Career Start Report – Page 18

Stages of a Pet Grooming Career

Every pet grooming career follows progresses in stages, from entry-level to advanced levels. Once again, because the industry lacks standardization in job positions and training requirements, you have many options to consider. Not everyone follows the same path, and few complete all of the stages we present here.

Stage One – Initial Education

Every career seeker enters with a need for training. The first stepping stone laid on your path comes with your decision for grooming training. The most popular sources of training for entry-level career seekers are:

  1. Schools
  2. Home Study
  3. Apprenticeships & Training Programs (employer-based) has the most extensive resources available for career seekers. These resources include leads for grooming schools, home study, apprenticeships, and training programs. There is an onsite School Directory here on this website. See the Education Category above. Also, check School Directory and the Resources Directory, and finally, try the Classified Ads section for Schools.

The Classified Ads and Resources Directory have sections for schools, home study, and employment with training.

Come on down! Join other career seekers at Groomer TALK™ Message Board. It’s a sledgehammer breaking down the communication limitations of our industry. At, today’s and tomorrow’s groomer’s network! You can potentially save years of trial and error.

Stage Two – Employment or Self-Employment

After completing Stage One, there is an early fork in your path. It’s a large decision too.

  • Employment as a pet groomer
  • Self-employment as a pet groomer

If you have no financial resources, employment is a certainty. Self-employment requires start-up capital. We have helped many pet groomers prepare professional “shoestring budget” business plans using Pet Grooming Business Plan Helper & Sampler, a Grooming Business in a Box® workbook, and CD-ROM. Shoestring budgets generally require $5,000 start-up capital for an in-home business. For less than $10,000, a shoestring mobile grooming business plans to finance a new or used conversion and get the new groomer started in self-employment. Generally, shoestring budgets for commercial shops and salons start at $25,000 and quickly rise. Remember, our product includes a “sampler” of seven real business plans by career seekers like you.

There is another important consideration to use as a compass in deciding which fork to take in your career path at this point. We would have you ask yourself this question, “Do I want to get more hands-on experience working in a staffed business before I own my own business? Be certain you realize that when you graduate from your initial training, you remember we used the word “initial.”

You have plenty of experience to gain as well as productivity. You’re likely to have had little experience in the daily operations on intake and outtake of pets with their owners, let alone factors of marketing, client relations, record keeping, and much more. The more knowledge and experience you clock, the more confident you will be in self-employment.

From a financial viewpoint purchasing an existing mobile, salon, or shop grooming business can have advantages. In fact, the Small Business Administration (SBA), which provides backing for loans, favors this practice. Why? If you retain all or most of the existing clientele as part of your new ownership, you have the advantage of established cash flow.

If you open a new business, it may take months to build up a similar clientele, sometimes longer. Some groomers selling their businesses offer private financing. You may find that some sellers will stay on as an employee for a specified time and train you to run the business, and they may even “groom your grooming skills” if you are fresh out of training. We suggest you refer to the Purchasing an Existing Grooming Business Information Menu. Be sure to review Business For Sale or Lease ads in the Classified Ads.

We have these suggestions if you choose to travel down the path to employment. Never approach an employer after graduation with the attitude, or bold statement, that you are a full-charge pet groomer. Most business owners will refute it post haste. If they don’t do it verbally, and you aren’t psychic, they are thinking it!

Could you possibly be hired in the role of full-charge pet groomer after graduation? Yes, it does happen regularly. We know many retail stores, boarding facilities, and veterinarian clinics with pet grooming departments willing to consider new graduates in full-charge roles.

Independent grooming business owners may as well, but they know you need to be “finished off” with plenty more experience and constructive input, which could be very valuable. If you don’t know it yet, grooming is a far more complicated art and profession as opposed to the stereotypical image of average consumers who may say, “What’s so complicated? You’re just giving haircuts to dogs?” Every groomer faces that blindness at times.

Many career seekers tell us employee benefits are critical in their choice of career. Pet superstores offer employee benefits familiar to career seekers entering grooming from the corporate world. Very few independents offer similar benefits packages. If they do, it’s frequently a large veterinarian clinic. Where benefits are critically important, and yet you choose self-employment, account for the cost of benefits in your financial planning, usually stated in your formal business plan. You are going to need to purchase those benefits instead of receiving them. Ask your accountant if their purchase is an operating expense for your business.

Your search for employment can be boosted by a grooming school’s “placement program.” Many schools maintain a list of grooming businesses willing to consider graduates for employment. When you interview prospective schools, ask about their placement programs and how many graduates they have placed into employment. Some U.S. states require vocational schools to maintain a specified placement ratio, or their state licensing status will be reviewed and possibly revoked.

If your desire is to become a career employee, try to work for the most professional grooming business in town. Whether it’s a pet salon or a grooming department in a pet care business, work for the business with the best reputation, facilities, and employment policies. To maximize your income, it helps to work for a stable business that is busy throughout the year.

