The Shame of our Nail Schools!


In 1987 when I bought “A Polished Look” Nail Salon in Largo, Fl, I would never ever in a million years imagined I would be where I am today.

The opportunities which are available to us in this Industry, are endless. It isn’t so much as making a ton butt load of money, it’s more about learning so much. It’s about leaving our desk, even for s short time, and being able to experience different cities, meet different people, learn new things and constantly lighting the spark that keeps us motivated.


I knew nothing about the Beauty Industry except that I religiously got my nails done. It was a luxury I could afford and I liked looking “finished”.

I owned and operated an office supply store. We had 4 locations, 30 employees, 3 trucks on the road and were doing quite well. I may not have known anything about Nails. However, I knew how to run a Business.

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I went to Lori for 4 years every 2 weeks for my fill. We became friends and managed a lot of Business events between our two Business together.

When she called me about helping her sell her Business, it just seemed natural for me to say “make me an offer I can’t refuse”. She did. I bought “A polished Look” Nail Salon…lock stock and barrel in June of 1987.

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You’ll have to read my book to hear all the crazy things that went on from June of 87 through most of 88.

It’s about what happened to me in January of 1988 which brings me to this article. It’s about Business 101…do your homework. Regardless of how well you know someone, always….always… your homework.

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In December of 1987, 6 months after I purchased the Salon….I was made aware the Industry was beginning to require Nail Technician Licenses starting January, 1988.  If you didn’t submit paperwork to be “grandfathered” in by the end of December….you had to get a Nail Technician license. 110 hours.

We were so close to the end of the year, I didn’t have enough time.

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I was doing nails. I would work 8-9 hours at my office supply business then head over to the Salon until 9pm, 10pm, sometimes 11pm at night taking care of Nail clients.

I was totally self taught. It took me 3-1/2 hrs to do my first full set of nails. Rosemary was with me for almost 20 years. In the end, I was performing the same service in 30 minutes. Acrylic nails, pink & white – completely manual.

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However, I find myself in school. January of 1988 I began school at Largo Beauty Academy.

It is so strange when I think about it. Here it is 2020 and nothing has changed. 32 years later the schools are just as bad as they were 32 years ago.

Disclaimer; I know some excellent teachers throughout the USA. They know who they are and know I am not talking about them.

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When I went to school, I was able to bring in my own products. They waived the student kit fee because I was a Salon owner already performing the services.

I attended school when I could. If I went for 2 hours, they marked me down for 8.

The kicker however, is I taught myself…..and other students. They didn’t even have a Nail Instructor. They depended on the Cosmo Instructor who never had time for us.

It was pathetic.

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I didn’t feel sorry for myself. In fact, I loved it. 

However, I felt sorry for all the other girls who were trying to learn the art. Although, none of this even registered until I expanded my Salon and began hiring Nail Technicians.

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Back in the day, some of you may recall, Nail technicians were a dime a dozen.

It was an easy, farely inexpensive class to get licensed in. And, you could make a decent living at it.

This was way before we were even introduced to the Oriental market of Salons. And yes…that’s what they were called at the time.

All I had to do was “think” I needed someone new, and 5 people would be knocking at my door within 24 hours.

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I hired plenty of Nail Technicians back in the day. I hired experienced and I hired right from school.

The experienced Nail Tech’s were known for being a pain in the ass. LOL  Don’t you know? We know everything, you can’t teach us. Most of us were self taught and we just kept that brick wall us because you can’t teach us anything new.

Therefore, I stayed away from them. My hiring 99.9% of the time, came from the schools.

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It was sad. These poor students didn’t even know how to hold a file, a nail brush or a pair of toenail clippers.

They didn’t learn the basics of proper table set up which helps in time management.

They didn’t learn techniques to build their speed or how to properly shape a nail.

They didn’t learn the proper sizing of tips or how to properly blend.

Sadly, they aren’t learning it now either.

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I developed a specific training process of Nail Technicians. It was all based on producing beautiful nails in optimum time.

They had a goal. The perfection came first, then we would work on the speed. If they perfected the nail however, they could at least take nail repairs and start earning a little income and get used to working with clients.

It required a commitment to find 20 people as models. I always knew, the ones that found the models were keepers, the others not so much.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”14px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_text_separator title=”I loved what I dd and I taught a lot of Nail Technicians. However, my taste of the schools will always be sour.” color=”purple” style=”shadow” border_width=”9″][vc_empty_space height=”14px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Therefore, when time came for me to send my daughter to nail school, I followed the same advice I gave to others. Find the cheapest school possible.

To this day…..that is my advice![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”14px”][vc_column_text]After being on the advisory Board of two Technical Schools in my area, I’ve come to realize all schools teach the same thing. They have to.

They are regulated by their States to teach certain things….and they only have x amount of time to teach these things in.

In Nail School they barely touch upon Pedicures. Don’t you think that should change? After all, you can die from a Pedicure.

In Nail School they barely touch upon cleaning, disinfection and sterilization. Not a surprise, as most of the schools I visit don’t even practice what they do teach. Don’t you think that should change? Especially given the current environment?[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”14px”][vc_column_text]I have seen this going on since 1988. I have tried to address our Florida State Board, with no avail. I have written letters, with no avail. It disgust me and it still makes me sad for our current students.

In fact, I speak from a personal experience, happening right now.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”14px”][vc_column_text]My niece (my goddaughter) asked me for my help in her decision to get into the Beauty Industry.

As I tell everyone who ask, go to nail school first. I feel getting your feet wet in nails, will help you decide if this industry is truly for you.

She listened and found a school near her.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”14px”][vc_column_text]I told her this type of education is self taught. I told her she has to go to school to get her license, unfortunately though, that is all she will get. She will get the bare basics.

