Nail Technician School and License Requirements in Wisconsin

As a manicurist you will be an expert in your field, able to accommodate clients by performing everything from a hand massage to intricate nail decorations. You will work in a career that offers security, flexibility, and a chance for you to use your artistic skills as much as your people skills. If you’re good at what you do, you will be in demand among a diverse blend of clients, whether they’re going to a Bucks game in Bradley Center, a concert at Research Center, or simply want their nails to look elegant day to day.

Enter Zip:

Becoming a manicurist takes dedication and skill. The Wisconsin Cosmetology Examining Board and the state’s Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) are responsible for evaluating your credentials and issuing your manicurist license. To qualify for a license, make your way through these steps:

Complete Formal Manicurist Education and Training
Pass the Theory and Practical Manicurist Exams
Apply for your Manicurist License
Start your New Career Working with Nails in Wisconsin
Keep your License Current



Step 1. Complete Formal Manicurist Education and Training

Once you have earned a high school education you will be eligible to enroll in a nail technician education program. You can do this either through an approved manicurist school or by receiving your education directly from a professional in the field who is also licensed as an instructor.

In either case your curriculum will include at least 300 hours of coursework and training over a period of between 7-20 weeks. Your studies must include the following:

  • Introductory classes, consisting of business management, book-keeping, laws, regulations, ethics, and history – 36 theory hours
  • Bacteriology, sanitation, disinfection, and first aid – 10 theory hours and 25 practical hours
  • Anatomy and physiology – 18 theory hours and 8 practical hours
  • Nail and skin diseases and disorders – 24 theory hours and 10 practical hours
  • Manicuring, pedicuring, and nail enhancement – 24 theory hours and 112 practical hours
  • Introduction to advertising – 12 theory hours
  • Individual student needs and choices – 7 theory hours and 14 practical hours

In addition to the list of approved manicurist schools, you may also be able to find a nail technician program within an approved cosmetology school. Approved schools in Wisconsin offering manicurist training exclusively are located in the cities of:

  • Janesville
  • Madison
  • Cedarburg
  • Waukesh
  • Rice Lake
  • Mauston



Step 2. Pass the Theory and Practical Manicurist Exams

As you near the completion of your school requirements you will be eligible to register for the theory and practical manicurist exams. These are both administered by the company Pearson VUE. You can apply for these examinations through Pearson VUE’s website, and within three business days you will receive information that will allow you to schedule and pay for your exams online.

You can start preparing for these exams by reviewing Pearson VUE’s Wisconsin Candidate Handbook sections for manicurists.

Option for a Temporary License

Once you have scheduled your exams you can also apply for a temporary license through your online account with Pearson VUE. If you want to apply for this you will need to arrange for the provider of your education to submit a Certificate of Training to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) in Madison.

Manicurist Theory Exam

You will have 105 minutes to complete 75 multiple-choice test questions that cover the following topics:

You can take the theory exam at testing centers in any of these locations:

  • Brookfield
  • Eau Claire
  • Green Bay
  • Kenosha
  • Madison
  • Milwaukee
  • Wausau

Manicurist Practical Exam

You will have two hours to complete the practical exam. Consult the supplies list for the following procedures to know what materials you will need to bring with you. To pass this test you will need to successfully perform these services:

  • Safety and infection control
  • Basic manicure
  • Nail tip application
  • Polish application and removal
  • Artificial enhancements involving acrylics, natural nails, and an overlay with tip application

The practical exam is offered at these locations:

  • Appleton
  • Madison
  • Green Bay
  • Eau Claire
  • Milwaukee
  • Onalaska
  • Rice Lake
  • Wausau
  • Wisconsin Rapids



Step 3. Apply for your Manicurist License

Once you have passed your exams Pearson VUE will forward your results to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). Once DSPS has processed your results it will issue your license and send you an email. The email you receive will contain instructions on how you can log into the DSPS website and print your license. Once you have printed your license you will be free to begin your new career as a manicurist at any establishment in Wisconsin.

Out-of-State Applicants

You can be eligible for licensure based on reciprocity if you can show your home state’s license requirements were similar to those of Wisconsin. To do this you will need to provide the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) with proof of the following:

  • You have at least 4,000 hours of work experience as a licensed nail technician
  • You passed both a theory and practical nail technician exam
  • You are currently licensed as a nail technician in good standing in your home state

If you meet these three conditions you can submit an Application for Licensure by Endorsement.

If you do not meet these requirements you will need to complete the normal requirements for in-state applicants. You are permitted to register to complete your examinations before you complete the in-state education requirement.



Step 4. Start your New Career Painting Nails in Wisconsin

As you begin your search for manicurist jobs you can check out the employment opportunities available to you throughout Wisconsin. You will find that some businesses specialize in nails, while others are more generalized beauty spas that include nail treatments among other services. You may already be familiar with some of the state’s well known establishments like:



Step 5. Keep your License Current

As you pursue your career goals you will need to maintain your license. This will need to be renewed biannually by March 31st of odd-numbered years. You can renew your license online or by requesting a paper renewal application from the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). New renewal requirements now mandate that you must complete the following amounts of approved continuing education before you renew your license:

  • One hours of laws relating to the general field of cosmetology
  • Three hours of education relating to safety, sanitation, and infection control

You will eventually come to a point when you can decide if you want to take the next step in your career and open your own nail salon or spa. Once you have reached this stage you can consult the Establishment Application and the DSPS’s manicuring establishment webpage for information on how to get started.

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