Certificates and Licensing Getting Prepared

All Things Paw

By Michelle Knowles

Many of us actively seek new information about what we do so that we can continue to improve and keep up with the latest knowledge and information pertaining to our profession. 

Many of the classes we take come with a piece of paper stating that we attended the class, or we are certified in something. My aim is to define what these certificates mean and what the importance is of earning them.

Accreditation is a process of validation in which colleges, universities and other institutions of “higher learning” are evaluated. The standards for accreditation are set by a peer review board whose members include faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. 

Accredited is defined as officially recognized or authorized.

Diploma is a certificate awarded by an educational establishment to show that someone has successfully completed a course of study, an official document or charter.

Certificate is a document serving as evidence or as written testimony, as of status, qualifications, privileges or the truth of something.

Certification refers to the confirmation of certain characteristics of an object, person or organization. This confirmation is often, but not always, provided by some form of external review, education, assessment or audit.

Apprenticeship is a combination of on–the–job training and related instruction in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation. Apprenticeship programs can be sponsored by individual employers, joint employer and labor groups, and/or employer associations. 

License is an official permission or permit to do, use or own something, as well as the document of that permission or permit which can be granted by a party to another party as an element of an agreement between those parties.

Trade refers to a skilled job, typically one requiring manual skills and specialized training and education. Testing is required, mostly state regulated, to practice the job.

Licensure is a restricted practice or a restriction on the use of an occupational title, requiring a license. For some occupations and professions, licensing is often granted through a professional body or a licensing board composed of practitioners who oversee the applications for licenses.

Professional is engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime, relating to or connected with a profession, typically referring to the white–collar workforce, but not always.

Why are these distinctions so significant? It is important to know what type of certificate or class you are taking and what that knowledge entitles you to say in your salon, to your clients and what you teach to others. 

Certifications should come with rigorous testing so that your knowledge of the subject matter can be verified in exchange for the certificate. Certificates of attendance will only attest to the fact that you were there, and not that you understand the material that was presented. Diploma courses should give you a well–rounded education in your field so that you are fully functional in the practice of your duties, and are usually backed by the state board of education. 

So, does this mean all of your certificates are meaningless? Absolutely not! Gathering evidence of your skills and experience is important to future employers, when teaching certain subjects to others in your field and, ultimately, the state, when it comes time to get licensed in order to continue to work. Each certificate and seminar is evidence of your commitment to your craft and helps form a snapshot of your education. For these purposes, the best way to utilize your sheaf of continuing education certificates is to assemble a working portfolio to organize and highlight your skills, ethics, recommendations and pictures of your work. While some states are considering licensing only groomers with a state–approved certificate, every state may be a little different when producing paperwork to prove your experience and skills.

It is also important to join and participate in your state grooming association. This organization is the only entity that stands between you and the state legislature when licensing for groomers and salons comes up in the government assembly. If you do not currently have a state organization, find as many of your colleagues as you can and form one. An unofficial association is better than nothing, but an incorporated one is best. State bill makers will rarely recognize a wild pack of individuals, but an organized association will have more clout when it comes to being heard. 

Great strides are being made by organizations such as American Professional Pet Groomers Association, The Professional Pet Groomers & Stylists Alliance, and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in monitoring grooming industry legislation and, many times, representing our voice in chambers when bills are being discussed. Standardization, including but not limited to, vocabulary, sanitation, handling practices and business practices are going to be the key to helping guide our industry to recognition as a trade and profession in the eyes of the state. 

Licensing is coming, sooner than later. It is better to be prepared than to be caught off guard and have no choice but to scramble to attain compliance with your state regulatory board. ✂️