Nail Technician with red hair preps client's nails for a manicure

How to Become a Nail Technician

In recent years, we’ve seen nail technicians, along with other beauty technicians, rise to influencer status.  Thanks to social media, among other things, nail artists finally earned the title they deserve – artists! This has caused many dabblers to wonder how to turn their hobby into a career.  If this sounds like you, follow these steps to learn how to become a licensed nail technician:

Nails by Atelier Student, Courtney Thompson, Instagram


Education matters when working in an industry that handles any part of the human body.  Not only do nail technicians need to know how to paint and apply nail extensions, they also need to be informed on anatomy, chemistry, hygiene, business, and customer relations. This is where a quality education comes in after completing high school or a GED.


Most cosmetology schools require a high school diploma or GED as a prerequisite to enter a nail technician program. If you’re anxious to get started, some high schools offer cosmetology courses that students interested in the profession can take.  

While high school cosmetology courses are not a requirement to become a nail technician, they can help to build a foundation in the industry and give you a chance to try out some skills before you commit to a nail profession.

Additionally, hours from a licensed high school program could potentially count toward your total hours needed to become a nail technician.  Ask the cosmetology course instructors before you start if the hours completed in high school could transfer to a future nail school.


Once graduated, you’re ready to apply for a nail technician program. This course consists of a combination of academic and hands-on education.  Topics of instruction include nail care, nail art, business, safety and sanitation, and state laws and rules

At the Atelier Academy of Beauty, our nail technician program takes a unique approach that provides flexibility and accessibility to those seeking a new career in beauty.  We combine online and in-person instruction so that our students can learn on their own time while also gaining quality skills.

The online portion of the program is self paced, and the in-person hours can be completed on a personalized schedule. We consider each student their own “class” so they can start their program whenever the time is right for them. 

Nail Program Outline  Phase 1  49 Hours Online Essentials  28 Hours In-Person Manicures + Pedicures with Natural, Gel Polish, French Polish and Spa Add-Ons  Phase 2  49 Hours Online Artificials  28 Hours In-Person Artificial Nails with Sculpture and Tip Applications  Phase 3  49 Hours Online Specialty  28 Hours In-Person  Specialty Services with E-File, Artificial Fills, Nail Art and Clinic Floor  Phase 4  49 Hours Online Business  70 Hours In-Person Practice and Perfection, Clinic Floor, and Skill Certification


The hours of education required to become a nail technician vary by state.  In Minnesota, students need 350 hours of education to qualify for a nail technician license.  Check here to see the specific hour requirements from your state.

Because of the unique flexibility of our program, The Atelier Academy has also enrolled students from surrounding states with similar hour requirements – such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska – who then return home to take their state’s licensing exams. 

Nails by Atelier Student, Valen Schmidt, Instagram


Along with completing your schooling, you have to take a series of tests in order to apply for a nail technician license.  Once you approach the end of school, you’ll be able to schedule these exams.  The Minnesota Board of Cosmetology requires the following:


The practical exam tests on the hands-on skills you learn during school such as manicures, nail application, and nail removal. Students perform these skills on a live model.  An instructor or examiner looks on and scores based on technique, safety and sanitation, and adherence of laws and rules. 


Theory exams consist of a series of tests that cover anatomy, chemistry, nail care, safety and sanitation, laws and rules, and scenarios. In Minnesota, there are three tests that take place at a third party testing facility or, as of recently, at home online. These tests include a general theory exam, a state exam, and a written practical exam

Nails by Atelier Student, Courtney Thompson, Instagram


After passing all the licensing exams, you’ll be ready to apply for your license.  The MN Board of Cosmetology has a convenient website to walk you through the required paperwork.

In order to apply, you need a completed application, an original course completion certificate from your school upon graduation, original passing results for the theory, state, and written practical exams, and the initial license fee.  The current initial license fee amount is listed on the application.

Once gathered, send or bring your application to the address listed on the application.  Typically, applications process within 15 business days.  After that, just wait for your license to come in the mail and for your licensing information to show up online!


Once you’ve received your license, you are ready to start a fulfilling career as a nail technician! Besides building your clientele and improving your skills, something you’ll want to keep in the back of your mind is how and when to renew your license.

Minnesota requires all practitioners to renew their license every 3 years by the last day of their birth month.  In order to renew, you need to accrue 8 hours of continuing education within the 3 years.

These continuing education hours must consist of 4 hours of core studies– 1 hours of laws and rules, 3 hours of health, safety, and infection control– along with 4 hours of professional practice studies– product chemistry, machine and instrument instruction, business management and human relation, or any techniques relevant to the type of license held. 


At the Atelier Academy of Beauty, we make earning your continuing education hours exceedingly simple.  Our continuing education courses can all be taken online, from the comfort of your own home. We offer individual 4 hour courses in core and professional education, or you can bundle them together to get the full 8 hours required for license renewal with all the necessary topics.

It should be noted that if you are licensed in one practice, you may only take classes that fall under the scope of your practice. For example, if you are a nail technician, you would not be eligible to take a course on hair.  Browse our course catalog to see which continuing education program suits your license.

Nails by Atelier Student, Courtney Thompson, Instagram


If you’re ready to kick start your nail technician career, we’d love to get your started!  Our nail program prepares students for real world success in elite salons and freelance work. Check out our Nail Program Page to get more information about our flexible program. When you’re ready to apply, fill out an application and follow the steps on the first page.

If you’d like to come tour our school and see if the Atelier is the right nail tech school for you, we’d love to have you!  Fill out a contact form and request a tour and we’ll get back to you promptly. 

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