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Jobs at Wild Animal Parks: Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a wild animal park employee. 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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Wildlife animal parks employ veterinarians and animal trainers to care for the animals in the park. It's possible to begin a career as an animal trainer with a high school diploma or GED, while veterinarians need a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree, and may be required to complete state certification.

Essential Information

Employees at wild animal parks work in a wide variety of positions ranging from ticket sales, concessions, and janitorial work to upper management. Wild animal park employees vary in education and experience, but advanced positions typically require experience and a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as communications, marketing, or travel and tourism. Working at a wild animal park is an excellent choice for people who enjoy animal conservation and working with the public.

Careers Animal Trainers Veterinarians
Required Education High school diploma or equivalent Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Licensing None Required in all states, additional requirements vary by employer
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% for animal care and service workers 9% for veterinarians
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $21,260 $88,490

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Options at Wild Animal Parks

Wild animal parks are located across the United States and employ a large number of people to keep operations running smoothly. Many of the jobs within wild animal parks require no contact with the actual animals and can be obtained with few prerequisites.

Most parks have positions for ticket agents, concessions workers, customer service agents, vendors, tour guides and janitors. There are also many upper level management jobs that make the business and policy decisions for the parks. Many zoos and wild animal parks hire animal curators to purchase the animals, public relations agents and marketing teams to advertise, accounting teams to crunch numbers, and directors to manage and oversee employees.

Within the parks, there is a large staff employed to keep the animals happy and healthy. These employees are required to clean, feed and entertain the animals. Veterinarians and a staff of helpers work in every park to care for sick animals, give vaccinations, and help with breeding or feeding patterns. Many parks have biologists, conservationists, aquarists or zoologists to provide scientific information and optimal care for each animal.

Requirements

While there are many jobs to be found at wild animal parks that have very few qualifications, many of the upper level positions require formal education and work experience. Most of the jobs with no animal contact only require an applicant to have a high school diploma, a clean background and experience. Upper level positions in management, human resources and business divisions usually require an employee to have earned a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as communications, marketing, business administration, or travel and tourism.

The care workers for animals frequently receive on-the-job training to ensure that they know the proper ways to feed, clean up after and groom the animals. After earning a bachelor's degree in biology, wildlife veterinarians must go to veterinarian school and earn a Doctor of Medicine (DVM) degree. Many of their staff must receive formal education, and veterinary technicians must complete an associate's degree program. The path to becoming an animal caregiver varies depending on the type of animal and the goals of the trainer, but for most, certification is mandatory.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the median salary for veterinarians in 2015 was $88,490. The BLS expects employment in this field to rise by 9% from 2014 to 2024. During the same time period, job opportunities for animal trainers should see an 11% increase, the BLS projects. In 2015, the median annual salary for animal trainers was $21,260 according to the BLS.

With 'faster than average' (www.bls.gov) job growth projected for animal trainers and veterinarians from 2014-2024, job prospects for candidates entering these fields are good. Veterinarians are required to hold a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and complete state licensing requirements. Animal trainers are not required to have any formal post-secondary education; however, completing internships with animals and post-secondary certificates or an associate's degree can help candidates compete effectively for positions in this job market.

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