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Discover the Difference: Manicurist vs Nail Technician

By Remington College Posted April 7th, 2023

Do you have a creative flair, love keeping up with fashion trends, and enjoy working with people? Can you work with your hands to complete tiny artistic designs?

Perhaps you are already considering becoming a manicurist or a nail technician - both of which are roles where you might help your clients to feel more beautiful and express their own creativity through your artistry and skills.

Becoming a nail technician or manicurist may be the rewarding opportunity you are seeking. 'According to a survey by Nails Magazine, most nail technicians listed meeting new people, helping others, and using their creativity as favorite parts of their work.

Remington College Cosmetology Program

The Biggest Difference Between the Two 

Manicurists and nail technicians are two distinct professions that both involve working with the nails. Manicurists focus on providing basic nail care services, such as filing, buffing, and polishing nails. Nail technicians specialize in more advanced treatments like applying acrylics or gels to create beautiful designs for clients.

What is a Nail Technician?

Nail technicians beautify clients' hands and feet through cosmetic treatments. Their duties include:

Nail technicians may work full-time or flexible part-time shifts.

What is a Manicurist?

"Manicurist" is sometimes used interchangeably with "nail technician." Like nail technicians, manicurists are licensed professionals. Most states require nail technicians to pass an exam and complete a training program, 'apprenticeship’, or both.

Manicurists may perform 'a wide variety of hand and feet grooming procedures. For example, he or she may perform hand, feet, and lower leg massages and may use 'gels, acrylics, applying extensions, tips, and wraps.

Many manicurists own their own salons. These manicurists must also manage a business. ‘Their income is based on their ability to manage the salon profitably.

Education Requirements for Manicurists

Manicurists are responsible for providing nail care services to clients, such as filing and polishing nails, applying artificial nails, and performing hand massages. To become a manicurist in the United States, there are two main educational paths: completing a cosmetology program or taking specialized courses in manicuring.

Cosmetology programs cover all aspects of beauty treatments including hair styling, skin care, makeup application and nail artistry. Depending on the state you live in these programs can range from 600 hours up to 2000 hours of study with both theory-based learning and practical training. Upon completion of the coursework, pupils will be granted their permit to act as a professional cosmetologist or manicurist in most states.

Specialized courses offer an alternative route into becoming a qualified manicurist without having to complete a full cosmetology program. These courses typically focus solely on teaching students about caring for hands and feet through proper technique for filing nails correctly, how to apply artificial nails safely as well as other treatments such as gel polish application or paraffin waxing treatments. Upon completion of these classes many states require additional certification exams before granting licensure that must be renewed every few years depending on individual state requirements.

In addition to any required education or certifications some employers may also ask potential candidates have prior experience working with customers or within salons, so they understand how customer service works within this environment before starting work independently themselves. This type of knowledge is often gained through apprenticeships under experienced professionals who can provide guidance while allowing new technicians to learn by doing during real client appointments rather than just studying from books alone.

Manicurists must complete a cosmetology program that includes instruction in manicuring and nail care, so they are able to perform the necessary services safely. On the other hand, Nail Technicians require more specialized training since their job involves additional skills such as acrylics application or gel nails.

Education Requirements for Nail Technicians

Desiring to work with nails is not enough for one to become a nail technician; there are educational demands that must be fulfilled. To become a nail technician, educational requirements must be met, such as completion of an accredited cosmetology program or specialized courses in nail technology from an approved school. Generally, the first step is completing an accredited cosmetology program or specialized courses in nail technology from an approved school. These programs typically last around one year and provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary for working in the field of manicures and pedicures.

In order to practice as a nail technician, obtaining licensure is essential and each state has its own process for it. Generally, this involves sitting an exam that tests knowledge in areas such as safety protocols, sanitation practices, anatomy of the hands and feet, product chemistry details and disorders associated with nails or skin care techniques used when providing services like manicures or pedicures. To ensure one can hit the ground running professionally without any hiccups due to lack of compliance with requirements from relevant authorities - be sure you are fully versed on these matters beforehand.

Beyond basic licensing requirements some states may also require additional certifications depending on what type of services you want to offer your clients such as acrylics or gel nails extensions. Additionally, many employers may prefer applicants who have completed additional training beyond what is required by law such as advanced classes in spa treatments like paraffin waxing or reflexology massage which may help increase job opportunities available once you become licensed.

Nail technicians require a variety of certifications and licenses to practice their craft, making it important for prospective nail techs to understand the requirements before beginning their journey. Once the proper qualifications are fulfilled, this line of work offers a range of opportunities for those who have devoted themselves to developing their abilities and meeting all required standards.

Career Opportunities

Manicurists and nail technicians have many career opportunities available to them. Working in a salon or spa is the most common option for those with this profession, but there are also freelance positions that can be taken advantage of. Salons typically offer manicures, pedicures, artificial nails, nail art designs and more. In these salons, manicurists may work as independent contractors or on staff as an employee. Manicurists must remain knowledgeable of the newest styles and methods to ensure they can deliver quality service.

Nail technicians often have more specialized skills than manicurists do due to their higher level of training and certification requirements. Nail technicians often possess more specialized abilities than manicurists, such as providing medical-grade treatments for skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema and executing intricate services like sculptured nails and 3D nail art designs. Nail technicians may also perform advanced services such as sculptured nails and 3D nail art designs which require additional skill sets not found among basic manicurists.


No matter the option you decide on, becoming a manicurist or nail technician may be an immensely fulfilling profession. With the right education and license requirements in place, it's possible to start your own business and make a living doing something that brings joy to others.

If you're interested in this field of work, take some time to research both options thoroughly before making any decisions so that you can determine what is best for your future as a manicurist vs nail technician.