntington Beach, California. To learn more, click on Training. The length of training will depend on your needs since each course is tailored to the individual.

Now you know what it takes to get a license. Don’t be afraid of the issues that may arise! Thousands of manicurists have proven that it can be done. I’m sure you will succeed! Dial up a little patience and very soon you’ll be able to hang on your workplace a cherished plate – your very own manicurist license!

Truly yours,


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