Nail Technician School and License Requirements in Washington

Manicurists in Washington State will find a higher-than-average salary and enjoyable clients whether they are working on Capitol Hill in Seattle or near Riverfront Park in Spokane. In fact, Olympia offers the highest average annual salary for manicurists of any city in the nation. The greater Seattle metropolitan area is home to one of the highest number of manicurists in the country.

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To become a nail technician in Washington you will need to work with the Washington State Department of Licensing. You can earn your license after completing these steps:

Complete a Manicurist Education Program
Pass the Written and Practical Manicurist Examinations
Apply for your Manicurist License
Start your New Career as a Manicurist in Washington



Step 1. Complete a Manicurist Education Program

To be eligible for licensure as a manicurist in Washington you must be at least 17 years old and complete an approved manicurist education program. This will include a meticulous study of the following subjects:

  • Manicuring and pedicuring theory
  • Business practices and professional ethics
  • Artificial nails including silk, linen, fiberglass, acrylic, gel, and powder
  • The extension, sculpting, preparation, application, finish and removal of artificial nails
  • Cleaning, shaping, and polishing nails of the hands and feet
  • Cuticle treatments
  • Storage, sanitation, and disinfection
  • Disorders and diseases of human hands and feet
  • Safety in regards to chemicals, chemical storage, and electrical appliances
  • Emergency first aid for manicures and pedicures

There are two recognized routes through which you can complete your initial training in Washington:

Manicurist Schools

If you choose this route you will need to graduate from a manicurist school that is approved and licensed by the Washington State Department of Licensing. Furthermore your school must include at least 600 hours of courses covering the foundational nail technician subjects.

You can find licensed manicurist schools by conducting a search on the Department of Licensing’s webpage. Look for the “Cosmetologist, Barber, Manicurist, Esthetician.” Once you do a search for this you can narrow the results by checking the box marked “Manicurist” under the Postsecondary School heading.

There are over 50 licensed and actively operating manicurist schools throughout Washington, including:

  • 7 in Seattle
  • 5 in Spokane
  • 3 in Bellevue
  • 3 in Yakima
  • 2 in Tacoma
  • 1 in Vancouver

Manicurist Apprenticeship

You also have the option of completing a manicurist apprenticeship program. This will involve 800 hours of training and study. If you choose to pursue an apprenticeship you can work as a paid employee while you complete your education. However states outside of Washington may not recognize apprenticeship training should you ever try and apply for a reciprocal license to work as a nail technician in another state.



Step 2. Pass the Written and Practical Manicurist Examinations

Once you have completed your manicurist school requirements you will be eligible to register for your two required tests, the manicurist written and practical examinations. These are both administered by the company Ergometrics & Applied Personnel Research in coordination with the National Testing Network (NTN).

Once you complete your nail technician education your school or apprentice instructor will submit your academic information to Ergometrics-NTN. This company will then issue you a temporary username and password you can use to create an online account with Ergometrics-NTN. You can register for both your required exams through this account.

You will find valuable information to help you prepare for your exams in the Ergometrics-NTN Manicurist Exam Preparation Guide for Washington State.

Manicurist Written Examination

You will have 90 minutes to complete your written exam, which will evaluate your nail technician knowledge with questions on the following subjects:

  • Safety and infection control procedures
  • Anatomy and physiology of the human body and nails
  • Nail product functions and chemistry
  • Client consultation and documentation
  • Nail technology tools and equipment
  • Sanitation and disinfection
  • Manicures and pedicures
  • Nail enhancements
  • Basic massage

You can take the written exam at testing centers located in:

  • Vancouver
  • Spokane
  • Olympia
  • Everett
  • Pasco
  • Wenatchee
  • Yakima

Manicurist Practical Examination

You will have 100 minutes to complete your practical exam. Check the Manicurist Exam Preparation Guide for a list of items you will need to bring with you, such as a mannequin hand and supply kit. For this exam an observer will evaluate your performance of the following six procedures:

  • Set up and client preparation – 10 minutes
  • Manicure – 20 minutes
  • Nail tip application – 20 minutes
  • Nail wrap procedure – 20 minutes
  • Sculptured nail application – 20 minutes
  • Nail polish application – 10 minutes

The practical exam is offered at two locations:

  • Fife near Tacoma
  • Spokane

The passing score on both examinations is 75 percent. Your exam results will be posted on your online account with Ergometrics-NTN within a week after completing the tests.



Step 3. Apply for your Manicurist License

Once you have passed your exams you can apply for your license and pay the licensing fee through your Ergometrics-NTN account. The company will in turn forward all your information to the Washington State Department of Licensing, which will process and issue your manicurist license.

Your license is valid for two years and can be renewed online or with a paper renewal application.

Out-of-State Nail Technicians

If you have completed the manicurist license requirements in another state and would like to become licensed in Washington you will need to submit a Reciprocity Application directly to the Washington Department of Licensing in Seattle.

You can be eligible for a license based on reciprocity if your home state’s nail technician license is in good standing and you have met equivalent requirements for your current out-of-state license:

  • You completed a manicurist education program
  • You passed a written or theory nail technician exam
  • You passed a practical nail technician exam

If you have not yet completed all of the required manicurist exams for Washington you will need to mark the “out-of-state” box on your application. The Department of Licensing will then evaluate your credentials and may provide you with the information you will need to register for any outstanding exams with Ergometrics-NTN.



Step 4. Start your New Career as a Manicurist in Washington

Holding a Washington State manicurist license will allow you to start off in your new career. You will find that the manicure job description can vary depending on the services that are offered at different establishments.

As you start out, it will be important to be flexible and well versed in all aspects of professional manicuring. Some of Washington’s hottest nail salons and spas include:

Once you reach a certain level of experience and professionalism as a manicurist you may also be interested in opening your own nail spa or salon. If this is your long-term goal you will need to do the following:

  • Get a business license from your local municipality
  • Sign up for a public liability insurance policy that covers at least $100,000
  • Fill out a Salon License Application

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