A manicurist


Manicurists provide fingernail care. They clean, cut and shape the nails, remove cuticles and apply polish. Manicurists apply artificial fingernails and other decorative items on nails. They advice on nail and hand care and sell specialised products.

The duties of a manicurist include, but are not limited to:

  • Cleaning and sterilizing equipment and work stations according to federal, state, and local regulations
  • Applying nail polish or other nail enhancements to fingers and toes as specified by clients’ requests
  • Massaging hands and fingers with lotion or oil to improve circulation in hands and fingers, as well as to moisturize skin
  • Polishing nails with nail polish or other nail treatments, such as artificial nails made from fiberglass or acrylic
  • Applying nail polish remover or other products to remove old polish from fingernails or toenails
  • Buffing nail surfaces to smooth out rough edges and improve appearance
  • Cutting and trimming fingernails and toenails using clippers or scissors
  • Cleaning tools and work areas to prevent bacterial or fungal infections from spreading
  • Applying artificial nails that are made of materials such as vinyl, gel, or acrylic powder

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to manicurist:

nail technician
finger nail technician

Working conditions

Manicurists usually work in a nail salon, spa, or hair salon. The job involves a lot of sitting. A small number of manicurists make house calls, traveling to their clients’ locations to provide mobile services. However, mobile services may not be widely available.

Manicurists use chemicals when working on fingernails and toenails, so they often wear protective clothing such as gloves and masks.

Work Schedules

Most manicurists work full time, although part-time work is common. Schedules may vary and often include evenings and weekends. Some manicurists work more than 40 hours per week. Self-employed workers often set their own schedules.

Minimum qualifications

Most manicurists receive a high school diploma or equivalent before pursuing an education in cosmetology. Cosmetology programs are typically offered at community colleges and technical schools. These programs typically take six to nine months to complete and include both classroom and practical instruction. Students learn about nail anatomy, nail care, nail shaping, nail art, nail polish application, pedicure care, manicure care, manicure techniques, nail disorders, nail repair and nail removal.

Manicurists receive most of their training while completing their education. Students will learn the basics of the job while working with other students and practicing on fake nails. They will also learn how to clean and sterilize tools and how to properly file and buff nails.

Manicurists can also receive on-the-job training from their employers. They will learn how to use the salon’s products and how to perform different services. They will also learn how to interact with clients and how to handle any issues that may arise.

In some locations, manicurists are required to obtain a cosmetology license. The length of the manicurist license depends on the state, but most require completion of a basic manicure course.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Manicurist is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Manicurist career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to manicurist.

hair removal technician
tanning consultant
hairdresser assistant

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of manicurist. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of manicurist with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

body artist
life coach
massage therapist
wedding planner
cosmetics and perfume shop manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of manicurist.

  • Cosmetic manicure: Various elements of a manicure, such as the cutting and shaping of toe- or fingernails, removing excess callouses and cuticle around nails, and applying a protective or decorative coat of nail polish.
  • Cosmetic skin treatment: The aesthetic care of the skin, such as facials, including exfoliation, facial masks, peels, steam, and extraction.
  • Cosmetics: The various types of substances used to enhance the appearance of the human body.
  • Cosmetics industry: Suppliers, products and brands in the cosmetic industry.
  • Skin types: The different skin types, such as dry, normal, oily, and sensitive.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of manicurist.

  • Sterilise working environment: Make sure all working equipment, jewellery and skin is made sterile, before performing skin treatment or body modifications such as tattooing or piercing, to prevent infections or the transfer of diseases.
  • Work ergonomically: Apply ergonomy principles in the organisation of the workplace while manually handling equipment and materials.
  • Decorate nails: Use artificial nails, piercings, ornaments, or customised designs to decorate customers’ nails.
  • Maintain equipment: Regularly inspect and perform all required activities to maintain the equipment in functional order prior or after its use.
  • Treat nails: Wrap nails to repair them or make them stronger and more resilient. Soften, trim or push back nail cuticles and provide treatment to people who bite their nails.
  • Identify customer’s needs: Use appropriate questions and active listening in order to identify customer expectations, desires and requirements according to product and services.
  • Maintain customer service: Keep the highest possible customer service and make sure that the customer service is at all times performed in a professional way. Help customers or participants feel at ease and support special requirements.
  • Advise customers on usage of cosmetics: Provide advice to customers on how to apply various cosmetic products such as lotions, powders, nail polish or creams.
  • Conform to cosmetics regulatory requirements: Ensure conformance to regulatory requirements applied in personal care products such as cosmetics, fragrances and toiletry.
  • Shape nails: Shape nails by cutting and smoothening the ends of the nails, with the use of files, scissors or emery boards.
  • Apply nail polish: Remove previously applied nail polish, using liquid remover or swabs, clean customers’ nails and apply undercoat and clear or colored polish onto nails with brushes.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of manicurist. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Order supplies: Command products from relevant suppliers to get convenient and profitable products to purchase.
  • Give massages: Provide clients with head, hand, neck, facial or full body massages.
  • Test make-up: Perform routine tests to determine if make-up products are adequate.
  • Manage a small-to-medium business: Manage the organisational, financial and day-to-day operation of a small-to-medium enterprise.
  • Maintain relationship with suppliers: Build a lasting and meaningful relationship with suppliers and service providers in order to establish a positive, profitable and enduring collaboration, co-operation and contract negotiation.
  • Offer cosmetic beauty advice: Provide customers with advice and beauty tips for creating a new look.
  • Monitor stock level: Evaluate how much stock is used and determine what should be ordered.
  • Manufacture cosmetics: Prepare cosmetic products, possibly customised for customers with specific needs, such as lotions, soaps, face masks or salves.
  • Sell cosmetics: Sell a variety of cosmetic products such as lotions, soaps, lip sticks, hair removers, perfumes, tooth pastes, face masks, nail polisher and deodorants.
  • Maintain professional administration: File and organise professional administration documents comprehensively, keep customer records, fill in forms or log books and prepare documents about company-related matter.
  • Administer appointments: Accept, schedule and cancel appointments.
  • Recommend cosmetics to customers: Recommend and provide advice on cosmetic products based on the customer’s personal preferences and needs and on the different product types and brands available.
  • Keep personal administration: File and organise personal administration documents comprehensively.
  • Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
  • Perform body piercings: Puncture or cut parts of people’s bodies, to create an opening for jewellery or rings.
  • Show social competences: Ability to interact effectively with other people.
  • Process payments: Accept payments such as cash, credit cards and debit cards. Handle reimbursement in case of returns or administer vouchers and marketing instruments such as bonus cards or membership cards. Pay attention to safety and the protection of personal data.
  • Use hair removal techniques: Use techniques and handle tools to remove hair from body parts, such as electrolysis, IPL, waxing, lasering, threading or plucking.
  • Issue sales invoices: Prepare the invoice of goods sold or services provided, containing individual prices, the total charge, and the terms. Complete order processing for orders received via telephone, fax and internet and calculate the customer’s final bill.

ISCO group and title

5142 – Beauticians and related workers

  1. Manicurist – ESCO
  2. Manicurists and Pedicurists : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Manicurist Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
  4. Featured image: Photo by Artem Podrez
Last updated on November 22, 2022

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