Selecting a Pet Grooming School

by Grooming Business in a Box®

dog_backpackBefore you take your first step on the career path into the grooming industry you must make vitally important decisions which will affect your entire career. You must consider the physical rigors imposed by grooming pets, and the infinite patience required of you to safely groom them. If you decide a grooming career is four paws up for you, the next big question is, “Will your initial grooming education be an onsite school or home study, or both?”

In this two-part article we begin with educational opportunities offered by onsite grooming schools, including those offering short-term home study before attending an onsite location. In the next issue of eGroomer Journal we will address home study alternatives, and everything in between.

It is very important for career seekers to understand there are no commonly adopted standards for grooming education. Hairstylists (for people) enter their field knowing requirements for education and exams governed by vocational licensing standards. Not so for pet grooming career seekers. Pet groomers are not vocationally licensed in any U.S. state. They may enter the grooming profession without clocking a single hour of training or passing exams. As a result educational opportunities are quite diverse.

Without formal vocational licensing of pet groomers specifying educational training requirements (governed by individual state governments, not federal), or alternative specifications from nongovernmental organizations operated by groomers, pet grooming schools have a tremendous amount of freedom when developing their courses.

State licensed schools are not told specifically what to teach. How would they know? Instead they rely mostly on the reasoning of the past experience of the school owners they license.

Some career seekers take the easiest path into pet grooming. They need a job quickly and accept minimal education by taking the shortest course. The closest school is the one they choose simply by convenience and practicality.

A key purpose behind has always been to remind groomers to continue their education for years to come. Go back to an onsite school for reinforcement training, or attend seminars and workshops held in their area or at trade shows. Today groomers can support continuing education online and purchase home study materials including books, DVDs and streaming video.

Other career seekers secure the best initial educational hands-on opportunities before working as a pet groomers, followed by even more continuing education.

Attending an onsite grooming school is a formidable step in the right direction at the start of a career. However, students cannot expect to learn everything required for a stellar grooming career at a school. They do benefit with the intensive training under supervision. Pets are provided to students. Ideally they train hands-on with several breeds and mixed breeds.

It is not convenient for home study students to locate pets for their training, let alone find the right spectrum of coat types and styling demands compared to a well managed school’s assignments. The time saved from locating pets allows onsite students to groom, groom and groom. For this reason they are likely to be employed more readily following the timeline of their career plan.

There are other reasons why some students take the shortest initial educational route? You probably guessed already. Money. Billions of tax dollars are spent on education in the U.S. every year. Grooming education does not benefit from those tax dollars. To some students the cost of a grooming education is  prohibitive.

Tuition at public colleges for four years can easily be $25,000 and sometimes far more. That figure doesn’t include related costs such as books, board or commuting. In some fields after four years of college salary ranges may be as little as $20,000 to $25,000 a year.

How does this compare to pet grooming? Tuition for grooming schools runs from the low thousands of dollars to the high-end of $10,000 to $13,000. If you look at the cost per hour of their training it can be as low as $15 an hour.

Compared to four years in college, grooming school graduates are done in weeks, not years. Of course they have more to learn and experience, but they are typically employable as entry-level groomers. They might even earn the same incomes as four year college graduates. That is a remarkable aspect unique to the grooming industry.

All too often we hear online that pet grooming schools are “expensive.” Nothing could be further from the truth in grooming when you consider how quickly students become employable.

Look at tuition in another way. If  your grooming career extends to 20 or 30 years your gross wages are likely to total around a million dollars, and some groomers will earn well over one million dollars. There are many four year college graduates that will not earn that level of income, yet they invested tens of thousands of dollars more. They did not even earn wages from their career goal four years while attending collage, while new groomers were earning wages in weeks!

Never say that the cost of pet grooming school is expensive. It isn’t. Be honest, it may be out of your financial reach, but that does not make it expensive.

Some schools offer financial aid from private arrangements or government backed programs. Ask schools about their financial aid opportunities.

Pet grooming school scholarships are rare. However, it never hurts to research them. In fact, and some of its school sponsors gave away over $40,000 in grooming tuition a few years back. Some associations and competitive grooming teams do offer occasional scholarships.

Go to GroomerTALK℠ Message Board and check on the latest news. If no news is there, post a question on the board asking if anyone knows of current scholarships.

Here is another lesser known viewpoint of the relative low cost of a grooming education. Veterinarians contact consultants about hiring groomers for the first time. Often they voice alarm. Consider this!

They ask how to explain to newly hired veterinary school graduates that their grooming employees are going to be earning higher wages than them. Consider the cost of veterinary school. Tens of thousands of dollars and years of investment, and new veterinarians make less than pet groomers? In fact, we know highly productive pet grooming business owners earning higher incomes than experienced veterinarians. What a bargain pet grooming school and continuing education offers.

When we hear career seekers mock that grooming schools are expensive all we can do is sigh. Perhaps the costs are out of reach for some grooming career seekers, but they are not expensive. It is too bad so many career seekers do not realize just how blessed we are as an industry besides the joy of caring for beloved pets.

Selecting a grooming school can be like a hike in a briar patch. Most schools are highly-reputable. Problems with business codes of conduct are fairly rare. Instead the problems are sourced to career seekers not knowing how to select the right school to meet their educational objectives. Here are some guidelines.

Never assume you will get the same grooming education and experience regardless of what school you attend.

“Caveat emptor” is Latin for “Let the buyer beware.” State licensing is not a significant determinant. While most U.S. states require vocational schools to meet regulations to operate in their respective jurisdictions, state governments do not closely evaluate the effectiveness of curricula. Instead they collect information about the owners, instructors and proposed operation for reasonability and then monitor the institutions for complaints.

If your state requires vocational schools to be state licensed, verify the approval status. Keep in mind the state is not rating curriculums and significantly determining if students are learning what they need to for grooming careers.

Don’t rush the decision-making process.

Take your time when choosing a school! Selecting a school based simply on the factor that it is the closest one to you can be detrimental in the long run. Study the backgrounds of the owners, directors, instructors, and investigate detailed descriptions of course offerings. Tour onsite facilities and talk with successful graduates.

Hours matter.

School programs are usually based on hours. The rule of thumb is to take as many hours of training as possible. Long hours are not a guarantee of a better curriculum. Everyone should experience some classroom time but it is the hands-on experience that should interest you greatly.

Not all hands-on training is the same. Consider these questions. Do you have to share pets consistently with other students? Are a wide variety of breeds and mixed breeds available? How much supervision and reinforcement is provided?

Train on a large variety of pet types.

Take a moment to consider how many breeds and mixed breeds there are. Groomers know how to categorize them into groups by coat types, styling requirements and behavior patterns.

What if your school doesn’t give you hands-on experience with the most popular categories? In the job market your lack of knowledge and experience will show, and your confidence level will suffer.

Don’t lie to employers about your capabilities, it is better to be honest and sometimes employers will arrange more experience and training for you.

Accreditation is not the same as state licensing.

Accreditation is voluntary. Most schools achieve it in order to offer financial aid backed by the federal government. The effort to acquire accreditation is arduous.

Schools may apply for accreditation from recognized third party organizations. Some companies offering accreditation services yet have only minor experience with grooming, while others are within the grooming industry with vast knowledge and experience making the task even more difficult and perhaps more meaningful for students.

Proximity of schools can be a highly-overrated attribute.

The most common mistake made by career seekers choosing a school is to simply make their choices based on proximity to their homes. Based on our experience, location is the number one factor when career seekers choose a school, and then cost.

The odds that the best curriculum to meet their educational goals just happens to be their neighborhood would not get anyone far gambling in Las Vegas. We’ve heard every excuse why students cannot travel outside of their area to attend school for several weeks. Some of them are very good excuses. Fight the limitations preventing you from getting the best education to meet your career goals.

At GroomerTALK℠ Community we hear buyer’s remorse from students wishing they had found a way to travel to their first choice of grooming school.

Contact schools of interest requesting their brochures (“catalogs”). Narrow your candidates to two or three schools. Call them and schedule an interview and tour their facilities. If you need housing ask for their assistance. Some have housing onsite and others have leads to alternate solutions such as reasonable and shared housing.

School tours are mandatory in some U.S. states before students can enroll. Consumer laws require you to sign an acknowledgement that you were provided with a facility tour. Now what does that tell you about the importance of touring a school before you enroll? Our advice is to tour institutions before you enroll whether required or not. Do get references from graduates.

Schools may offer more than one course. We suggest you take the longest pet grooming course. Successful pet groomers know the learning mode continues for at least the first 5 years of their careers.

A longer period of supervised education should ensure you a greater variety of grooming experience, especially on a broader spectrum of pet breeds, mixed breeds, coat types and styling demands. It can truly boost your confidence to take the longest course.

Expect schools to interview you before final enrollment. Schools should interview prospective students ensuring their appropriateness to handle pets safely and meet the rigorous physical demands of grooming. If you are not  evaluated in this way prior to enrollment we would be puzzled.

Students are the “other party” involved in a contract for training. They are not attending a publically provided education but purchasing an education bound by a contract. In this respect they should also interview schools and be aware of their rights as consumers before signing a contract. Interview schools to see who wants you to achieve your grooming career goals as strongly as you do.

For the convenience of prospective students we offer a list of questions helping them to interview schools. You can find a directory of pet grooming schools here.

Questions to ask prospective grooming schools.

We suggest you ask the following questions of schools you are considering to attend:

  • What is the field-related background of the institution’s owner and instructors?
  • How many instructors are there per student?
  • What is the enrollment limit per class?
  • Is the institution accredited?
  • If they are accredited, by whom?
  • Do they offer government related financial aid?
  • Do they offer private financing or payment plans?
  • Does the institution provide references from graduates?
  • Do they provide textbooks, handouts, videos or other forms of course materials?
  • Will you learn to groom multiple breed groups and various types of mixed breed pets?
  • Will you learn to groom cats?
  • How are the course hours divided between classroom and hands-on pet grooming?
  • Is the size of the institution’s pet owner clientele, and average number of daily grooming appoints, adequate to supply all enrolled students with pets to groom every school day?
  • Do you have to share pets for grooming assignments with other students? If you do share pets how often can you be expected to share them?
  • Does the institution offer a job placement program and statistics for their actual placement success?
  • If you intend to be self-employed after graduation, will you learn pet grooming business management instruction as well as pet grooming skills?
  • If you are attending from out of the area, do they offer housing assistance?
  • Are you responsible to purchase a “toolkit?” What is the cost?
  • What happens if you are ill and cannot attend a class?
  • If you decide that grooming is not for you and you want to terminate your enrollment, are you eligible for a refund?
  • If you want to add more training hours at the end of the program in which you are currently enrolled, can you add more?
  • Do they provide field trips to trade shows or other extracurricular activities?
  • Can they provide references from graduates?

Good luck on your grooming education journey. ♦