Nowadays it’s more important than ever to be well-prepared and ready to work in a salon environment after graduation. Besides knowing how to do nails it’s also essential to be equipped with savvy business skills, luckily for today’s would-be nail techs, several schools throughout the country - and abroad - are making a difference and care enough about their students to offer them the best education they can possibly get. They’re showing students the latest in nail technology and techniques, and preparing them to retail and offer outstanding customer service.

While this isn’t a ranking of the top 10 schools in the industry, these schools impressed us with their level of professionalism and focus just on nail curriculum. We made sure not to focus just on the big, well-known schools, but also on smaller, independently owned nails schools. And after reading about them, we think you’ll agree that they simply rock.

School: Tricoci University of Beauty Culture

Location: Chicago, Glendale Heights, Rockford, Ill., with more locations coming soon.

Founded: 2004 by brothers Mario and Franco Tricoci. Classes began in January 2005

Number of Instructors: More than 20

Number of Students: More than 200

Hours Offered in nail program: 350

Other programs offered: Cosmetology, esthetics

Why the nail program rocks: Nail students are trained to identify individual clients’ need and make recommendation.

“They’re taught to become professional nail technicians and not just trained for their state exam or a job,” says marketing manager Amanda Riske.

The well-known Tricoci brothers, who also own Mario Tricoci Hair Salon & Day Spa, are heavily involved in the education of the school’s students. Students work in top-of-the-line educational facilities with fully equipped classrooms containing state-of-the-art video equipment.

The school works exclusively with OPI and students have tools such as professional manicure station and high-tech massage spa pedicure chairs at their disposal. “We’re more customer service oriented than most other nail technology programs,” says Riske. “We strongly reinforce our five-star customer service.”

And just because the school is owned by salon owners doesn’t mean students don’t get to venture out. Field trips to different salons are taken and career-assistance recruiters come to talk to students about what to expect once they graduate.

School: School of Nail Technology

Location: Birmingham, Ala.

Founded: 2002 by Mona Lisa Poole-Cochran

Number of instructors: 2

Number of students: 10

Hours offered in nail program: 750

Why nail program rocks: The school has graduated 20 students since its inception, all of whom have passed their state board exam.

“One student is now educator for a major nail company and one is opening a spa in January 2006,” says Poole-Cochran. “Everyone else is working in salons.”

The school is located in the same house Pole-Cochran was born and grew up in. “I founded the school because it was something I always wanted to do and there was such a great need for a nail school in the Birmingham area,” she says.

Students get to work on clients in the school’s clinic, which is run the same way an upscale nail salon would be, with sanitation and disinfection strongly enforced.

One of the students’ first assignments is writing their short- and long-term goals, which helps them figure out their place in the professional nail industry. Once students graduate, the school assists them in finding a position in a salon that fits their lifestyle and personality.

School: Long Island Nail & Skin Care Institute

Location: Levittown, N.Y., location is Suffolk Country, N.Y., scheduled to open January 2006

Founded: 1996 by Dana Caruso

Number of instructors: 15

Number of students: more than 200

Hours offered in nail program: 250, post-graduate classes are offered for airbrush, gel enhancements, acrylic nails, and other spa treatments.

Other programs offered: esthetics, waxing, and hair removal

Why nail program rocks: Caruso founded the school on the belief that nail industry standards needed to be raised from the beginning, the school’s mission has been to guide graduates to become the most successful professionals within the nail and beauty industry.

A solid, science-based foundation has given graduate a competitive edge, enabling the school’s selective partnership with some of the industry’s most exclusive salons, spa, and distributors have provided graduates with highly coveted employment opportunities.

Within the tranquil, spa-like environment, students practice an array of natural nail and hand treatments, complete with music and candles. They’re also trained in artificial nail techniques and nail art. To foster a professional attitude, students wear lab jackets over the black attire and wear their hair pulled back.

