Certification and Vocational Licensing for Pet Groomers

Do not confuse grooming certification with vocational licensing of groomers. Even the words “certified” or “certification” when associated with groomers has different meanings. When you complete a grooming school education you may receive a certification of completion and it is not wrong to say you are “certified.” However, the large majority of pet groomers associate these words as being certified not by a school, but by a formal grooming association, such as the National Dog Groomers Association of Ameria (NDGAA). Graduates should be careful to not use the term “certified” to imply anything other than they completed a grooming school education. When appropriate they should say, “I am certified by…” and insert the name of the school or program. Certification by a grooming association is held in the highest regard and is only accomplished with months, or even years, of additional training and testing at the expense and motivation of groomers.

As of 2015 there are no U.S. states requiring “vocational licensing” of pet groomers or bathers. Hair stylists for people? Yes, all 50 states require vocational licensing for them. Stay informed. Efforts to vocationally license pet groomers come and go and at any one time some state is attempting to do so. Check with your state government for any current requirements of which we may not be aware.

Do not confuse business licensing with vocational licensing. Wherever your business will reside there are different local, state and federal level licenses required simply to operate a business. They are not going to measure your skills as a pet groomer, but to manage your compliance with operating a business in accordance with commercial laws. No matter where you are located in the U.S., there is a strong likelihood that you will require at least one business license or other forms of business registration before you can operate a pet grooming business. Even groomers working the homes of pet owners or from their homes may be subject to business licensing. Check with your local and state government for all business license and permit requirements well before you open your business.

Voluntary Certification Through Grooming Associations

In an industry without vocational licensing for pet groomers, pet owners and pets may be at risk of the services received from unqualified pet groomers. Unless pet owners inquire, they may never know that their pet groomer never attended a school of pet grooming, apprenticed for an adequate period of time with an experienced professional pet groomer or sought certification as a pet care professional. Indeed, how does the pet owner know if their pet groomer is not an untrained amateur? There are pet grooming business owners who “set up shop almost overnight” without a background of apprenticeship or formal training. Without formal vocational licensing, pet groomer certification programs have become an alternative way to communicate to pet owners that the certified pet groomer has received some level of training and undergone performance testing. Certification can build consumer confidence, but certification is not replacement for vocational licensing as you will learn below.

The evidence of your certification is an entitlement, and sometimes includes additional rights to display the certifying organization’s logo in your business and promotional materials. Certification typically involves performance testing focused on the aesthetic value of your finish grooming based on the pet’s breed profile as set forth by its individual breed standard. Consumers may gain more confidence knowing that you have been certified by a reputable organization, and certainly it will distinguish you as being far removed from amateur status. The more revered entitlements typically involve the words “master groomer or master stylist’, and that status requires extensive experience beyond attending a school of pet grooming or a basic apprenticeship period.

We recommend that you seek certification from at least one grooming association. However, we remind you that it is not an absolute requirement nor does it guarantee financial success. There are very successful pet groomers and business owners who are not certified, but you can be sure that they respect the certification process and they have a similar commitment to uphold pet care skills worthy of certification.

Discuss Certification with Pet Groomers Online

GroomerTALK™ Community at PetGroomer.com has hosted discussion of groomer certification since 1997. You can read past discussions, or start a new one. It is a popular topic.

Sources of Certification

You’ve decided to be certified by a grooming association. Now, where do you go for certification. You should examine all of the programs offered by the following organizations, and measure the appropriateness of their certification to your personal, career and business objectives. All of these are fine and well-known organizations which we are pleased to recommend to you. Becoming certified requires time, money and effort as you will be traveling with your pet(s) to certification sites. Here are some of the more popular sources.




National Dog Groomers Assocation of America

International Professional Groomers Inc.

International Society of Canine Cosmetologists

National Cat Groomers Association