Ballpark Estimate: $420 to $8,000
In 2010, the pet industry continues to be recession proof, as pet owners invest over $32 billion a year in food, care, veterinary services, and grooming for their pets. There are well over 30,000 grooming businesses in the United States, and those businesses are always looking for skilled groomers. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for skilled pet groomers will steadily increase through 2010.
Before you spend money on pet grooming school or spend time applying for jobs, you need to be sure that you enjoy working with animals. Grooming and caring for dogs and cats as a job is much more arduous and demanding than simply caring for your own pet.
One of the best ways to gain experience to become a pet groomer is to volunteer. Call your local Humane Society, animal shelter, or veterinarian and ask if they need volunteer help. You may be asked to clean cages, walk dogs, or assist in any number of basic jobs. While the work is not glamorous, you will learn on the job, build your resume, and hopefully get to know people in the pet industry who may some day recommend you for a job or direct clients to you.
Pet Grooming Apprenticeship
A great way to break into the pet grooming business and get a hands-on education at no cost to you is to get a job at a grooming salon or at a pet store that offers grooming services. Your entry level job will be as a bather/brusher. Bathing animals is much harder than it sounds and requires not only a love of animals, but patience, stamina, physical strength, and an ability to figure out and deal with the personality of each pet before problems arise. As you work, you will learn from other pet groomers in the salon, will eventually be given opportunities to do simple grooming jobs, and you can also get an idea of how a pet grooming business is run.
Learn at a Pet Store
Pet grooming training programs at large chain stores like Petsmart and Petco offer bathers the opportunity to go to pet grooming school. Qualified bathers who show a willingness to work hard and learn, are asked to sign a 1 to 3 year contract with the store. The store then pays for their pet grooming schooling and the student works for two to three years (often on commission), learning and perfecting skills.
To work as a bather/brusher at one of the nationally-owned pet stores, you must be 18 years old and have a high school education or GED equivalent. Privately-owned pet grooming salons may hire bathers who are younger. Stores generally prefer to hire individuals who have had some education or training with animals, but in certain instances (dire need, shortage of workers) you may be able to get a job with no training at all. You can boost your chances on the job market by taking some pet grooming classes: online, at private grooming schools, or at community or state colleges.
Online Pet Grooming Schools
Online pet grooming schools often stress the number of hours their programs will take, how easy the process will be, and the beauty of the diploma or certificate you will receive. The programs are usually DVDs and CDs, sometimes books and charts, and some offer an 800 number if you have questions. The pet grooming schools with higher tuition often include a toolkit; other pet grooming schools give you the option of renting tools with the option to buy. Courses take anywhere from 2 to 24 weeks. The pros are that you will be learning at your own pace, at home, using their lessons, diagrams, and videos. The cons are that, even when you practice on your own pet or the pets of friends, you get no supervised hands-on instruction. Before enrolling, research pet grooming online schools carefully.
Note: Do not confuse online pet grooming schools with the distance learning portions of conventional schools (see below), where the theoretical parts of the course are taught online, and then you travel to the physical campus, live in a dormitory, and work with instructors on a variety of purebred dogs. Nash Academy, for example, is a quality combination school with online and on-campus classrooms.
So you can expect to pay anywhere from $49 to $2,500 for an online pet grooming school.
Private Pet Grooming Schools
For conventional schooling, look for private pet grooming schools, or certificate/diploma programs at community or state colleges. Don’t let proximity to your home be a selling point. While it’s tempting to choose a pet grooming school for its convenient location or promise of quick results, you may end up with a mediocre education. Do plenty of research and ask around before you invest in pet grooming classes. Here are a few qualities to look for:
- An extensive pet grooming curriculum that covers all aspects of grooming as well as selection and care of equipment, pet first aid and CPR, safety and sanitation, animal psychology, handling and restraining techniques, animal anatomy and physiology, skin disorders and parasites.
- An extensive business curriculum that teaches you how to set up and run your pet grooming business, and deal with and interact with your human clients.
- Clean, top-of-the-line pet grooming equipment and facilities, with an emphasis on care and safety for animals and students.
- The pet grooming school must teach breed-specific grooming patterns and have a wide variety of purebred pets available for demonstration and practice.
- Highly qualified pet grooming instructors who can teach all aspects of the pet grooming business.
- Well-equipped pet grooming stations for students, and a low student-teacher ratio.
Out-of-State Pet Grooming Schools
You may find that your best options are out-of-state pet grooming schools. Many pet grooming schools offer the option of taking online courses for classroom hours, and traveling to their campus for the hands-on portion of the course. Nanhall Pet Spa is one of the very best private on-site only pet grooming schools in the country, located in Greensboro, NC.
