A future in animal nutrition may include choosing a career as an agricultural and food science technician or an animal caretaker. These professionals may work for zoos, aquariums, or dairies, ensuring that the animals are well cared for and fed correctly. If you are considering one of these careers, your best bet is to earn a bachelor's degree before pursuing professional certification, which is also available.
Helping animals live longer by monitoring their eating habits is just one of the duties of someone working in animal nutrition. Workers in this field use a multidisciplinary approach and include applied research from studies in animal physiology, chemistry, and nutrition. Minoring in business is recommended for those seeking more managerial positions in the industry. Many positions require an undergraduate degree related to animal sciences, but some employers provide training on-site.
|Career||Agricultural and Food Science Technicians||Animal Caretakers (non-farm)|
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's degree||High school diploma; Bachelor's degrees may be required of those who work in larger facilities, such as zoos.|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||5%||11%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$36,480||$21,010|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
While animal caretakers and animal/food scientists may both deal with animal nutrition, the level of study required for their jobs differs. Animal caretakers learn most of their skills on the job and may only require a high school diploma, while more those performing more technical jobs, like dairy consultants, will probably need a bachelor's degree.
Information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that animal caretakers work for several employers, such as zoos, kennels, veterinary clinics and aquariums (www.bls.gov). Position titles vary by business or industry, and common duties include making sure animal habitats are clean and that each animal receives meals that incorporate a balanced diet. Many caretakers also observe animals and record notes about each animal's behavior and eating habits.
Under the category of animal scientist, the BLS stated that dairy consultants provide farmers with strategies that could help increase and improve dairy production. Most consultants take a broad approach by examining multiple factors involved, such as how well animals are fed and what types of food they consume prior to processing. Comparing all known variables, consultants then make reports that show the current product yield and how particular nutritional changes could potentially improve these numbers.
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- Animal Health Sciences
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Animal Nutrition Job Requirements
Training and Education
Many caretaker positions at kennels, veterinary clinics and nonprofit agencies only require a high school diploma, per the BLS. However, zoos and aquariums usually prefer or are required to hire caretakers who have earned at least a bachelor's degree related to animal sciences. Many workers learn their skills on-the-job or through volunteering at animal care facilities where they can watch animals closely and participate in activities, such as animal feeding.
In most cases, dairy consultants need to possess a bachelor's degree. The necessary animal science and related business acumen can be achieved by majoring in dairy science with additional electives or a minor in agricultural business. Relevant coursework includes biology, chemistry, farm planning, business management and animal nutrition.
Licensing and Certification
Animal caretakers and dairy consultants are usually not required to be licensed, but they can pursue voluntary certification. Many nonprofit organizations provide programs that certify workers in such fields as animal rescue or agricultural economics. Some certification organizations, such as the Association of Companion Animal Behavior Counselors, include a component on animal nutrition within a combined didactic and hands-on training program. Certification programs typically require passing one or more exams, and some organizations could include mandatory training sessions prior to testing.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported annual median salaries of $36,480 for agricultural and food science technicians and $21,010 for non-farm animal caretakers. According to the BLS, faster than average job growth of 11% was expected for animal care and service workers from 2014-2024, while the increase for agricultural and food science technicians was around average, at 5%, during that same time.
Agricultural and food science technicians approach animal nutrition from a scientific standpoint, examining how food and nutrition affects animal yields. Animal caretakers work directly with animals ensuring that their needs are met. Both of these careers can benefit from a bachelor's degree in animal sciences, and employers may prefer job candidates with professional certifications and relevant experience.