Career Information for a Degree or Certification in Animal Training

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

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Animal trainers may work with exotic animals being trained to perform in a circus, or work with domestic animals learning to follow commands. It's possible to become an animal trainer with a high school diploma or GED, but some positions require a bachelor's degree.

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Essential Information

There are several careers within the animal training industry, but most involve training animals to complete such tasks as assisting the disabled, locating specific items, or entertaining audiences. Animal trainers use positive reinforcement to reward animals for following instructions. Animal trainers also take care of animals by supervising dietary habits, maintaining clean animal habitats, and playing with them.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent; bachelor's degree required for some positions
Other Requirements On-the-job training; certification necessary for some positions
Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024) 11%
Average Annual Salary* (2015) $33,600

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that between 2014 and 2024, open positions in animal care and service worker industries would increase by 11%. However, not all career fields within the industry were expected to experience an equal amount of growth. For example, animal trainers who work with whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions will probably experience a very slow rate of job growth. In comparison, animal trainers who focus on domestic animals, such as dogs, are more likely to experience a faster rate of job growth, since the amount of domestic pet owners was expected to increase significantly.

Salary Statistics

According to the BLS, animal trainers earned an average annual salary of $33,600 as of 2015. During that same year, the industries that reported paying animal trainers the highest annual average salaries included the following:

  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $139,950
  • Other schools and instruction: $48,670
  • Performing arts companies: $46,590
  • Local government: $46,550
  • Amusement parks and arcades: $42,760

Additionally, the BLS showed that in 2015, the highest average annual salaries for these professionals were in Minnesota ($43,260), New York ($41,840), California ($37,720), Florida ($37,370), and Illinois ($37,240).

Education Requirements for Animal Training

Since there are multiple careers related to animal training, education requirements vary, although basic requirements for most animal training careers include a high school diploma, per the BLS. Some animal training careers require a formal degree. For example, individuals training marine mammals or other zoo animals usually need a bachelor's degree in a field such as marine biology, animal science, or biology.

There are also several animal-specific training programs available through colleges, vocational institutions, non-profit organizations, and other private academies. Horse trainers, for instance, often learn how to train horses by completing horse training certificate and degree programs. Horse training coursework includes horse health and first aid, horse handling, obedience training, grooming, and horse assessment.

Certification Programs for Animal Training

Most training certification programs are designed to verify if workers know how to train animals to complete certain tasks. Many of these programs also prove demonstrate a trainer's knowledge in animal physiology or laws regarding animal cruelty. Animal-related organizations that offer these certification programs usually require applicants to pass written and practical tests in order to become credentialed. Several organizations require trainers to complete continued education coursework every few years in order to renew certification.

Animal trainers play a vital role in training domestic animals or teaching animals to perform for audiences. Their specific work varies widely, depending on the types of animals they work with and level of training pursued. These jobs require at least a high school diploma, and some require certification.

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