Nail Technician School and License Requirements in Iowa

Can you imagine a job that expects you to be on the cutting edge of fashion trends and that involves using your talent and creativity to make your clients feel good about themselves?

Enter Zip:

To begin your pursuit of a nail technician license, you’ll start by becoming familiar with the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences. The Board has different exam and education standards for cosmetologists, electrologists, estheticians, and nail technologists. As a nail technologist, you will have the opportunity to specialize in the health and beautifying process of nails.

For guidance on how to meet the nail technician license requirements in Iowa, follow this simple guide:

Fulfill Education Requirements
Pass National Exams
Submit an Application to the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences
Look for Work and Keep your License Current



Step 1. Fulfill Education Requirements

Nail technician school is a fun and exciting way to learn about the salon industry. You will learn the technical side of manicuring and pedicuring, along with the theory behind your work. Nail technician school will involve taking courses such as:

  • Bacteriology and Infection Control
  • Salon Ecology
  • Microbiology
  • Safety
  • Sanitation
  • State Law
  • First Aid
  • Product Knowledge
  • Natural Nail Services
  • Manicure and Pedicure Consultations
  • Gel Manicures and Pedicures
  • Stone Manicures and Pedicures
  • Advanced Nail Art
  • Inspiration Nails
  • Aromatherapy
  • Reflexology
  • Wraps
  • Overlays
  • Sculpts
  • Salon Business, Retail Sales, and Employment Information
  • Business Plan
  • License Requirements
  • Communication
  • Seeking Employment
  • Mentoring
  • Advertising
  • Financial Planning
  • Salon Interviewing
  • Marketing
  • Networking
  • Salon Insurance
  • Client Retention

Many schools will offer continuing education, where you can stay on top of all the new nail trends and techniques. Continuing your education is a great way to network with other manicurists, to stay in-the-know, to refine your skills, and to impress both your clients and your employer.

If you completed a Board-approved school program, you will ask your school to send a copy of your transcripts or diploma directly to the Board. However, if you completed manicurist license courses that were not Board-approved, you will need to have your school provide a transcript to ensure that each course meets the Board’s standards.



Step 2. Pass National Exams

You will need to pass the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology (NIC) exam. You will register directly with NIC for this service. NIC offers both a written and a practical exam.


The written exam Candidate Information Bulletin will explain everything you need to know about the exam—from what specifically is on the exam to a sample guide with sample exam questions. The written exam is about ninety (90) minutes long and will test your knowledge on the following subjects:

  • Scientific Concepts
  • Infection Control
  • Bacteria and Virus Spreading
  • Fungi Spreading
  • Methods of Sanitation, Disinfection, and Dispensing
  • OSHA Safety Procedures
  • Basic Human Anatomy
  • Anatomy of the Skin
  • Anatomy of Nails
  • Basic Chemistry (as it relates to nail product chemical reactions)
  • Understanding Products (including antiseptic, brush cleaners, exfoliates, cuticle cream/oil, gel, monomer, polymer, etc.)
  • Client Consultation
  • Nail Assessment
  • Service Recommendations and Documentation
  • Removing and Pushing Cuticles
  • Removing Nail Polish, etc.


The practical exam is a longer exam that focuses on your physical ability to actually perform manicurist services. The manicurist exam Candidate Information Bulletin explains exam instructions, what you should bring to the exam, and outlines the script you will follow in your exam. The practical exam focuses on six core domains:

  • Set up and Client Protection
  • Manicure
  • Nail Top
  • Nail Wrap
  • Sculptured Nail
  • Polish

You will need to pass both of these exams with a score of 75% or higher in order to be eligible for application.



Step 3. Submit an Application to the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences

The last step before you become a licensed manicurist in Iowa is submitting your application materials! Complete the following steps in order to submit your license:

  • Submit Application
  • Submit $60 Fee
  • Provide Official School Transcripts
  • Submit Official NIC exam scores

License by Endorsement

If you have held an active license in another state for at least twelve (12) of the past twenty-four (24) months, then you can apply for a license by endorsement. You will need to provide the following documentation:

  • Application
  • License Fee
  • Proof of nail technician license (sent directly from the previous Board which licensed you)
  • Proof of successful passing of the National theory exam

You can submit all application materials, if you don’t do it online, to the following Board address:

Bureau of Professional Licensure
Iowa Department of Public Health
Lucas State Office Bldg., 5th Floor
321 East 12th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319-0075
Phone (515) 281-0254



Step 4. Look for Work and Keep your License Current

As a manicurist, you will often have the luxury of setting your own schedule. Many manicurists get to choose between part-time and full-time work, and along with this, you may even have the ability to work from home or open your own booth.

When looking to land a nail technician job in Iowa, you may consider these salons:

  • Best Nails – Dubuque
  • Salon Aria + Spa – Davenport
  • Jiva Salonspa – Cedar Falls
  • Twin Image Salon Spa – Iowa City
  • Sahars – West Des Moins

Also, you can consider becoming a member of the Cosmetologists and Barbers of Iowa Association, which allows licensed nail technicians to apply for membership. This type of association will widen your possibilities, giving you networking, continuing education, and continuing education opportunities.

All licenses expire on March 31st every two years. You must renew your license on this biennial basis. The Board will send you a notification of your need to renew. You will need to submit the renewal form, the $60 fee.

The Board does not require you to complete continuing education courses in order to renew your license. However, continuing education will serve you well, as it will keep you up to date on the latest nail technician techniques. Consider looking for continuing education courses at the nail technology school you attended in order to keep pleasing your clients and impressing you employer.

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