Manicurists need a steady hand and creative flair to keep fingertips fashionable and toes twinkling, but it's not all just picking polish. As with other personal care workers, manicurists are part fashion consultant, part therapist. You'll be listening to personal problems and juicy gossip all while creating tiny works of art with itty-bitty brushes, so being a people person is important. If you've worked in customer service before and you can't imagine holding hands with your worst customer for 15 minutes straight, with no possibility of escape, you may want to reconsider this one.
Most manicurists sit for the majority of their shift; this can be a relief for people used to standing for eight hours at a time, but keep in mind that it can be tough on your neck and back to bend over all day making manicure magic. If you are especially sensitive to fumes and chemicals you may also have trouble with the work environment; while many beauty salons are well ventilated, you will still be working closely with some seriously smelly polishes and potions all day long.
Job skills & requirements
License: Most states have individual licensing requirements for personal care professionals. Check with a local employer or cosmetology school to see what is required in your area.
Education: You can get additional certifications and training above any basic license required by your state, and this additional experience usually makes you a more desirable employee for upscale salons and translates to higher-paying jobs. Most areas have a local cosmetology school, beauty school or trade classes in personal care.
Endurance: This job includes sitting in the same position most of the day. You'll have breaks between clients to move and stretch, but if an old back injury or other physical condition prevents you from sitting comfortably with your neck bent, you may want to consider another career.
People skills: Everyone has their share of grumpy clients, and you will need to smile graciously, take them by the hand and make their nails look fabulous while they complain about their lives, the weather and possibly your services. If you have a short fuse or an unruly temper, this might not be the gig for you.
Fashion sense: Some clients know what they want; others will want you to offer suggestions on the color they'll be sporting for the next week or two. So if you like to keep up with trends and fashion, you'll be well-positioned to pair your customers with the perfect polish at every appointment.
Many manicurists work 40 or more hours per week. Salons are frequently open during the workday and well into the evening - when the nine-to-five crowd has time to sit down and relax.
Dress the Part:
Some employers distribute uniforms; others have a standard dress code you will be asked to follow. For interviews, arrive looking professional. A suit or dress slacks paired with a nice shirt is a sure bet for almost any interview. Black is usually a safe color to wear for salons, many rely on an all-black or mostly-black wardrobe as part of their employee dress guidelines.
“Sitting down and painting fingernails? This will be easy.”
If you still think manicurists have it made, reread the job description. Sure, there's a good chance you'll be seated in a pleasant environment with quietly chatting customers, but those perks come packaged with chemicals in the air, constantly bending over and being up close and personal with each and every client. It's a great job, but it's healthy to recognize the good with the bad before you get started. On the other hand, if you've taken a realistic look at what being a manicurist entails and you still have a passion for polish, what are you waiting for?
- Cosmetologist (Averages $22,760/year)
- Shampooer (Averages $18,270/year)
- Opportunities for self-employment
- Flexible schedule
See all job descriptions