Animal Care Worker

How to become an Animal Care Worker
Animal Care Job Duties
Skills needed to be an Animal Care Worker
Animal Care Salaries
Influential professionals in the Animal Care Worker field
Leading Animal Care Worker organizations
Top cities for Animal Care Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become an Animal Care Worker

Sometimes lumped together with or called animal caretakers or animal trainers, animal care does not require special education or licensing. However, most employers prefer applicants with some focus of study in biology, animal science, veterinary-related science, or related fields. Employers also highly value direct animal care experience. For occupations associated with zoos, aquariums and animal parks, competition is extremely fierce, so formal education and hands-on experience become much more necessary. Other facilities that employ animal care workers are groomers, kennels, pet stores, shelters, veterinary facilities, stables and laboratories.

More formal education or hands-on experience may be required for some jobs within the general area of animal care. For example, groomers usually go through an apprenticeship lasting several months, and zoos and animal parks may require specific undergraduate degrees.

What does an Animal Care Worker Do?

The job is highly physical and at times can be quite taxing. Depending on the types and numbers an animal care worker deals with, the job can also be dangerous and very dirty. The tasks also vary according to the animal. For example, a pet groomer at a private salon will have experience that will differ greatly from someone who trains seals at the regional marine life park, which will greatly differ from the caretaker of thoroughbred horses. The activities usually associated with this work involve heavy lifting, working with potentially dangerous chemicals, preventing injury to themselves by the animals they care for, and dealing with lots of animal waste.

For kennel and grooming workers, the job requires bathing animals, trimming their hair and nails, basic disease prevention and perhaps treatment, exercising animals, and lots of maintenance and cleaning of the implements and spaces used for these services. These workers deal mostly with household pets. Some travel may be required with the growing popularity of mobile animal care services.

Animal shelter workers deal mainly with household pets as well, but the job may include the above kennel/groomer duties plus more medical procedures, like administering vaccinations, euthanizing animals, and performing tests and screenings.

Zoo workers (aka "keepers") perform the feeding, cleaning and monitoring of animals with a higher degree of interaction with the public, answering questions and educating people. Keepers can specialize in a type or group of animals or may work with many types of animals.

Animal trainers condition and train animals to respond to voice and visual cues from their trainers. These workers have an even higher degree of interaction with people, as they tend to work for circuses, animal parks, and for owners of show animals.

What skills or qualities do I need to become an Animal Care Worker?

An affinity for animals is usually associated with this job, but calmness in moments of crisis, composure, focus and discipline, an upstanding moral character (someone who will not abuse the animals they care for), and an ability to work unusual hours are also important. In addition to physical strength, emotional strength is also needed if one, for example, works at an animal shelter and must assist in putting animals down.

How much do Animal Care Workers make?

For animal trainers, are relatively low, starting at $16,000 and going $48,000, according to May 2007 statistics. This may be in part due to the fact that this job may not be a full time one or may be one part of a broader job description. Stores and other retailers tend to employ the largest numbers of animal trainers while services performed for individuals and families tended to pay the highest.

For non-farm animal caretakers, wages are also low, starting at $14,000 per year and ranging up to $31,000 per annum. It appears that the largest employer group for animal care workers are services organizations, including groomers. The higher paying employers were among government organizations and leisure/hospitality groups.

Who are some influential professionals in the Animal Care Worker field?

One of the most well known animal trainers is Cesar Milan, who is the star of the show "Dog Whisperer" on the National Geographic channel. Cesar is famous, but not all animal trainer specialists agree with his methods. Other famous TV personalities, like the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, and his wife can be considered leading animal care specialists as well.

On the scientific side, Dr. Hal Markowitz is considered a nationally leading pioneer in the development and advocacy for high quality zoo animal care.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

Many organizations in this area have to do with household pets.

National Animal Control Association - Promotes high standards for animal projection and care.

Pet Care Services Association (formerly known as American Boarding Kennels Association) - An organization of a network of U.S. pet care businesses.

National Dog Groomers Association of America - Professional association of U.S. dog groomers.

What are the top cities for Animal Care jobs?

According to 2007 statistics, the Lexington-Fayette area of Kentucky boasts the highest concentration of animal care worker jobs in any one metropolitan area. This could be due in some part to the fact that Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby is only about 80 miles away.

Other metropolitan areas with high concentrations of animal care jobs are normally located near to large animal/theme parks and for cities that are located near large natural areas and which may need a large number of staff to handle wild animal problems.

Other Careers of Interest

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