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How to Choose a Nail School

Going to nail school was absolutely transformative for me. Not only was it fun (because it was SO fun!), but I learned a lot and made some wonderful connections. Whether or not you want to be a full time nail tech, nail school can be an amazing experience. Especially as a nail blogger, it only made sense that I should know on a professional level what I was talking about. A lot of people ask me how to choose a nail school – and moreover, how to decide to attend at all! I’m going to talk you through my process. You have to know the right questions to ask, what you should expect from nail school, and how much it’s going to cost you. This can be applied to other kinds of programs, too – for example, my friend is thinking about yoga teacher training. I think a full break down of questions like this could help you make that decision, too.

Nail school decisions: the questions to ask, how to pick, and how much to spend

How to decide to go to nail school:

Let’s start with the most overwhelming question. How should you decide to go to nail school in the first place? I was riddled with all sorts of worries – will I be the only person there older than 18? Will I be stigmatized for entering the beauty industry, when I have degrees, etc?

I ultimately decided that I wanted to go because it sounded fun! I just moved to a new city and didn’t have a job, which made the decision to attend much easier. If you do have a job, it is still possible to attend – you may just have to get creative with your schedule.

Deciding is tough – it’s a big life change, and that can be scary. Make a pros and cons list and think about how this will impact your life. Also important to remember: you’re not stuck or boxed in, and you can always try something new. The decision is in your hands – but I highly recommend this adventure.

What questions to ask:

Once you’ve decided that you want to go to nail school, you next have to figure out where you’ll go! Some people may be geographically limited, and that makes the decision much easier. Some people will have many options and need to pick from among several programs. Make a plan to visit each school you find so that you can ask the program administrator the questions you need to know in order to make your decision!

  1. Does the school offer nails only programs? Many schools will not offer a nails only program, but will include nails in the cosmetology program. For me, this was an easy answer. I knew I wanted a nails only program. However, you may be interested in cosmetology more generally, so this could be a fun option for you!
  2. What are the state required program hours, and how does state licensing work? You may be able to google this, and the information varies state by state. However, you’ll want to ask as you visit schools to make sure that they’re above board with local licensing agencies. Make sure they know the requirements!
  3. Is the program full or part time? So you can figure your schedule out! I went part time, but there were opportunities to get more hours completed on my own.
  4. How much does it cost, and are there any financial aid opportunities? I’ll get into how much you should plan to spend in the last section. If you’ll need helping paying for school, find out if they are nationally accredited and can offer financial aid.
  5. Is there a salon in the school, and if so, does it get much business? Or will you be allowed to do internships? This is pretty important. In addition to practicing on fellow students (which you will do), it’s really important to become comfortable providing services to strangers. Some schools have their own salons and walk-in traffic will allow you to get in some really good practice. My school had a salon, and also allowed us to do internships. This will vary by state law, so be sure to find out if you can apprentice somewhere.
  6. Will they give you any credit for the expertise you already possess? Find out if any college courses will count as credit (like biology or other life-sciences). If you’re a blogger, ask if they will give you credit for all the blogging work you do!
  7. How much does the kit cost, and what’s in it? Is it stuff you actually need, or a lot of extra? Is it good quality?
  8. Is the program age diverse? This turned out to be pretty important to me. My school had lots of different kinds of people attending, and I was not the only person with a masters degree! I got to spend time with people younger and older than me, and I think this really helped the environment feel welcoming and friendly. No cattiness allowed!
  9. How long have the instructors worked as professionals? Are any of them still working? You definitely want instructors who know what they’re talking about and are familiar with the field. If the instructors also still currently work in salons, you can trust that they’re more up to date with current trends and techniques.

And here’s a question to ask yourself:

Does the school seem nice? Is it clean? What does your gut tell you about this place? This actually matters, since you’ll have to spend a lot of time there!!

What it will cost:

This varies by state, since some programs require more hours. I can’t give you an exact figure for that reason – my 600 hour program most definitely was more expensive than a program that only requires 300 hours! Here are the things that will add up:

  • Tuition: This will probably be a few thousand dollars, though like I said above, it will vary by state, school, and hours required. You could be looking at anywhere from $2,000 – $10,000. Be sure to shop for prices, though, since it can vary so much by school.
  • Kit: Your kit should be considered a nail tech start up, and include all the things you will need to work in a salon or your own mobile business. Expect to pay $1,000 + for your kit
  • Books: My school required 2 books, but you may only need one. Expect to pay about $200 for your books

There can also be opportunities to earn some money while you’re in school, too!

