A number of schools offer associate's degree programs in animal care, where students explore course topics through classes as well as direct interaction with animals. Students within the programs learn about and practice animal training and grooming procedures, as well as the fundamentals of animal nutrition and disease prevention. They may be tasked with completing internships at kennels, zoos or veterinary care facilities. Field trips and guest lecturers provide opportunities for direct interaction with breeders, trainers and animal shelter workers.
Applicants must possess a high school diploma or GED certificate. Schools may recommend that candidates complete previous courses in English and math to build their analytical and writing skills.
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Associate of Science (or Applied Science) in Animal Care
General education courses in composition or technical writing, math, computer science and the humanities are typically part of an animal care associate's degree program. Courses specific to core studies may cover animal science, anatomy and nutrition, as well as:
- Animal breeding
- Animal grooming
- Animal behavior
- Animal disease and treatments
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the expansion of the companion pet population is expected to drive demand for animal care services. Those interested in working in this field need only enjoy working with animals, but a formal course in animal care training may provide an advantage with potential employers. Graduates are qualified for positions as:
- Pet groomers
- Animal control technicians
- Pet store managers
- Lab animal caretakers
- Kennel managers
Employment Outlook and Salary
As a broad job category, animal care and service work is expected to grow 11% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of May 2015, the median annual salary of non-farm animal caretakers (excluding veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers) was $21,010 (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Depending on the coursework that a student chooses to emphasize, an associate's degree in animal care can serve as the foundation for a bachelor's degree in veterinary science, animal science or environmental science. Many schools offering such programs have transfer options to accept work completed in a 2-year program; this may help individuals acquire their baccalaureate degree in less than four years.
Associate's degrees in animal care combine general education courses with studies in animal nutrition, animal behavior and anatomy. Graduates are prepared for roles in the animal care industry, or they can pursue a bachelor's degree in a related field.