Everything is self taught.

I sent her my DVD “Fine tuning and enhancing your nail training skills”. I’m compiling a list of influencers she needs to follow. I’m sending her products to practice and i’n telling her the same thing I told my new hires. 20 people……20 people. THAT is the magic number.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”14px”][vc_column_text]Sadly I am still right on the money.

She’s not been pleased at all with her school. The disinterest in training, the lack of commitment from the instructor. They junk they use in the schools? All of it.

In fact, take a look at this picture. This is her instructor. Sleeping on the job.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”14px”][vc_column_text]My message today is;

Our schools have never been the key to our success in regard to Nails.

If you are a Salon owner looking for a Nail Technician….know your needs. If you expect someone right from school to start working with no availability to training, you will fail. You will get fed up with trying to find a Nail Technician, and possibly shut that department down all together. Which, is a shame because that arena can gross you over 50%[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”14px”][vc_column_text]If you are a new Nail Technician, get educated. Earn your license but google, utube, social media yourself to death. The world of education is literally at your fingertips.

Don’t stop. Seek out the opportunities this Industry has to offer. Keep searching for ways to keep that spark ignited.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”14px”][vc_column_text]If you are a Salon attempting to hire someone with experience, let go of the leash. 

Experienced Technicians will do well by you, if you just let them.

And, speaking to you experienced technicians, open your mind up and break down that brick wall. [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”14px”][vc_column_text]Now, before any our schools and/or instructors out there get all pissy over this article. If you are offended, maybe you need to revisit your teachings. If you aren’t offended then you know I’m not referring to you.

Not all schools fall into this category. There are some excellent instructors and some excellent schools.

However, it’s the curriculum which first needs to be changed. It can’t just be updated….it needs to be changed.

In addition, we need to qualify our instructors better. Are they teaching because they are “tired” of being behind the chair? Or, is teaching their life long passion. There is a HUGE difference.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”14px”][vc_column_text]Our profession will never go away. Our Seniors need us….everyone needs us.

We need to be educated and if we need to understand, we are on our own.

There are hundreds and thousands of mediums to learn from. Do your homework.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”2087″ title=”CJ Murray, President”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][social_icons][/social_icons][/vc_column][/vc_row]

8 thoughts on “The Shame of our Nail Schools!”

  1. Yes, CJ
    I went to the cheapest school and I was self taught and learned from my in laws about nails because that was their profession. My husbands side of the family all did nails. I had a huge advantage of knowledge and skills over the new nail techs. I bought the student kit just to see what they offered. I was so shocked how little they gave students. My family bought me the best equipment and products in the market.

    These girls either struggled or isolated themselves doing their own thing refusing to work on models. Not me I took on all the models I could get, even though I get so shy.

    Right now, I want to get as much experience as I can get. Learn as much as I can. Despite all the hurdles I’m facing. My long term goal is to open up my own nail school and teach these techs how to be successful straight out of school. Yes, there is so much you can learn in school but, if there was a better structure it could be so much better for everyone.

    1. Esmeralda…..GOOD FOR YOU! I am sure your clients realize how passionate you are as well and how self motivating. I hope you do open a school and I hope you reach out to me for input. A better structure is exactly what is needed. The crisis is with our States. It trickles down to our schools because they do what they “have” to do and no more. I know many schools offer additional time which can be bought for “add on” teaching. Truthfully, if we just had as you say “better structure”, our students would be better served.
      Thank you for your comment.

  2. Thank you for sharing as the first licensed Nail Technology and probably only Teacher in Pennsylvania I became such because my education was a waste of money. I spent years and countless amount of money taking hands on workshops to get the knowledge and training I needed and didn’t get in school. The problem is the push students to get teacher licenses right out of school and have no experience or they don’t want to pay. I’m not teaching for $10 an hour when I get $50 for private classes. I do mentor students at our vocational school and do hands on workshops. It is a disgrace. My teachers never did nails and only had previous students do demos.

    1. Gloria,thank you for your message and you are so right. Our industry needs more mentors like you who understand the challenges of the system. We need to find a way to get this system fixed….unfortunately, it falls on deaf ears. I hope you continue to mentor. Your self “taught” is so valuable.

  3. Good message CJ. It is funny how your experience practically mirrored mine. I spent more money on additional classes than I did on my tuition in 1986.
    It is the lack of education of the educators that drove me out of the schools. I just could not continue to watch the “dummying down” of our beloved industry.
    Keep up the good work.

  4. Hello CJ, a great article. And I totally agree with you. I went to school in Connecticut for a nail license, from a cosmetology school. They did not care about that department at all. I did a total of 10 nails, yes that’s right 10 nails two hands. Not 10 people. We had almost no product, and the school was only for two weeks three hours a night, well maybe it was for but they always let us leave after three. It was horrible I knew nothing. I started going to my local supply shop where they were offering classes. I took every class. It was amazing how much I learned from educator. That’s where my passion started. When I moved to Florida I had to get my license here I went to cosmetology school, it was horrible again. But the only required me to do half the hours seeing I was working in the industry but of course still charged me the full price. I ended up teaching myself and the others just like you, because the instructor didn’t show up half the time. By the end of the course the owner hired me to teach. I fell in love with it. I learned a lot from that first teaching job. A few years later I got a job at a better school. But they still had a terrible nail tech curriculum. Thankfully the owner let me write my own curriculum and teach my way. Those students were lucky, I feel bad for all the others. Thank you so much for all you do CJ

    1. Tamera, firstly thank you for your kind comments. I appreciate you also.
      Maybe the saving grace in all this, are the many wonderful Educators in our Industry who learned the same way we did….self taught. I believe when we self teach it’s because we have the passion and the desire to be the best we can be.

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