Animal Trainer Career
If you work as an Animal Trainer, you likely train animals for riding, harness, security, performance, obedience, or for assisting persons with disabilities. You may acclimate animals to human voice and contact, and condition animals to respond to commands. As well, you train animals according to prescribed standards for show or competition and you may train animals to carry pack loads or work as part of pack team. Working in this capacity you may also have the job title of Agility Instructor, Dog Obedience Instructor, Dog Trainer, Guide Dog Instructor, Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, Guide Dog Trainer, Horse Trainer, Racehorse Trainer, Service Dog Trainer, or Trainer.
- Train animals.
- Care for animals.
- Clean facilities or work areas.
- Maintain facilities.
- Monitor health or behavior of people or animals.
- Evaluate capabilities or training needs.
- Administer basic health care or medical treatments.
- Document client health or progress.
- Discuss service options or needs with clients.
- Organize recreational activities or events.
Median Wage January 2019: approximately $30,500 annually
Employment of animal trainers is projected to grow 8% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
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People love animals, and animals are even more lovable when they’re well-trained. Professional animal trainers teach animals new behaviors, whether it’s for a search and rescue operation, therapeutic horseback riding, performances, or simply training a puppy not to jump up onto visitors. Birds, monkeys, and most often, dogs, may be trained to assist individuals who are deaf, blind or mobility impaired. Trainers use different techniques, but the simplest is rewarding the correct action with food or praise. A love of animals may lead you to this field, but patience and good communication are essential, as is the willingness to handle the unglamorous care and upkeep of animals. The work can be physically strenuous, especially with large animals. Entry into this field may be through vocational training programs or apprenticeships. The more exotic jobs in venues such as movies or TV, zoos and research facilities may require a bachelor’s degree and specialized skills such as SCUBA diving. The pay is generally low — many trainers also find work at kennels, stables and grooming services to supplement their income.
For more information
- Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians
- International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association
- Human Elephant Learning Programs
- Animal Behavior Management Alliance
- International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators
- Animal Behavior Society
- Association of Professional Dog Trainers
- National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association
- International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
- International Horsemanship Association
- North American Falconers Association
- Association of Zoos and Aquariums
- International Elephant Foundation
- World Parrot Trust
- National Animal Care and Control Association
- Elephant Managers Association
- Bird Dogs Afield
- Science Director Animal Behavior Journal
- IMATA Soundings
- Animal Behavior and Cognition
- WPT PsittaScene Magazine
- WPT Flock Talk Newsletter
- Journal of Elephant Managers Association
- SVBT Behavior Prospective Newsletter
- Trainer Magazine
- Animal Wellness
A career in the field of animal training requires a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED). In addition, in some cases, a bachelor’s degree is required. For example, a marine mammal trainer must have a bachelor’s degree in biology, marine biology, animal science, or a related field.
Some states require an occupational license to work in this career. Many are certified through the Association of Professional Dog Trainers or other national groups.
There are no federal or state certification requirements to be a dog trainer, although certification is available. Contact the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers for additional information about the profession and eventual certification.
To find an institution of higher education that offers a program relative to your career aspirations to become an Animal Trainer, the easiest place to start for most people is to perform a simple search by area of interest. Overall, there are associate, bachelor, and advanced degree programs in public and private postsecondary colleges and universities across the country in the following areas:
- Animal Behavior
- Animal Training
- Animal Science
Use the link provided below and the ‘Browse for Program’ button to search by program area: