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Nonfarm Animal Caretaker: Employment Info & Requirements

Animal caretakers, such as animal trainers, groomers, grooms and kennel attendants, provide care for animals. Read further to learn about the training, skills, salary and employment outlook for this occupation.

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Career Definition for a Nonfarm Animal Caretaker

Nonfarm animal caretakers include kennel attendants, grooms, groomers, zoo keepers and animal trainers. Kennel attendants and groomers often work in shelters and private companies that provide animal care services for pets. Grooms work in stables to care for horses. Zoo keepers work with more exotic animals that are housed in zoos or marine mammal facilities. Each of these nonfarm animal caretakers provides food, clean shelter and exercise for the animals in their care. Frequently, zoo keepers interact with the public in an educational outreach capacity. Animal trainers work with either pets, marine animals or zoo animals to teach them obedience or behaviors related to performing, providing security or assisting the disabled.

Education High school diploma, certification, associate's, or bachelor's degree
Job Skills Good physical condition, sensitive to risks of being bitten, good communication skills
Mean Annual Salary (2015)* $23,630 (for nonfarm animal caretakers)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% (for nonfarm animal caretakers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

The educational requirements for nonfarm animal caretaking vary with their job setting and duties. Animal trainers, grooms, kennel attendants and groomers have high school diplomas and some may have vocational school training or certification in animal care, animal training or a related subject. Most of their duties are learned on the job with supervision from more experienced caretakers. Zoo keepers typically have 2-year associate's or 4-year bachelor's degrees in animal care and management, biology, zoology, wildlife ecology or related fields, according to the American Association of Zoo Keepers, www.aazk.org.

Skills Required

Animal caretakers must be in good physical condition in order to lift and restrain animals as necessary. Animal caretaking can be dangerous and requires awareness and sensitivity to the risks of being bitten or scratched. Because nonfarm animal caretakers serve pet owners or help educate the public, they should have excellent communication skills.

Career and Economic Outlook

Pet ownership and the amount of money pet owners spend on their care will continue to grow, increasing the demand for nonfarm animal caretakers that focus on pet services, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov. Nonfarm animal caretakers and animal trainers can expect to see job growth of 11%, higher than the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024.

As of May 2015, the BLS reported that animal trainers earned an average annual wage of $33,600. The other nonfarm animal caretakers, including zoo keepers, grooms, groomers and kennel attendants, earned $23,630 on average during that same time frame.

Alternate Career Options

Careers that are similar to a nonfarm animal caretaker include:

Veterinary Technologist and Technician

These technologists normally complete a 4-year veterinary technology program, while technicians complete 2-years, to learn the skills for performing medical tests for diagnoses of injuries and illnesses in animals. Some of these workers may also choose to earn certification. A much faster than average employment growth of 19% was projected by the BLS for these careers from 2014-2024. An annual mean salary of $33,280 was reported by the BLS in 2015.

Veterinary Assistant and Laboratory Animal Caretaker

With a high school diploma and on-the-job training, these assistants and caretakers provide care for animals in animal hospitals, clinics and labs, while supervised by vets, scientists and veterinary techs. A faster than average job growth of 9% was anticipated by the BLS for these workers from 2014-2024. In 2015, they earned a mean annual wage of $25,940, per the BLS.


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