What is the Difference Between a Manicurist and a Nail Technician?


What is the difference between a manicurist and a nail technician? Many people are asking this question because both professions sound great, but they don’t know if they are the same thing or not.

The Key Differences Between a Manicurist and a Nail Technician

To better understand what is required of a manicurist as opposed to a nail technician (and vice versa) it’s important that we analyze the role of each:

Nail Technician Duties

A nail technician trims, cleans, and polishes toenails and fingernails. They also can put on fake fingernails and toenails with professionalism. Consider your own fingernails. What do you do with them? Typically you will:

  • Remove old nail polish
  • Cut and trim nails
  • Shape and buff them
  • Apply a base-coat of nail polish
  • Apply 2-3 coats of color
  • Apply a top coat of nail polish

Manicurist Duties

A manicurist will do the same duties as a nail technician. A manicurist also does waxes, including bikini wax and Brazilian wax, along with removing hair from any area of the body properly and safely. They can also shape eyebrows.

How to Become a Nail Technician

In most cases you will need a beauty school education to be a nail tech or manicurist and most companies and states require a license. If you are lucky enough to find a position without going through the usual channels, great, but the simple fact is that this is a growing field, so being able to leverage your beauty school education is a definite plus. If you want to learn more about the benefits of going to nail technician school, read here.

For more info on how to choose a nail technician school, check out our blog on the topic.

How to Become a Manicurist

The first step is to obtain your high school diploma or equivalent. Then you will want to search for a cosmetology school that is licensed. These are easy to find in most states.

Next, you will need to complete a manicurist course at the school. Each state has different course requirements, so consider searching for that information to talk to the school of your choice; they should be able to help you.

How Long Does an Education Take?

Again, the length of the course work will vary depending on your state. Some states only require 200 hours, while some require 600 hours of course work (about three months). Most courses will include practical training as well as classroom learning.

Are There Any Exams to Become Licensed?

Yes, there is a licensing exam that will need to be passed before you are considered a licensed manicurist or nail tech. However, most schools are able to give this test right at the school. Contact the school of your choice to find out more about licensing exams.

How Do I Know a Nail Service Career is For Me?

You should like to do certain things, like:

Knowing the difference between a manicurist and a nail technician is the best way to know which type of education you will need. In some states, a license is required for both positions. In others, it may not be. Always check out your local laws, and contact the school you are considering to find out more about what would be required of you.

Does becoming a nail technician sound good to you? Check out our program for more info!

For more reading on getting a nail technician license, see these blog posts:

Frank Trieu
Vice President of Business Development & Industry Relations

Frank Trieu is a cosmetology industry leader, and despite his accomplishments and accolades, he still prioritizes students on the Evergreen campus. Through building relationships within the community and local salons, retail stores, and spas, he helps facilitate job placements for aspiring beauty professionals using his expansive network.

Happy Evergreen Beauty College Students


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10 years ago

are you saying nail tech don’t require a lic?
manicurist can’t wax if they don’t have lic for waxing.
where do you get your information

10 years ago
Reply to  robin

Nail Tech’s do require a license. Nail Tech and Manicurists gets used interchangeably. Every state varies on the requirements and the scope they are able to practice. For example, in Washington state, a Manicurist License (used to be called Nail Technician license but changes as years go on back a forth and beginning to be used interchangeably) requires 600 hrs and does not allow for waxing services whereas in Utah, they do allow waxing services to be performed. The best recommendation is always check with the Department of Licensing for each state. I think Sam is providing a larger scope for everyone exploring this industry. Feel free to reach out to our admissions counselor if you need help in finding resources to get clarity on this information.

3 years ago
Reply to  robin

I agree
Nail techs can’t do their jobs without a lic

Katarina Alexandria Flynn
Katarina Alexandria Flynn
3 years ago

Not sure where you obtained your information, but a Manicurist is neither trained or licensed in ANY state to initiate wax removal, that is SOLELY reserved for either an Esthetician or a Cosmetologist..I know as I am a licensed Esthetician in CA and have studied as a Make-up Artist and am now attending school to obtain my manicurist license. You are allowed to massage the hands and feet along with general nail duties, but that is the extent of it as a Manicurist. Your information is COMPLETELY wrong.

Sarah Landeta-soto
Sarah Landeta-soto
3 years ago

I got my nail artistry technician certificate is that the same as the license or do I have to go and get license to?

2 months ago

A manicurist is just straight up someone that does nails. Plays with paint.