You may expect January and February to be “slow” where winters are harsh or the primary local industry is seasonally based, such as resort towns. Ideally, you want to work for a business that is not affected by seasonal influences when you desire a steady income. We’re just beginning to discover the different paths.

There always seems to be drama in the working world, and grooming is no different. In 2008-2009 Animal Planet filmed the first pet groomer reality show, Groomer Has It. The drama was sure to be there! Pet groomers have extraordinary compassion for animals, but they are also artists. How many famous artists manage their businesses and instead hire someone to sell their art? All of them, and for good reason, they are usually easily offended and emotional. Some groomers become home-based or mobile groomers to work alone, away from the drama. Other groomers don’t want to work alone and choose employment.

The drama is heightened in businesses where management is ineffective and allows it. When owners lose management control of their businesses, full-charge groomers with seniority (usually working on commission) execute a takeover of sorts. Actually, it’s the owners’ fault, not theirs. Some have to be in charge of any business.

We are not entirely criticizing employees. Your worst-case scenario is to become employed by a business where every groomer has built a “mini-empire” within the business. Typically your senior co-workers will claim all or most new customers to boost or pad their clientele, and new hires get leftovers.

If you are working on commission, not a guaranteed salary, who knows how much work you will have from day to day? New groomers working in these poorly-managed businesses often feel beaten down by the lack of teamwork. They learn the hard way that it will take time to gain enough seniority to prosper. There is a lot of additional drama in these environments that we will leave well enough alone.

Teamwork is not common in pet grooming. Personally, we celebrate owners who make it a reality. Thousands of grooming businesses lack operations under the control of managers achieving the goals of written business plans. We have helped hundreds of owners to regain and resume the control they should have never lost or sublimated.

Perhaps you better understand why there is a chronic need for employees in our industry for as long as we can remember. Many groomers depart employment into self-employment simply to be free of the competitive environments and bless them because they want to see things work right in grooming! It’s how they restore the dream of enjoying working with pets.

We have described a tainted picture of employment, but we want to assure you thousands of grooming businesses and departments will welcome you.

We warn you in order to create more self-awareness of your power to choose the appropriate work environment. If you become an employer, we hope you will learn and support teamwork in pet grooming following programs such as Madson Team Trimming Operations described in From Problems to Profits in Pet Grooming. Let’s move on to Stage Three.

Stage Three – Continuing Education

Continuing education is entirely optional and necessary to distinguish yourself as a true professional. You can return to some schools for reinforcement training customized to your needs. Anyone can attend seminars and workshops at leading trade shows. The fact is everyone could benefit from continuing education. Fortunately, in the last few years, a growing number of exemplary how-to grooming books and videos have been released by highly-credentialed pet groomers, even world-class. Buy them! Build a professional library. Why any groomer would think twice is beyond us. We support our industry and acquire superior reference work as professionals do in other vocations. Overall many groomers have yet to respond, but others are slowly waking up to the fact that every professional has a reference library they enjoy investing in regularly. What a difference in their work too!

We’re so highly conscious of the need for reference materials we focus on them at Be sure to check our recommendations and advertising for publications in the Books & Video section of the Classified Ads. You can invest in them now at the start of your career too. Also, we discuss them on the GroomerTALK™ Message Board and Talk Radio.

Stage Four – Certification by a Professional Grooming Association

Certification by a professional grooming association is not the same as having a certificate issued from a pet grooming school, home study, or other training program. The word “certified” can be applied legally to anyone receiving a certificate. What they should be telling you is “who” certified them. If they don’t, ask!

It’s the reputation of the certifier that is everything! Hearing you say, “I am certified,” a discerning groomer will ask you, “Who certified you?” You deserve the prestige, but it is only as good as the name recognition and reputation of the association certifying you.

There are well-known grooming industry associations that will test and certify your skills once you have had adequate education and experience. You will have to study their materials and perhaps attend workshops with them before you are tested. Each association creates its own standards and supplementary training and testing required for its certification.

When you achieve their certification, you have every right to be proud. You clearly went above and beyond the norm because the vast majority of pet groomers are not certified by these associations.

It says a lot about you when you set certification as your personal goal and go the extra distance simply because you want to be a better pet groomer, and you have a solid, well-known association with falling back upon as your proof. Good for you!

Once certified, you can usually add a title to your name, which usually includes the words “master groomer.” Each association uses a unique certification title. Some will also allow you to use their trademark while you are in good standing with them.

If certification interests you, you will need to learn more about it. We have “certified master groomers” that may answer your questions by posting them on the GroomerTALK Message Board.

The three most popular certifying associations are:


  • National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA)
  • International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC)
  • International Pet Groomers Inc (IPGI)

Refer to the Associations section in the Resources Directory for their contact information.

Click the Next bone now for exciting tools provided by to “outfit” your career as an employee, especially if you plan to be self-employed one day.

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