Nail Technician School and License Requirements in Pennsylvania

Although people skills are an important part of being a successful manicurist, a steady hand and a sense of style are the most essential. As a nail technician you will be working with clients in nail spas and salons to provide the most stylish manicures, pedicures, and nail art, as well as other services including light hand or foot massages and foot bathing.

Enter Zip:

From Pittsburgh’s historic neighborhoods to Philadelphia’s business sector, the demand for nail technicians in Pennsylvania is steadily rising. Whether your clients are getting ready to attend the Blue Mountain Blues Festival or going to an event at the Kimmel Center in Philly, everyone loves to have gorgeous nails.

To work as a manicurist in Pennsylvania you will need to earn a nail technician license through the Pennsylvania State Board of Cosmetology. With dedication and talent you will have no trouble completing these steps as you work towards earning your license:

Graduate from a Licensed Manicurist School in Pennsylvania
Pass Pennsylvania’s Nail Technician Licensing Exam
Become Licensed through the Pennsylvania State Board of Cosmetology
Start Your New Career as a Nail Technician in Pennsylvania



Step 1. Graduate from a Licensed Manicurist School in Pennsylvania

One of the most important nail technician licensing requirements in Pennsylvania is education. For starters, to be eligible for a license in this field you must have at least a 10th grade education or equivalent.

You will also need to graduate from a state-licensed cosmetology school that offers nail technician training programs in Pennsylvania. You can find an instructional facility near you by conducting a search for licensed cosmetology schools through the Pennsylvania Department of State.

The manicurist courses you take at one of these schools must include at least 200 hours of instruction given over a timeframe of at least one month. Your classes will include theoretical learning from a textbook as well as hands-on practice to develop your real-life skills. Nail technician courses in Pennsylvania will include:

  • Sanitation, disinfection, and safety procedures
  • Basic manicuring and pedicuring
  • Attaching and shaping artificial nails
  • Nail art and advanced manicuring and pedicuring
  • State rules, regulations, and laws
  • Business development and professional ethics



Step 2. Pass Pennsylvania’s Nail Technician Licensing Exam

Once you have completed the 200 hour training requirement you will be eligible to register for the licensing exam. The Pennsylvania State Board of Cosmetology contracts the administration of its nail technician exam to the testing company Pearson VUE. This means you need to apply for your exam by submitting an Application for Professional Licensure by Examination to:

Pearson VUE
c/o Dasher, Inc.
PO Box 1652
Harrisburg, PA 17105-1652

This application to take the nail technician exam will also serve as your application for licensure with the State Board of Cosmetology. While completing the application you will have the option to indicate if you would like to also apply for a temporary non-renewable permit that will allow you to practice as a manicurist until you take your exams and receive a full license. However if you fail the exam this temporary permit becomes invalid.

The nail technician exam itself is a combined theory and practical test taken entirely on a computer. This will evaluate your understanding of the following subjects:

  • Nail enhancements
  • Nail analysis and structure
  • Professional nail services
  • Manicures and pedicures
  • Cuticle trimming
  • Acrylic overlay
  • Nail polish application
  • Nail tip application
  • Nail buffing, shaping, and polishing
  • Regulations, rules, and safety



Step 3. Become Licensed through the Pennsylvania State Board of Cosmetology

Once you have completed your testing and manicurist school requirements you will be ready for licensure as a nail technician in Pennsylvania. As an in-state candidate you will have already submitted your application for licensure with Pearson VUE, who will forward your application and testing results to the Pennsylvania State Board of Cosmetology for processing.

Out-of-State Applicants

If you are a nail technician already licensed in a different state you will need to meet the manicurist license requirements in Pennsylvania for reciprocity. You can qualify for this by meeting the following conditions:

  • Being currently licensed as a manicurist in your home state
  • Having at least two years of professional work experience
  • Being from a state that has a reciprocity agreement with Pennsylvania for nail technicians

Once you determine that you qualify for a nail technician license in Pennsylvania through reciprocity you can fill out an Application for Licensure and submit this directly to the State Board of Cosmetology in Harrisburg.

There are 14 states that do not have a reciprocity agreement for nail technicians with Pennsylvania:

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • West Virginia

If you do not qualify for reciprocity you will need to take Pennsylvania’s nail technician exam through Pearson VUE.



Step 4. Start Your New Career as a Nail Technician in Pennsylvania

Once you have earned your manicurist license you can begin applying for nail technician jobs throughout Pennsylvania. By the most recent count there were 2,390 professional nail technicians operating throughout the state:

  • 1,380 in the Philadelphia metropolitan area
  • 963 in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area
  • 140 in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton metropolitan area
  • 86 in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area
  • 66 in Reading
  • 50 in the York-Hanover area
  • 47 in Erie

As you begin the search for manicurist jobs in Pennsylvania keep in mind that the nail technician job description can vary from establishment to establishment. Some places may cater to a broad base of clientele as a day spa or multi-service cosmetology salon, while other businesses may specialize exclusively in nails.

Starting off in your new career, you may need to hone your skills and make a name for yourself before being able to work in big name spas or nail salons with an established reputation:

You will need to renew your nail technician license with the State Board of Cosmetology every two years. As you become a more experienced manicurist you can also begin to think about opening up your own studio or spa. Once you reach this point you will be well on your way to understanding the business side of the salon industry and developing a loyal base of clients.

For more resources about nail technology in Pennsylvania and cosmetology in general, you can check with the PA Barber and Cosmetology Association.

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