Nail Technician School and License Requirements in Tennessee

Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Martina McBride all have one thing in common: when they perform in Nashville they all have their nails done by the best manicurists in Tennessee. With dedication, artistic talent, and excellent people skills this could be you one day.

Enter Zip:

Tennessee pays the third-highest average manicurist salary of all states in the nation. The greater Nashville-Murfreesboro metro area offers the seventh-highest average manicurist salary of all metropolitan areas in the country – even topping LA, New York, Chicago, and Miami!

The nail technician job description in Tennessee describes a class of professional who performs nail artistry. To join the ranks of these detail-oriented artisans you will need to meet the licensing requirements set forth by the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners.

To get your career started you will need to complete these steps:

Graduate from an Approved Manicurist School in Tennessee
Pass your Manicurist Licensing Exams
Get your Tennessee Manicurist License
Start Manicuring and Pedicuring in your New Career



Step 1. Graduate from an Approved Manicurist School in Tennessee

If you are at least 16 years of age you can enroll in one of the many approved nail technician schools in Tennessee.

To qualify for a license, you must complete a series of manicurist courses that total at least 600 hours (18 credit hours) and include the following:

  • 150 hours or 4.5 credits on state law, sterilization, sanitation, ethics, and bacteriology
  • 100 hours or 3 credits on nail product ingredient knowledge and EPA/OSHA guidelines
  • 350 hours or 10.5 credits on massage, manicuring, pedicuring, nail artistry, wraps, tips, gels, sculptured nails, and nail safety

There are dozens of approved cosmetology schools throughout the state that offer the required curriculum of nail technician courses. When choosing among these programs you may want to compare factors such as cost, reputation, and location.

Once you have completed Tennessee’s manicurist school requirements you will be cleared to take the nail technician exams.



Step 2. Pass your Manicurist Licensing Exams

The Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners contracts the administration of your manicurist exams with the company PSI. Once you have completed your nail technician school requirements your education program will notify PSI that you are eligible for testing. PSI will then send you an email with information that you can use to schedule your exams through PSI’s website.

You can start preparing for your exams now by reviewing PSI’s Tennessee Manicurist Examination Candidate Information Bulletin. The two tests you must pass are:

Manicurist Theory Exam

You will have up to 90 minutes to complete the theory exam, which consists of 75 questions covering the subject areas of:

  • Sanitation, disinfection and safety – 14 questions
  • Client consultation – 12 questions
  • Manicure and pedicure – 14 questions
  • Nail warps and nail tips – 14 questions
  • Gel and acrylic nails – 14 questions
  • Licensing – 7 questions

You must provide the correct answers for at least 70 percent of the questions on the exam to pass. You can take the theory exam in the following cities:

  • Chattanooga
  • Jackson
  • Johnson City
  • Knoxville
  • Memphis
  • Nashville

Manicurist Practical Examination

The practical exam can take up to 130 minutes to complete. For this test you will need to bring a friend that is at least 16 years old to serve as a live model, as well as the required tools and manicure kit. More details can be found in the Candidate Information Bulletin.

The practical examination is comprised of the following tasks and must be performed in the order listed:

  • Set-up and disinfection – 10 minutes
  • Plain manicure on five unpolished nails of one hand – 20 minutes
  • Nail tip application on one nail of the manicured hand – 10 minutes
  • Nail wrap applied to the nail tip – 15 minutes
  • Sculptured nail application on one nail of the manicured hand – 15 minutes
  • Nail polish application to four fingernails of the manicured hand and French manicure polish application to one fingernail of the manicured hand – 15 minutes
  • Plain pedicure on all five toes of one foot with nail polish application – 30 minutes
  • Final disinfection procedures – 15 minutes

The passing score for this exam is also 70 percent, and you can take the practical exam in the cities of:

  • Memphis
  • Nashville
  • Knoxville



Step 3. Get Your Tennessee Manicurist License

Once you have passed both exams PSI will forward your final scores to the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners. At this point you will have met all the manicurist license requirements in Tennessee and once you pay a licensing fee to the Board you can receive your manicurist license.

Out-of-State Manicurists

You can be eligible for a manicurist license in Tennessee if you have a nail technician license in a different state once you meet these conditions:

  • You complete an Application for Reciprocity and submit this directly to the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barbering Examiners in Nashville
  • Your manicurist education program was at least 600 hours in length – if your education was less than 600 hours in length you can substitute for this by having at least five years of professional work experience as a manicurist
  • You complete the Tennessee Law Exam offered through PSI and any other outstanding written or practical manicurist examinations if these were not part of the nail technician license requirements in your home state

You will need to apply for any outstanding exams with PSI by completing a testing application. The Tennessee Law Exam covers the rules and regulations that pertain to nail technicians and cosmetologists in general. This is offered at the same testing locations as the Manicurist Theory Exam, lasts approximately 40 minutes, and is divided into two sections:

  • Licensing – 20 questions
  • Sanitation, disinfection, and safety – 5 questions



Step 4. Start Manicuring and Pedicuring in Your New Career

Once you have become a licensed manicurist through the Board of Cosmetology and Barbering Examiners you can start looking for nail technician jobs in Tennessee. This is the beginning of a potentially long and satisfying career where you will develop a loyal client base that will show off your artistry wherever they go.

While you will need to establish your reputation and hone your skills before you can work in the top salons in Nashville or Memphis, keep in mind that the owners of the most posh nail spas and salons also had to start with minimal experience:

As a creative artist your hard work and dedication will be rewarded with loyal customers who appreciate your talent. Ultimately you may even reach the point where you consider opening your own nail salon or spa.

While you research manicurist jobs in Tennessee you can find additional information from professional organizations such as:

You will need to renew your license one each year either online or by completing a renewal form.

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