Since the school is a 10,000 square-foot fully operational day spa facility, students have the opportunity to work with the institute’s clientele.

School: Paul Mitchell The School

Location: 6 campuses throughout the country

Founded: 2001 by John Paul DeJoria and Winn Claybaugh

Hours offered in nail program: Vary according to the number of hours each respective state board requires

Other programs offered: Esthetic, cosmetology

Why the nail programs rocks: The Nail Academy, as the nail program is called, works exclusively with Creative Nail Design, incorporating the company’s product and curriculum into the program. The curriculum is based not only on the ho9urs required by the state in practical and technical training, but a;so covers all aspects of the nail industry.

According to Michael Galvin, dean and director of the Cranston, R.I., location, that campus’s nail program started off slowly when it opened in 2003. Today, the nail program has 30 students. He attributes the growth to several factors, including the quality associated with the Paul Mitchell name and co-founder Claybaugh’s motto, “Be nice or else.” The school closely follows that mantra, teaching students the importance of outstanding customer servi8ce. “We teach them how to sell themselves, how to retail, how to greet clients,” says Galvin.

Creative educators visit the school every three weeks and at least three more quest educators are invited to talk to students during the nine-week nail program.

Before they graduate, students are required to put together a mentor portfolio containing an essay and images of someone they feel has motivated, inspired, or helped them out. Students must also create a resume and have at least three job interviews lined up.

School: Pivot Point International Academy

Location: Chicago, Evanston, Bloomingdale, Ill.; Huntsville, Ala.

Founded: 1962 by Leo Passage

Number of instructors: 35

Number of students: 750

Hours offered: 350

Other program offered: Esthetic, cosmetology, teacher training classes for salons

Why the nail program rocks: students spend about six weeks in the classroom building knowledge, skills, and confidence before entering the clinic. Students practice on models throughout their schooling to gain practical experienced.

Students are also schooled in Pivot Points People Skills program, which shows them how to enjoy a professional relationship with clients, colleagues, and managers.

The school has its own Career Placement Center for current students and graduates alike, which prepares them for entering the industry and continued employment.

In addition, Pivot Point is currently writing and developing Salon Fundamentals Nails: A Resource for Your Nail Technology Career, the third in the series of textbooks, DVDs, support materials, and courses of training.

School: The Academy of Nail Design and Resource Centre

Location: Toronto

Founded: 2002 by Jennifer McKittrick

Number of instructors: 1

Number of students: Classes size is limited to a maximum of six students per session

Hours offered in nail program: 250

Why nail program rocks: McKittrick, a 10-year nail industry veteran, founded the school because there are currently no license or educational requirements for nail technicians or nail salons in the province of Ontario.

Besides the school, McKittrick also founded the Resource Centre, which provides continuing education, networking opportunities, and resource materials for nail technicians working in the field.

The school offers three certificate programs - nail basics, advanced nail - and one full diploma course for nail technicians. The nail technician program is an Ontario Ministry of Education-approved full diploma nail technician program. This status allows the school to be registered as a private career college - one of only two other nails-only educational facilities in the province.

“What sets us apart is our approach to education and our philosophy,” says McKittrick. “While some students are audio learners others may be visual or even kinetic learners, which is why procedures are first discussed in an open forum then watched through videos or DVDs showcasing leading experts in the field performing the procedures. Students then apply their knowledge through practical application. The students’ workbook, which is unique to the school, has also been designed to inspire students about the learning process.”

School: Empire Beauty Schools

Location: 36 campuses in nine states, plus and affiliated learning center in Tokyo

Founded: More than 70 years ago by the Schoeneman family

Number of instructors: 227

Number of students: 4,000

Hours offered in nail program: Vary according to the number of hours each respective state board requires

Other programs offered: Cosmetology, teacher of cosmetology

Why the nail program rocks: Each Empire Beauty School is equipped with modern salon furniture and cosmetology tools to prepare students for successful careers.

