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Certification? What does it really mean?

Every once in a while a topic comes along and gets everyone angry. Certification is one of those topics. People who have taken the extra step of getting a national organziation to certify their knowledge and talent get really upset when someone right out of school claims to be certified, because their "school" (even an online one) told them they were certified! SO you can see how the problems arise. 



Because our industry is pretty much unregulated there is not a centralized certification or licensing program. As a result many schools and training facilities offer "certifications" that while technically ARE certifications, they are not what the industry considers "legitimate" certifications. I am not trying to ruffle anyone's feathers, and I realize that the schools that are creating their own certification standards are well within their rights to do so (like ABC Dog Grooming School who calls their's ABC Certified Pet Groomer), but that doesn't change the fact that industrywide their certificates are not treated with the same respect as the national organizations. In my opinion, these schools are doing their grooming students a serious disservice by referring to them as certified groomers, but it is perfectly legal for them to claim it.

Certification as a dog groomer or cat groomer is strictly voluntary and is not something that is required for employment or anything other than personal satisfaction. MANY MANY competent and highly talented groomers are not now and will never be certified. That is OK!

I began my journey towards certification to prove to myself that I really did know how to groom. Many of us get certified to show clients that we have acheived something others in the area did not. For whatever reason you do it, certifying is a satisfying, educational experience. 

When you graduate from a grooming school you are given a certificate. Some people "assume" or are even told by their school, that they are a certified groomer. WELL, technically, maybe you are. But this industry considers certification to be a secondary educational endeavor offered by one of the major testing groups, not just a graduation certificate.

SO now that I have upset many of you, lets discuss this a bit further. 

In the U.S.A. we have 4 major groups that offer certification for dog groomers. They are all radically different and have different expecatations and different titles that they offer.

National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA) offers individual certification in Sporting, Non-Sporting and Terrier Groups and after those are passed successfully their National Certified Master Groomer title (NCMG) can be awarded with further testing. Testing invloves written tests on each group and a longer one for the Master test as well as breed testing on 4 dogs; one in sporting and non-sporting and two in terriers. It can be done in one weekend if you are serious about it, but most people take longer to do it than that. I mean, I have been working on mine for 13, almost 14, years. 

International Society of Canine Cosmetology (ISCC) has a multi step program that starts with skin and coat care (Dermatech Specialist), goes to Master Pet Stylist and ends with Master Pet Stylist Meritus. It is a long, complicated process and you will learn more than you ever thought possible about grooming and skin and coat care.

International Pet Groomers Association (IPG) offers two stages: International Model of Pet Grooming Distinction, which includes 4 written and 5 practical grooming tests, and International Certified Master Groomer (ICMG) which includes the aforementioned certification, with higher scoring required and an extra test for their Master distinction.

The International Judges Association (IJA) has just recently begun a new process for certification. Their program includes Salon safety, organization, sanitation and management as well as having to meet stylist criteria in 6 categories. See their website for more information. 

We also have at least one smaller organization that I am aware of. WAPPS ( Wisconsin Professional Pet Stylists) and two cat organizations as well: NCGIA (National Cat Groomers Institute of America) and Professional Cat Groomers of America.

OH! Let's not forget that the larger box stores, like Petsmart and Petco call their groomers who went through their training programs certified groomers as well. These certifications are not transferrable once you leave their employment and you will never get a certificate to take with you. They are "inhouse certifications". Nothing wrong with that, either, but it can be frustrating for a person who leaves there and gets told "NOPE! You are not certified!" by an employer or co-worker because they do not recognize those certifications.

 So you can now see why there is so much confusion right? I understand how a new groomer could be misled into thinking that their cerficate was indeed a certification. 

What I do not understand is why groomers who are not certified tend to bash groomers who are and vice versa. It happens all the time. I read a post on a mesage board or FaceBook group that asks for information on being certified and people immediately jump in and say things like "certification is a waste of time and energy", "no one ever asked me for a certification", "It's too hard and too expensive", rather than directing the person towards the resources they need to get the information they are requesting. Then those who ARE certified tend to make themselves out to be better or smarter than those who don't have a certification. Truth is its totatlly up to the groomer what they want to do.

I feel like my certifications made me a better groomer. I learned about skin and coat care, drying techniques, grooming techniques and breed information on dogs I never see and would never have learned about if not for my certifications. 

If certification, or becoming a better groomer is not what you are interested in doing that is fine! It is not required, YET, but it is something that is very satisfying and when you are a better groomer, your clients will notice. Be aware however that as the legislation begins to lean towards regulating this industry, certifications will likely be required. The major groups are most likely what the states will grandfather in. If you are already certified you will be ahead of the game. You will have proven that you care enough to go above and beyond what is required. When California was trying to enact groomer legislation last year certified groomers had nothing to worry about. They were all set. Others? well, they weren't.

I also hear all the time that clients do not care that you are certified, or "No client ever asked me if I was certified" but to me it DOES matter and I HAVE been asked! As the grooming client becomes more educated (let's face it, the internet is making that happen quickly) more clients will be asking and expecting their groomers to be certified.

Whatever you decide to do about certifications, please, investigate the organizations you can link to above and decide which one offers exactly what you want and need. I assure you, if you follow through with the certification process you will feel immense satisfaction and you will learn more than you ever imagined. 

Yes, it's costly, but it's worth it if it makes you a stronger or better groomer. 

Hopefully I was able to clear up a bit of the confusion surrounding certifications and their organizations.


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