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Nail Artist vs. Nail Technician: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Nail artists and nail technicians are both professionals who work with nails. Though they have some similarities, there are several key differences between the two. In this article, we discuss the differences between a nail artist and a nail technician, and we provide tips for choosing the right career for you.

What is a Nail Artist?

Nail Artists are specialized cosmetologists who beautify and embellish their clients’ nails. They start by shaping the nails, then they apply a base coat of polish. Once the base coat is dry, they apply the design, which can be anything from a solid color to an intricate pattern. After the design is complete, they apply a top coat of polish to protect the design and give it a glossy finish. Nail Artists often work in salons, spas or resorts. Some Nail Artists are self-employed and work from home or travel to their clients’ homes.

What is a Nail Technician?

Nail Technicians are licensed cosmetologists who specialize in the care of nails. They provide services such as manicures, pedicures, nail polish application, nail art, and nail extensions. They may also provide hand and foot massages. Nail Technicians must be able to work quickly and efficiently while providing high-quality services. They must also be able to upsell services and products to clients. Nail Technicians typically work in salons, spas, or nail bars. Some Nail Technicians may also work in retail settings such as department stores or beauty supply stores.

Nail Artist vs. Nail Technician

Here are the main differences between a nail artist and a nail technician.

Job Duties

One of the biggest differences between a nail artist and a nail technician is the type of job duties they have. Nail technicians often perform basic services like manicures and pedicures, but they may also offer more advanced treatments like gel or acrylic nails.

A nail artist creates unique designs for their clients. This can include creating full nail art designs or applying decals to give a client a personalized look. A nail artist may also do waxing services if their salon offers these additional beauty services.

Job Requirements

Nail artists and nail technicians typically need to complete a cosmetology program, which can take up to two years to finish. Some states also require professionals in this field to obtain a license before they can start working. The requirements for licensure vary by state but usually include passing an exam and completing a certain number of hours of training. After completing their education and licensure requirements, nail artists and nail technicians can start working in salons, spas or other similar businesses.

Work Environment

Nail artists and nail technicians work in different environments. Nail technicians typically work in salons, where they perform services for clients. They may also work in spas or other locations that provide nail care services.

Nail artists usually work in salons as well, but they often have their own studios where they can create custom designs for clients. Some nail artists may work on cruise ships or at special events to meet the needs of their customers.


Both nail artists and nail technicians use similar skills when performing their jobs, such as customer service, communication, and attention to detail. However, there are some key differences in the skills that each profession uses.

Nail artists typically have more of an artistic background and use their creativity to design unique nail art for their clients. They may also use their knowledge of color theory to create cohesive and eye-catching designs. In contrast, nail technicians focus more on the technical aspects of nails, such as shaping, polishing, and applying artificial nails. They often learn these skills through formal training programs or on-the-job experience.


Nail artists and nail technicians both work in the beauty industry, but they have different responsibilities. Nail artists are responsible for creating nail art designs, while nail technicians are responsible for providing manicures and pedicures. Nail artists earn an average salary of $42,551 per year, while nail technicians earn an average salary of $39,450 per year.


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