“We provide not only the basic skill required in passing the state board exam, but we also give the student the skills in service, technical, and management skills needed to become gainfully employed in any salon or self-employment salon,” says Margie Wagner, director of education for Empire Educational Group.

Empire is the largest provider of cosmetology education in North America. The schools are nationally accredited and affiliated with numerous cosmetology and educational associations.

Instructors are trained to give personal attention to every student, including career guidance and special instruction classes.

The schools are supported by their own Education Department, which continually improves the curriculum and teaching techniques to be as current and professional as possible.

Empire recently introduced Certified Learning in Cosmetology, a complete cosmetology program combining artistic creativity, technical competency, and people skills. Students are part of an artificially based education that allows them to express themselves.

School: Gimme A Hand School of Manicuring

Location: Cleveland

Founded: August 2005 by Lachelle Williams

Number of instructors: 1

Number of students: About 12 students were pre-registered for course at press time.

Hours offered in nail program: 300 for a management manicuring license, 200 for a basic manicuring license

Why the nail program rocks: “We are proud to say we are Ohio’s first and only nails-only beauty school,” says Williams.

The 10-year industry veteran founded the school after she saw a need for proper training in the nail industry. “I saw students leaving other schools misinformed, undereducated, and not prepared to enter the work force,” she says.

Students are given as much hands-on training as they need. A professional salon day allows local salons to promote themselves and discuss what they’re looking for in a nail technician - and possibly place a student in one of their salons.

Before graduating, students are given the chance to shadow a nail tech for a day at a local salon. “This helps the student familiarize herself with the daily operations of a salon and become aware of the dos and don’ts of salon activity,” says Williams.

The school has plenty of things planned for the upcoming year, including guest speakers and class demos.

.School: Color My Nails School of Nail Technology

Location: Midvale, Utah

Founded: May 2002 by Monica Bruin

Number of instructors: 4

Number of students: 45

Hours offered in nail program: 200 (will offer 300 beginning January 2006)

Why the nail program, rocks: Bruin has been teaching nails for the past 20 years, first starting off in her salon, then moving to a school setting after the state of Utah required an accredited school to be separate from a salon.

Color My Nails was recently accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Art & Sciences (NACCAS), becoming the first nails-only school to be accredited by the organization.

All of the school’s instructor are practicing nail techs “I feel that is beneficial to student because a practicing nail tech has to say updated on nail techniques and trends,” says Bruin. “Many cosmetology schools don’t have practicing nail techs teaching their nail programs, and I think that is a problem for cosmetology students because they never really learn nails and yet they can do nails on clients.

Once students graduate Bruin keeps them in the loop, including them in all continuing education she offers at the school. They also discounts on products and can come in on ask for help anytime need it.

.School: The Ontario Nail Institute

Location: Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Founded: 1998 by Ellen Flood

Number of instructors: 3

Number of Students: 8 per program

Hours offered in nail program: 125, 35-hour natural nail care program, 98-hour enhancement-only program

Other programs offered: Waxing, educator training

Why the nail program rocks: The school, which goes by the acronym TONI, offers both private one-on-one education and classroom instruction. Besides focusing on learning to do nails, students also take a business class, which includes information on insurance, taxes, what to charge for service, and retailing.

Since the province on Ontario does not require nail techs to be licensed, graduates receive certificates from TONI for the sections they have completed (e.g. Natural care, electric filing, advanced pedicure techniques)

Students can opt to take the 125-hour nail technology program or a shorter 35-hour program that focuses solely on natural nail manicures and pedicures.

The school’s educator program is designed to teach nail techs how to teach a beginner nail program “I created this program hoping other schools and community colleges would send their employees to learn the importance of teaching a nail program properly,” says Flood. “Since there is no licensing in Ontario, there are no qualifications or licensing for instructors either. So you can imagine the quality of nail education, not to mention the quality of instructors.”


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