Animal Caretaker Jobs: Career Options and Requirements

Animal caretakers require some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and other requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Are you a softhearted person who loves working with animals? If so, becoming an animal caretaker may be a great decision. No formal education is needed for an animal caretaker, but on-the-job training is necessary to gain experience and more job opportunities.

Essential Information

Animal caretakers perform the basic tasks that provide for the comfort, health, and well-being of animals in a variety of settings, including pet stores, zoos and aquariums, veterinary clinics, humane shelters and boarding kennels. Several community colleges and vocational schools offer training in animal husbandry, canine behavior, animal safety and other topics which may be useful for those seeking entry-level careers as animal caretakers.

Required Education Vocational training
Other Requirements Advanced training in specific animal care/behavior may be required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% for nonfarm animal caretakers
Median Salary (2015)* $21,010 for nonfarm animal caretakers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Animal caretakers provide food and water, clean living areas and exercise according to each animal's needs. They monitor animals for signs of injury or illness and assist in restraining them for medical treatment or transport. Stable grooms maintain equipment and work in tandem with trainers to prepare horses for competition. Pet groomers maintain the appearance of pets by bathing them, brushing and clipping their coats and perhaps performing oral hygiene and manicuring pets' nails.

Zookeepers may care for a specific animal or an entire group. They prepare food in accordance with a prescribed diet, clean enclosures, and observe animals for changes in behavior. They may interact with the public to answer questions and enforce safety regulations. Animal trainers provide teach obedience, companionship, or show performance to a variety of animals.

Job Requirements

Work as an animal caretaker may have stressful, dangerous or physically taxing components. Most caretakers need to restrain, lift or move injured animals that may bite or scratch. They may handle chemicals and come in contact with blood and animal waste. Caretakers may work long hours, stand for extended periods, kneel and bend. They may have to move or lift 25 pounds or more, may work in a noisy environment and often work outdoors.

Shelter and clinic workers may experience stress from treating abused animals, performing euthanasia and dealing with distraught or argumentative pet owners. These workers need the ability to remain emotionally stable, professional, and composed to successfully perform their job duties.

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Education Requirements

Most employers require a high school or General Educational Development diploma. New caretakers in clinics, stables, boarding kennels and retail pet stores may learn their skills through on-the-job training and mentoring from experienced workers. Animal training facilities and zoos may require advanced training such as an animal health technician certificate or a bachelor's degree in animal science or biology. Advanced courses in animal psychology and obedience training are available through private institutions for horse handlers and canine trainers.

Groomers typically learn through on-the-job training or have had prior experience working with animals. There are state-licensed schools which offer training programs in grooming dogs and cats. Groomers may complete a short apprenticeship under the supervision of a more experienced groomer prior to handling animals on their own.

Boarding kennel and animal shelter workers often begin their training as volunteers or animal technician students who feed animals and clean cages. For continued training, shelter workers may attend workshops on euthanasia methods, safe animal capture, animal cruelty investigation and customer service through the National Animal Control Association or the Humane Society of the United States.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In May 2015, nonfarm animal caretakers earned an annual median salary of $21,010, or $10.10 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Faster than average job growth of 11% was predicted for this occupation from 2014-2024, per the BLS.

Animal caretaker jobs can be both physically and emotionally straining, so one must remain cool, calm, and collected to work effectively. Caretakers provide all the basic care an animal needs to ensure that it's happy and healthy. Animal caretakers can work in various industries, usually undergoing extensive training as a prerequisite so that they will be better at their jobs.

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