How to Become a Professional Pet Groomer in 5 Steps

Professional pet groomers often work at veterinarians' offices or pet grooming businesses. Though dogs are probably the most frequent visitors, other pets need grooming as well. Pet groomers don't necessarily need formal training, but they do need experience. Continue reading for a step-by-step guide to becoming a professional pet groomer. Schools offering Pet Grooming degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Professional Pet Groomer?

Professional pet groomers provide grooming and styling services for a number of different pets. They generally bathe pets, cut and style their hair, trim nails, and brush their teeth, among other grooming services. Some clients may request specific haircuts for their pets, so groomers would have to be familiar with popular cuts. Some groomers may own their own business, work out of their home, or work at a pet care facility or clinic. The table below provides more detailed information about this career.

Degree Required No degree required
Education Field of Study Pet grooming
Key Responsibilities Bathe and groom pets, provide other grooming services like nail cutting and teeth brushing, listen to clients regarding their specific pet requests
Job Growth (2014-2024) 11% (for animal care and service workers)*
Median Salary (2015) $21,260 (for animal care and service workers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research Pet Groomer Career and Education

Pet groomers typically wash and groom pets for various customers. Some specialize in certain breeds or grooming styles. Pet groomers can work in general pet grooming businesses or for specialty businesses serving competitive pet handlers and show pets. You could also find employment in animal shelters, boarding kennels and animal hospitals. There is no specific education required to become a pet groomer, though pet groomer classes do exist.

Step 2: Consider Pet Grooming Courses

There are a number of pet grooming schools around the country; pricing and length of these programs vary widely as do curriculum and specialty courses. Some schools even offer online grooming programs for those who do not live near a training school.

Courses at pet grooming schools may cover the following topics: safety, first aid, anatomy, biology, breed and coat type recognition, nail clipping, ear cleaning, grooming matted fur and fluff drying. Some schools offer specialty courses in addition to basic grooming classes; for example, you could learn to create patterns by cutting fur near the head, ears, tail and main coat to highlight features of specific breeds, like poodles.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Whether or not a formal pet grooming education is attained, you need experience to get a pet grooming job. One way to achieve experience is getting a job as a pet grooming assistant. Or, local pet groomers may allow you to shadow and assist them for free to gain experience. Another good way to get hands-on experience and boost your resume is to groom pets of friends or family members for free.

Step 4: Continue Your Education

You should keep up-to-date on the latest grooming techniques and tools. You can purchase informational literature online to help with self-studying. Free learning tools, like tutorials and study guides, are also available. You might also be able to participate in grooming workshops, such as those hosted by the National Dog Groomers Association of America, Inc. (NDGAA). In a workshop, you could fine-tune your skills working with stripping knives, carding blades and thinning shears and focus on refining the balance and symmetry of your grooming work. NDGAA also sells a breed profiles study kit.

Step 5: Earn Certification

The NDGAA offers two phases of certification: National Certified Groomer and National Certified Master Groomer. In order to sit for the written exams and take the practical grooming tests for the National Certified Groomer designation, you must complete an NDGAA training workshop. Then, you have to demonstrate your skills on four categories of breeds: sporting dogs, non-sporting dogs, short-legged terriers and long-legged terriers. After passing exams on all of those breeds, you can take an additional written exam to become a National Certified Master Groomer. Becoming certified grants you membership to the NDGAA, providing you with benefits such as networking opportunities and access to grooming seminars.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If individuals are interested in providing care to animals, they may want to pursue a veterinary assistant or laboratory animal caretaker position, which would allow them to work in veterinary clinics, animal hospitals and labs. They could also pursue a career in farming or agricultural work, which often involves working closely with livestock.

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