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Marine Mammal Training Programs and Schools: How to Choose

Marine mammal trainers prepare animals for performance by getting them accustomed to taking commands. Because marine mammal training is a competitive job market, students interested in this line of work likely will need a degree plus internship experience.

How to Choose a Marine Mammal Training School or Program

Associate's and bachelor's programs in biology, marine biology and aquarium science are offered at many colleges and universities.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Program options
  • Facilities and expeditions
  • Internships

Program Options

Aspiring marine mammal trainers might pursue a degree in marine biology or aquarium science. Marine biology programs involve the study of aquatic organisms, while aquarium science programs teach students how to maintain populations housed in aquariums. Additionally, some schools offer biology majors with concentrations in aquarium science or marine biology. All of these programs typically provide opportunities for field research and hands-on learning with marine mammals.

Marine Mammal Facilities and Expeditions

It's a good idea to look for programs that have on-campus facilities relevant to marine science, such as saltwater laboratories, rehabilitation clinics or aquariums, in which students can gain experience working with marine mammals in a confined environment. Additionally, some programs have expedition vessels that take students on oceanographic cruises or include scuba certification courses within their curricula.

Internships

Students can find mammal training internships through a school's career center, as well as aquariums and marine mammal parks. Some programs require applicants to pass a swimming test and be able to lift a minimum amount of weight. Internships generally last several months and require a weekly commitment of at least 40 hours. The duties of an intern can include feeding marine mammals, assessing their health and behavior, and assisting trainers with live performances.

Marine Mammal Training Degree Program Overviews

Associate's Programs in Biology and Aquarium Science

In general, these programs require a sequence in biology, plus foundation courses in other sciences. Some schools give students the option of earning an advanced certificate after graduation by completing a cooperative internship. Course examples include:

  • Physics
  • Organic chemistry
  • Humanities
  • General biology

Bachelor's Programs in Marine Biology and Aquarium Science

Students in aquarium science typically complete business and finance courses, while those in marine biology curricula might take classes in chemistry and physics, with advanced elective topics in animal nutrition and behavior. Bachelor's degree programs include numerous biology courses, in areas such as:

  • Aquaculture
  • Cultured organisms
  • Microbiology

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