Careers in Animal Care

Careers in Animal Care

Animal care and service workers held about 232, 100 jobs in 2012. About 82 percent of these workers were nonfarm animal caretakers, and 18 percent were animal trainers.

Animal care and service workers are employed in a variety of settings. Although many work at kennels, others work at zoos, stables, animal shelters, pet stores, veterinary clinics, and aquariums. Mobile groomers and pet sitters typically travel to customers’ homes. Caretakers of show and sports animals must travel to competitions.

Although most animal care and service workers consider the work enjoyable and rewarding, the work may be unpleasant and emotionally distressing at times. For example, those who work in shelters may see abused, injured, or sick animals. Some caretakers may have to help euthanize injured or unwanted animals. In addition, most of the work involves physical tasks, such as moving and cleaning cages, lifting bags of food, and exercising animals.

Injuries and Illnesses

Animal care and service workers have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. When working with scared or aggressive animals, caretakers may be bitten, scratched, or kicked. Also, injuries may happen while the caretaker is holding, cleaning, or restraining an animal.

Work Schedules

Animals need care around the clock, so many facilities, such as kennels, zoos, animal shelters, and stables operate 24 hours a day. Therefore, caretakers often work irregular hours including evenings, weekends, and holidays. About one-third of animal caretakers worked part time in 2012.

About 25 percent of animal care and service workers were self-employed in 2012. Many of these workers can set their own schedule.

Most animal care and service workers learn on the job. Still, many employers prefer to hire people who have experience with animals. Zookeeper and marine mammal trainer positions require formal education.


Get the education you need: Find schools for Animal Care and Service Workers near you!

Most animal care and service worker positions do not require formal education, but many animal care facilities require at least a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Although pet groomers typically learn by working under the guidance of an experienced groomer, they can also attend one of 50 state-licensed grooming schools. The length of each program varies with the school and the number of advanced skills taught.

Most zoos require keepers to have a bachelor’s degree in biology, animal science, or a related field.

Animal trainers usually need a high school diploma or the equivalent, although some positions may require a bachelor’s degree. For example, marine mammal trainers usually need a bachelor’s degree in marine biology, animal science, biology, or a related field.

It's Interesting

  • Grover Simcox (1867–1966) was well-known illustrator, naturalist and polymath in Philadelphia, PA.
    Born in Allentown, PA, Simcox moved to Philadelphia in 1901. Previously, he had worked in a variety of unremarkable careers in various fields. In Philadelphia, he studied the sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. While his coursework was...

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