If your nails are more famous than your face on Instagram, or your friends are always “suggesting” you should give them a mani, maybe it’s time to take your relationship with nail art to the next level – by going to nail school.
You wouldn’t be the first nail blogger to take this path – Instagram-istas like Chelsea King (@chelseaqueen), Sarah Waite (@chalkboardnails), and Bana Jarjour (@banicured_) have all made the switch from doing nail art as a hobby to becoming licensed.
We talked to King and Waite to hear about what it actually takes to make the journey.
What made you decide to actually get your nail technician license?
King: “Getting my license was something on my mind for a while. At that point I had been blogging about nails for 2 years and I really wanted to take it to the next level. I had always wanted to go, but between my job and school I never thought I could find the right opportunity. After being laid off from my then job, it pushed me in that direction to go to school. It ended up working out perfectly!”
Waite: “I had been wanting to go to nail school for a long time when I found out about the Beauty Changes Lives scholarship for nail technology. I figured it couldn’t hurt to apply! Shortly after, I found out that I was one of the people selected. It was the perfect catalyst for me to pursue my dreams.”
How did you find and pick a nail school?
King: “After finding some options in my area, I went to take tours. Seeing how other students are working there is really important, because that could be you! Are they sitting around doing nothing? Do they look bored? You will want to be in a program that helps you learn! I also looked on Yelp to see online reviews of the school. Not only will you find some reviews from other students who attended that school, but you’ll also see reviews from clients who come into the school for a service. I thought it was interesting to see how a nail client felt getting their nails done, and if they had a good experience it shows that the students were taught well!”
Waite: “I used the Beauty CareerLink from the American Association of Cosmetology Schools to search for accredited schools in my area. There aren’t a lot of options in Arizona for nail-only schools (most schools only offered full cosmetology programs), but thankfully the school I ended up at provided a wonderful, high quality education.”
Is there a good website reference to start with?
King and Waite: “Go to your state’s Board of Cosmetology website and they should have a list of accredited schools and requirements in your area!”
(A list of each state’s website can be found here.)
How many hours of school did you have to do?
King: “In California, they require 400 hours of school before you can take a test to obtain your license. Every state is different…some require 250 hours and some require as many as 600. Also, some states require an apprenticeship! At the school I went to, you could do up to 40 hours a week which means you could finish in 10 weeks. I was able to be finished with school in a little over 3 months.”
Waite: “In Arizona, getting your nail technician’s license takes 600 hours of school. My program was considered full time, and we attended Tuesday-Friday for about five months.”
What are the first actual steps to getting licensed?
King: “The first thing I did was look up schools in my area. I scheduled a tour with one, but decided it wasn’t a great fit for me as I would have to wait a month before their nail program would start. I found another school nearby and went to check it out. I think it’s really important to go to the school and see what it’s like because you will be spending hundreds of hours there! I ended up deciding on the second school I looked at (Advance Beauty College in Garden Grove, CA) because their nail program started weekly so I could start right away. You will have to purchase a nail kit for school so after I enrolled, I had to get everything together. I was given the option to purchase a pre-made kit from the school or put together my own. I decided to put it together on my own because I already had specific products I liked and wanted to use them throughout school. I started school a few days later and the rest was history! 3 months later I finished and had my test date scheduled. After school is over, you have to practice for the test. I found a class through a test kit supplier, which really helped. In California, you are required to complete a multiple-choice test and also show them in person that you can do a manicure, tip application, acrylic, and apply polish. The most important part of the test is sanitation! I passed my test and am now officially licensed to do nails.”
Waite: “Once I decided to get my license, I had to choose a school. I emailed my school of choice to begin the enrollment process, which included putting down a deposit and providing a copy of my high school diploma. I didn’t have to do any back-to-school-shopping, as the products and materials we needed were included in our kits that the school provided.
“After I had completed my 600 hours of training, I registered with the state board to take the exams for my license. We are required to pass a multiple choice written exam as well as a live practical exam.”
Images: Chelsea King, Sarah Waite