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Animal Specialist: Job Description and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an animal specialist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and experience to find out if this is the career for you.

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Animal care specialists are workers employed by animal care locations such as veterinary offices, kennels, clinics, labs or human societies. At work they may have a variety of duties relating to caring for animals and ensuring their wellness, as well as dealing with visitors or administrative tasks. Minimal education is required to work in this field.

Essential Information

Animal care specialists provide basic needs for animals to ensure their health and safety. They may be employed in veterinary offices, kennels, clinics, laboratories and humane societies. General duties of an animal care specialist may include feeding and grooming animals, cleaning and disinfecting animal quarters or cages, as well as general administrative duties. A high school diploma is usually required for this position, and employers may require some experience of working with or specific knowledge of animals. This career will appeal to those who enjoy working with and caring for animals.

Career Nonfarm Animal Caretaker Veterinary Assistant & Laboratory Animal Caretaker
Education Requirements High school diploma High school diploma
Experience Experience working with animals Experience working with animals
Other Requirements N/A Voluntary certification available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 11%* for nonfarm animal caretakers 9%* for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers
Median Salary (2015) $21,010 (nonfarm animal caretakers)* $24,360*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Duties

Additional duties for animal care specialists may vary based on their workplace. For example, some animal care specialists may be trained to administer vaccinations and medications, provide post-operative assistance and perform physical examinations on animals. Other animals care specialists, such as those working for humane societies, often work more so with the public and may have administrative duties like answering phone calls and assisting with pet adoptions. Animal care specialists who work in laboratories or facilities that house labs may clean and sterilize equipment, collect samples of blood or other substances, perform lab tests and record test results.

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Education Requirements

A high school diploma or its equivalent is usually required to obtain employment as an animal care specialist. Some employers may prefer applicants who have 1-2 years of experience working with animals, while others may favor those who have a working knowledge of animal breeds, diseases and behavior. Individuals applying for positions that may require them to pick up stray animals, may need to obtain a state driver's license. Once hired, most employees receive at least some on-the-job training that may range from instruction on using lab equipment to how to restrain animals.

Advancement

With additional training and experience, animal care specialists may perform advanced duties, such as coordinating adoptions and participating in animal rescues. They may also be promoted to supervisory positions at animal shelters. Those who work with veterinarians may complete additional training through a postsecondary educational program to become certified veterinary technicians.

Salary and Employment Outlook Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups animal care specialists by job title and educational requirements when reporting salary data and employment outlook. For animal care and service workers, the BLS expected employment outlook to increase by 11% between 2014 and 2024, while veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers could see 9% growth during that same period. Animal caretakers working with nonfarm animals earned a median salary of $21,010 as of May 2015, the BLS noted. It also found that laboratory animal caretakers and veterinary assistants earned a median salary of $24,360 during that same time.

Animal care specialists care for animals in a variety of settings and perform duties like cleaning, feeding, or assisting medical professionals. They could also help with adoptions or handle administrative tasks at animal care facilities. This field typically includes some on the job training, as the minimum education requirement is typically a high school diploma.

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