  • Tips: Does the school salon allow you to keep tips? I made a decent amount in tips alone!
  • Pay: If you do an apprenticeship, you can get paid! In Colorado, apprentices have to earn less that what licensed professionals earn on the floor. Still, though, I made some nice commission while I was an apprentice.

Those are my nail school tips! Are you thinking about attending nail school? Are there any other questions you would add to this list?

Share this article

  • I honestly would love to go to nail school! But at this time, it’s just not feasible, unfortunately. If I ever am able to, I’m totally keeping these tips in mind. 🙂

  • Very informative post! While I’m not personally planning to make a career out of it I still find it so fun to learn about the process and stuff like this! 😀

  • Such a good and informative post! If I ever were to go to nail school this would definitely help me :).

  • Lola Seicento

    What a very informative post, and a definitely MUST READ for anyone considering going to nail school! Excellent!!!!!

  • Great information!

  • Thanks for sharing this!

  • I always have a lot of people IRL ask me about going to school for nails. One of my friends who owns a salon is always telling me I need to so I can work with her hah! I just worry I’d lose the love of doing my own if I made it a career.

    • Kate Wagner

      Talk to the teachers at a school near you and ask if that happened to them! Obviously everyone’s different, but if lots of people didn’t lose their personal love for it then I’d say it’s a safe bet that you wouldn’t, either.

    • It’s hard to know, when you turn a hobby into a career. My hubby just did it, too – and he’s having a ball!

  • This is such a good starter guide. I would also be sure to look at what each school offers as far as what techniques will be taught, and there may be some variance (such as 3D sculpting, or nail art, which may not be required to graduate but are still handy to know) and see how that factors into overall cost.

    • Such a good point! We did some nail art, but not really any 3D sculpting – I’ll have to teach myself!

  • MyBeautyJunction

    These are great tips!

  • Vic

    I’m totally jealous of your nail school experience. There’s nothing quite like it around near me.

  • Allison @neversaydiebeauty

    Very informative!

  • Jennifer Channell

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  • This was so helpful to see! I’ve always thought of attending a nail school but I’m still undecided if I still should. These questions are definitely something for me to think about.

  • Bailey_AlltheWords

    Great info! As much as I like nails and polish (and everything…) I don’t think I could ever do it as a career- it does sound fun though!

  • This is so interesting! So in depth. I know this series will help so many people in deciding!

  • I will most likely make nails my second career when I burn out on social work. I would love to be able to integrate social work and nails–sounds crazy but it would be great! Self-care, therapy, confidence… I should propose a study on its efficacy.

    • I actually think that’s a wonderful idea. I think that beauty is a great way to pamper people. Folks really end up trusting their practitioners, too.

  • Wow, there is a lot involved in nail school. It is amazing how much there is to learn, for good reason.

  • FabZilla_Kath

    It’s always good to better your craft. Great post for those wanting to nail it in the nail business 🙂

  • Kate Wagner

    I’ve sort of been mulling over the idea of nail tech school lately. I belong in the film industry and have a bachelor’s degree for that, but long story short that’s not happening for me right now. This post was quite helpful and honestly is making me lean towards making nail school happen for me! If nothing else, it would be fun and it’d get me out if the house.

  • This is such a great resource for those ladies interested in nail school! Great job Hannah!

  • This is a great post. 🙂 I don’t think I can handle nail school… I love painting my nails but my allergies would go nuts.

  • These are great posts! I’ve never seen anyone do something like it!

  • What a great and informative post! I always find it interesting reading about the nail school process 🙂

  • I’d love to take some nail courses, or even makeup courses. In Italy things are quite different though 🙁

  • Lothwen Akira

    Thank you for this! I will keep it in mind, if I ever get the opportunity to do this 😀

  • Great post! I was wondering, did they teach you to clip cuticles or just push them back? I always get strange looks from the nail techs here when I ask them to not clip mine and then try to convince me otherwise.

    • I think there’s a lot of mis-information out there about cuticle care. Of course, if your cuticles don’t need trimming, then that’s great! And in Colorado, it is against regulation to cut live skin, as that can lead to serious infection – your cuticles are a barrier that protect you from getting infection! However, it is totally ok to nip the dead skin (as long as you don’t trim too much off). So, long story short – yes, they did teach me to do that (and all of the industry text books agree). Some techs just chop the whole thing off, and that’s a no-no!

  • Ginny

    Hi! I’m in Denver as well, Littleton actually. May I ask what school you attended? My Texas nails license has been expired for 10 years or so (yeah, I’m old) but I’ve been wanting to go back and get licensed in CO. All the schools close to me are not English speaking…but I’m not opposed to driving a bit. Thanks so much, I appreciate you sharing!

  • Never considered going to nail school, but this is very informative and actually made me think of such possibility : ) Thank you!