Depending on whom you ask, there are either somewhere around 350,000 nail techs in the United States or 31,000 or 160,450. Which is correct? It depends on who you ask.
Depending on whom you ask, there are either somewhere around 350,000 nail techs in the United States (if you ask NAILS Magazine), or 31,000 nail techs (if you ask the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), or 160,450 if you refer to a study done by the NACCAS school association and published in The Green Book 2004. That’s quite a range, indeed. To make matters more confusing, if you counted all licensees who were allowed to do nail care (which is all cosmetologists in most states), you’d have a number that was several times higher than any of these figures. If you asked a state board how many nail techs they had licensed you’re likely to get a different number every time as well. You’re probably wondering who’s right. So why is this range so great?
We know from our research at NAILS — both formal and informal — that not all licensees practice. Some nail techs receive a license and never actually work in the field. In fact, we count on that fact when we develop our market projections about the size of the nail industry. So the real number could be considerably less than any of those estimates.
The U.S. government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which keeps track of jobs and all sorts of job-related information, has determined that there is great demand for new nail techs and that the nail industry is a hot growth area. However, they base their figures on the number of actual employees working in salons, not independent contractors or booth renters (who are considered business owners or self-employed). They also determine their figures based on unemployment insurance taxes paid. (Don’t get me started on whether that makes sense as a way of counting anyone in the salon industry, let alone nail technicians.)
Anyone in the know about the nail industry believes those figures are a gross underestimate.
The industry is transient and even when you have a reliable method of projecting the number of professionals, it is a fluid, ever-changing figure. The NACCAS study found that almost a quarter of salon professionals left one salon for another, surely another reason it’s hard to keep track of you all.
Regardless of whom you ask or when you ask, almost all sources say there are not enough nail techs and the demand for them is high and currently unfulfilled. What it adds up to is an industry still vibrant, growing, and evolving. What an opportunity for us all.