Choosing the Right Beginner Nail Course

Every year hundreds of people achieve nail qualifications and begin work in salons and as mobile technicians.  The nail industry is the second biggest in UK beauty services and there’s no shortage of work or career options.  As a beginner there is an abundance of nail courses to choose from and it can be difficult to know where to begin.

If you want to offer mobile or home treatments then a qualification is essential to gain insurance. In the UK the majority of nail technicians are trained to level 2 standard (51.7%); this level is a great foundation for a career in nail treatments and will open up opportunities for work providing a variety of nail services.

If you want to get started with shorter courses there is a choice of gel extensions, acrylic extensions, fibre/silk repair, gel polish and manicure/pedicure courses. Generally a good foundation for beginners is to start with a manicure / pedicure course.  These treatments are always in demand and give a good basis into the anatomy, theory and practice of nail care. Learning about manicures and pedicures instils a respectful mindset of the nail that can be brought through into other treatments as well.

It is likely that you have some preference as to which nail treatments you prefer and wish to learn next.  Generally the two most common are gel nails and acrylic nails.

  • Gel nails offer a more natural look but tend to be more expensive
  • Acrylic offers durability and length and are generally cheaper

Both treatment types have a solid customer base, and appeal to different people.  A gel polish nail course can help you to provide “Shellac type” nails, which seem to gain popularity each and every year.  Crucially these aren’t specifically gel extension nails, but a gel/polish hybrid.  Genuine Shellac is only sold to certified individuals but there are a wide range of similar products on the market that you can purchase to enable you to quickly and easily start offering this service to your clients once you have completed a qualification.

When you’re qualified it’s likely you’ll find customers ask for gel nails when they actually mean Shellac, and vice-versa.  They’re often used synonymously and so can mean that compared to acrylic gel has a slightly larger customer-base.

In the long term it makes sense for most nail technicians to learn both, as a beginner however personal preference may be more important in determining which you choose to learn as a starter.

Fibreglass and silk nails are less popular than gel and acrylic but are a good complementary skill to have, enabling you to repair and reinforce client’s nails.

All of these skills can be learned with short, one-day nail courses and are relatively inexpensive as a starter, some as low as £100; however to expand your work and career prospects with an employer a level 2 diploma is highly recommended.


Studying a complete level 2 course – best career option

If you’re serious about a career as a nail technician and want to improve your career prospects then a full VCTC level 2 diploma in nail services (NVQ) will give you a solid foundation.  The majority of nail technicians working in salons are trained to level 2 and are able to offer the full suite of nail treatments customers and employers are looking for: gels, acrylics, fibreglass and manicures and pedicures.


The range of nail courses available on the market allow people to enter at any stage, from complete beginner who wants to test the waters of a mobile nail business, to a junior salon worker who wants to improve their pay-packet.  It’s entirely possible to get work and clients with the beginner skills from a one day course, personal customers are less likely to ask questions about your qualifications, just that you are competent.  Employers on the other-hand have greater demands and so if you’re seeking employment, consider training to a higher level. You may consider starting with an online gel nail course before committing to a longer diploma.

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