Money Matters

1992 Nail Technician Compensation Survey

You can earn more money in the nail business by continuing your education, offering a variety of services, and by simply sticking with it.

We offer this new research, available for the first time to the nail industry, for several reasons. This data provides some benchmarks as to what the “average” income in our industry actually is. By the way we’ve analyzed the data, we are able to show that there are direct correlations between bettering yourself professionally and earning more money (the education-income connection is a powerful example). And finally, it provides us a starting point to follow trends by watching how this information changes from year to year.

The information in this survey is based on the confidential responses from 1,800 NAILS readers. Readers must bear in mind, however, that salon professionals, like many service workers, receive tips. This “black pocket” income may not always be reported accurately, and these income averages may be higher when tips are figured in.

Except where noted, all figures in this study are averages of the weekly income reported by our respondents. We did not include the income of students in these averages.

The national average weekly income is $344.64 

 As expected, the higher you are in the salon hierarchy, the more you earn.

Students $199.43
Nail Technicians $288.23
Salon Owner/Manager (doing nails) $488.54
Salon Owner/Manager (not doing nails) $575.94


Take heart, newcomers! Technicians who pay their dues and stay in the business take home the bigger paychecks.

Doing nails one year or less $223.34
2-3 years $322.45
4-5 years $373.75
6-7 years $437.56
More than 8 years $465.66


A disheartening statistic: even in the female-dominated nail industry (99% female), male nail technicians earn an average of $18 more per week than female technicians.

WOMEN:  $344.57                      MEN:  $362.50

If we could give you but one piece of advice on how to earn more money, it would be this: Continue your education! This year’s survey (as well as last year’s) proves that technicians who attend classes and tradeshows earn more than the national average, and they continue earning more as the number of classes and shows they attend increases.

And, those technicians who never venture beyond the salon pay dearly for their shortsightedness: Technicians who attend no classes or shows earn substantially less than the national average.

Attend 3-7 classes $381.27
Attends 8 or more classes $443.45
Attends 1 tradeshow $300.62
Attends 2 tradeshows $371.33
Attends 3-4 tradeshows $389.63
Attends 5-6 tradeshows $423.66
Attends 7 or more tradeshows $666.07
Attends 0 classes $287.40
Attends 1-2 classes $331.27
Attends 0 tradeshows $250.65


Income breakdown by number of nail technicians in the salon:

One technician:     $299.59

Two to four technicians:  $378.67

Five to nine technicians:  $430.35

More than 10 technicians: $365.68

Technicians who receive a commission on retail they sell earn slightly more than those who don’t. Technicians who received commission had a weekly income of $348.03 compared with those who received no commission, who $336.27.

A professional license is not only a crucial element of your professionalism, it’s your ticket to higher earnings. (These figures are based on professional technicians only, not students.)

LICENSED $345.16   



Income based on compensation system, average weekly income for…

Technicians who receive a straight salary $319.90
Technicians who receive base salary, plus commission 377.43
Their average base salary is $135.15/week
Their average commission is


Technicians who receive straight commission


Their average commission is


Technicians who rent space

Average who rent space (Average weekly booth rent is $82.00, plus 26% of income to the salon)



Increasing your service menu may help you increase your income. Technicians working at salons that added to their services last year showed slightly higher income. Those answering “yes” to the question, “Have you introduced a new service within the last year?” averaged $365.12 weekly, in contrast with those who replied no, whose income averaged $333.63.

 Income breakdown by services offered:

Nails-only salons $352.28
Offering skin care $354.50
Offering tanning $371.85
Offering hair care $320.16


Who are those technicians earning in the top 20% of the country, and what are they doing right? And, while we’re at it, who are those technicians earning in the bottom 20% of the country, and what are they doing wrong? Compare these work habits and dedication to continuing education.



TOP 20%   

(at least $450/week)


(less than $200/wk)

Average weekly income $677.93 $113.79
Average hourly income $11.57 $2.84
Average income per client $17.80 $8.75
Average age 33 32
Hours worked/week 45 40
Average number of clients/week 39 13
Number classes/year 3 2
Number of shows/year 6 1
Years doing nails 7 3


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