Nonfarm Animal Caretaker Education Requirements and Career Info

Sep 19, 2019

Most nonfarm animal caretaker careers require no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and career requirements to find out which is the right career for you.

Kennel attendants, pet groomers, zookeepers... These are are all examples of nonfarm animal caretakers. These professionals usually receive on-the-job training, but a bachelor's degree is needed to work as a zookeeper. If you love animals, being nonfarm animal caretaker could be a dream job for you.

Essential Information

Nonfarm animal caretakers include kennel attendants, pet groomers, pet sitters, zookeepers and animal trainers. These professionals may work in kennels, shelters, grooming facilities, pet stores, veterinary clinics and zoos, and some are self-employed. Although zookeepers normally need bachelor's degrees in areas related to animal health, those in caretaker positions typically need only on-the-job or apprentice training. Some animal care professionals can pursue voluntary certification.

Required Education On-the-job or apprentice training for most positions; bachelor's degree related to animal health for zookeepers
Certification Voluntary certification for pet groomers, pet sitters and animal trainers
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 16% increase for all nonfarm animal caretakers*
Median Salary (2018) $23,760 annually for all nonfarm animal caretakers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Kennel Attendants

The job of kennel attendant involves cleaning cages and runs; feeding and watering animals; exercising animals; and sometimes providing basic care, such as bathing and grooming. This position is very physically demanding. It can be dirty and uncomfortable at times and requires compassion and patience.

Education Requirements

Training for a kennel attendant is generally obtained on-the-job. No formal education is required. At some facilities, training programs are offered to provide further experience in caring for animals, such as at shelters and non-profit organizations.

Career Information

According to, wages for most pet care attendants ranged from $8.24 to $11.98 an hour in August 2019. The median hourly wage was $9.77. Advancement opportunities into a management position exist for those who have experience and an interest in working in a supervisory role.

Pet Groomers

A pet groomer takes care of an animal's outward appearance. Washing, brushing, clipping and styling a pet's hair coat occupies the majority of a groomer's time on a daily basis. Positions are available working in veterinary clinics, pet stores, boarding kennels and groomer-owned shops. Some groomers operate a mobile grooming shop that can be brought to the client's home.

Education Requirements

Formal education is not required for a groomer to obtain work. Training is usually offered on-the-job or as an apprentice to a groomer, allowing a worker to gain experience. There are online courses available, as well as those offered at vocational and community colleges. Certification is not a requirement for a groomer to work. Voluntary certification as a National Certified Master Groomer is earned by taking a written and practical exam offered by the National Dog Groomer's Association of America, Inc. (

Career Information reported in September 2019 that most pet groomers made between $11.77 to $20.00 an hour, with the median wage being $11.77 an hour. Because grooming is a luxury expense, the industry is dependent on the health of the economy. Jobs for groomers tend to decline during a recession and increase during an expansion.

Pet Sitters

The job of pet sitter entails feeding, walking, cleaning and caring for animals when the owner is away from home. This job is usually a self-employed position allowing sitters to work for themselves and take work at their discretion.

Education Requirements

Formal training is not a requirement for a pet sitter. Those who wish to earn voluntary certification from the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters ( may study online. The course focuses on pet care, health, first aid, nutrition and business. Certification tells pet owners that a pet sitter has earned credentials from a professional organization and is serious about his or her work.

Career Information

According to, most dog sitters made between $13.31 and $27.47 per hour in August 2019, and their median hourly wage was $13.31. Demand for pet sitters is dependent upon the state of the economy. In hard economic times, pet owners may choose to find alternatives to paying for a pet sitter.


Workers at the zoo are charged with feeding, monitoring and cleaning up after the animals under their care. Keepers may also deal with the public, demonstrating knowledge of various species. The job can be dirty and at times dangerous, depending on the animal under care. Keepers must love animals and must be devoted to their care.

Education Requirements

Education needs vary depending on the zoo size and location. Most require keepers to have a bachelor's degree in a science related to animal health, such as biology, zoology or animal science. Experience working with animals can be gained by working as a volunteer at an animal shelter, veterinary clinic or even a local zoo. No certification or licensure is required to work as a zookeeper.

Career Information

According to, most zookeepers were paid between $8.91 and $18.71 per hour in August 2019. Their median hourly pay was $12.48. Advancement possibilities for keepers are to a senior or head keeper, but openings are few. Competition for keeper jobs is strong and expected to stay that way.

Animal Trainers

Training of animals for use in entertainment, security and public assistance is an important position. Animals, which are most commonly trained for these purposes, are dogs, marine mammals and horses. Trainers use positive reinforcement with repetition to teach an animal to perform a certain behavior on command.

Education Requirements

Depending on the species of animal being trained, an animal trainer can be educated in various ways. On-the-job or apprentice training may be enough for some positions. Dog trainers typically study at community colleges and specialized schools. Certification as a dog trainer is available from various professional organizations after passing an examination and hands-on practical exam.

Marine mammal trainers generally need to earn at least a bachelor's degree in an animal-related science or biology. In addition, mammal trainers should have certification in SCUBA.

Career Information

The majority of animal trainers are self-employed. Competition is stiff for those who wish to work with marine mammals and positions are scarce. Opportunities for dog trainers are better in larger cities, as the population of dog owners is larger. According to the BLS, most animal trainers made between $20,270 and $55,760 per year in May 2018, with the median annualy wage being $29,290. Salaries may grow with more years on the job.

Nonfarm animal caretakers care for a wide variety of animals from dogs to zoo animals. As such they'll need a wide range of knowledge related to animals, which they can learn through education programs and/or on-the-job training. The outlook for nonfarm animal caretakers varies depending on the specific occupation, but job competition is expected to be strong for animal trainers and zookeepers.

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