Animal handling technicians have varying educational requirements. Some positions require only a high school diploma or GED, while others require a bachelor's degree. The job growth outlook for these workers is faster than average.
Animal handling technicians work with all types of animals in many settings, including zoos, veterinarians' offices and kennels. Their job duties depend on the employer, but can include feeding, cleaning and exercising the animals.
Education requirements vary by position, with a high school diploma required for some jobs, while others, such as those at a zoo, calling for a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. Some animal handling technicians are required by their employers to earn professional certifications.
|Required Education||High school diploma at minimum, but some positions call for a bachelor's degree|
|Certification||Some employers require professional certifications|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||9% for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers; 11% for nonfarm animal caretakers|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$24,360 for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers; $21,010 for nonfarm animal caretakers|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Animal handling technicians work with animals on a daily basis, providing care, food, attention and exercise. These positions might involve working in a lab, veterinary office, kennel or pet store. Though animal lovers might find these roles rewarding, they also might be exposed to physically and emotionally challenging situations, which can be unpleasant and sometimes even dangerous. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), animal care technicians experience a higher level of on-the-job injury than the average profession (www.bls.gov).
Salary and Employment Outlook
As reported by the BLS, animal care and service worker positions are expected to grow by 11% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also notes that salaries vary depending on specialization. For example, while nonfarm animal caretakers earned a median hourly wage of $10.10 per hour as of May 2015, veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers received a median hourly wage of $11.71 at that time.
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Basic duties for animal handling technicians include bathing and grooming animals, as well as disinfecting cages and monitoring each animal's health. Specific duties for animal handling technicians vary significantly based on their workplace. For example, animal handling technicians employed in pet shops might interact with customers and complete business transactions in addition to maintaining the welfare of animals. Alternatively, those working in a veterinary clinic might be required to administer medications.
There are no industry-wide educational requirements for animal handling technicians. Nonetheless, a college degree is required to gain some entry-level positions, such as animal trainers working in zoos or other facilities. Coursework for these professionals can range from marine biology to animal nutrition. Those receiving on-the-job training might receive instruction on restraining animals and advising pet owners on how to deal with specific situations.
Certification might be required by some institutions to work with lab animals. The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science provides access to three levels of certification for lab positions. Eligibility requirements typically include a combination of work experience and education; once eligible, applicants must pass a certification exam to earn their credentials.
Animal handlers work in many environments, including zoos, pet stores, and veterinary clinics, performing a variety of duties, such as bathing and grooming animals, monitoring animal health, and disinfecting cages. This profession requires minimal education for entry-level positions and the salaries vary by position.