Community and State Colleges
Some local colleges and universities offer certificate or diploma programs in pet grooming. Often part of a Continuing Education branch, these pet grooming schools will work with you, your schedule and your budget. Here are two examples:
Kirkwood Community College – Cedar Rapids, Iowa
- School of Agricultural Sciences, Pet Grooming/Pet Shop Management.
- This pet grooming program is open to high school graduates. Its 15 courses take 2 semesters to complete, plus a summer internship, for a total of 37 credit hours.
- 2010 in-state tuition cost: $111 per credit x 37 = $4,107
- 2010 out-of-state tuition cost: $136 per credit x 37 = $5,032
- Visit the Kirkwood Communitgy College website for more information
University Of New Hampshire
- Thompson School of Applied Animal Science, Diploma Program in Pet Grooming.
- This pet grooming program is open to high school graduates. There are 6 classes (18 credit hours) that will take 2 semesters (9 months) to complete.
- 2010 in-state tuition: $306 per credit x 18 = $5,508
- 2010 out-of-state tuition: $337 per credit x 18 = $6,066
Licensure and Certification
You do not need certification or a license to work as a pet groomer. However, stores and salons are on the lookout for qualified and certified pet groomers, and pet owners are more likely to hire you as a pet groomer if you are certified and have proof of your experience and expertise. There are two national organizations that offer pet grooming certification programs:
National Dog Groomers Association Of America (NDGAA)
This pet grooming organization offers seminars, testing, and certification in all aspects of dog grooming. Membership in the NDGAA allows you to pay discounted fees for workshops, trade shows, lectures, competitions, and testing – the very best way for you to stay current in the latest grooming trends. NDGAA certification is a sign of excellence that will be appreciated by current and prospective clients. You must attend at least one workshop to be eligible to test for pet grooming certification. Membership in the NDGAA also includes their official magazine, Groomers Voice.
- Initial membership: $90
- Lectures, trade shows, competitions, etc. (prices vary): $25 to $155
- Official NDGAA Breed Profile Guidelines: $35
- NDGAA workshop (prices vary): $110 to $150
- $60 to $150 per test
- Vistit the National Dog Groomers webiste for more information
International Professional Groomers, Inc. (IPG)
This pet grooming organization promotes grooming industry standards based on breed standards throughout the world. Testing is available in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, with translations available in French and Spanish. Certification covers five phases, culminating in the International Certified Master Groomer (ICMG).
- Initial membership – $90
- Membership renewal – $60 per year
- Practical test (5 tests) – $75 each
- Written test (4 tests) – $45 each
- Master’s exam – $120
- AKC Complete Dog Book, 20th Ed. – $28
- IPG Certification Guidelines – $35
- Visit the Internation Certified Master Groomer website for more information
Local and Regional Grooming Associations
It’s a good idea to join your local pet groomers’ association, for networking, workshops, seminars, and information. You can find your local group easily on the Internet. Here are two examples:
- New England Pet Grooming Professionals Membership: $40
- Colorado Pet Groomers Association Membership: $44
So you can expect to pay $40 to $50 annually.
Pet Grooming Tools
If you plan to work on your own, you need to buy a selection of quality pet grooming tools. Here is just a sampling of the basics you will need:
- Professional 2-speed clipper with a selection of blades (40, 15, 10 7F, 5F, 4F)
- Combs (2, 1.5, 1, greyhound combo, wide tooth, metal)
- Slicker brush
- Rubber curry
- Nail clippers
- Muzzles (small, medium, large)
- Blow dryer (hand held)
- Ear powder and cleaner
- Pumice stone
- Shears (straight, curved, thinning, small)
- Shedding blade
- De-matting tool
- Finger guards
- Grooming apron
- Safety lead
Mobile Pet Grooming
Once you learn your basics, you might consider becoming a mobile pet groomer. Here are two websites that will answer your questions, and put you in touch with people in the industry. The American Mobile Groomers Association provides networking, education, and public relations while setting standards of excellence for the mobile grooming industry with a membership cost of$125 per year. Driven to Groom is part of PetGroomer.com, a huge forum of people in the pet grooming industry. Again, you will find networking, education, advice and more on this site.
What You Will Earn
Your pet grooming salary will depend on your level of experience, whether you work on your own or for a company, and the part of the country in which you live. The cost of a pet grooming session depends on the size and breed of the dog and what the owner wants done: generally $30 to over $100. Pet groomers usually work on commission. If you work at a large store, for example, you will probably earn a percentage for every dog you bathe, brush, or groom. If the total grooming fee is $50, half will go to the store. The remaining $25 pays for three jobs: roughing in ($8.33), brush & bathe ($8.33), and finishing ($8.33). If you do all three jobs, you get $25. Full-time groomers can earn between $20,000 and $60,000 annually.