Animal caretakers held about 290,700 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of animal caretakers were as follows:
|Other personal services||38%|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||13|
|Social advocacy organizations||4|
Animal trainers held about 52,900 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of animal trainers were as follows:
|Support activities for agriculture and forestry||24|
|Animal production and aquaculture||11|
|Arts, entertainment, and recreation||6|
Animal care and service workers are employed in a variety of settings. Many work at kennels; others work at zoos, stables, animal shelters, pet stores, veterinary clinics, and aquariums. Their work may involve travel.
Although animal care and service workers may consider their work enjoyable and rewarding, they face unpleasant and emotionally distressing situations at times. For example, those who work in shelters may observe abused, injured, or sick animals. Some caretakers may have to help veterinarians euthanize injured or unwanted animals.
In addition, a lot the work involves physical tasks, such as moving and cleaning cages, lifting bags of food, and exercising animals.
Injuries and Illnesses
Animal caretakers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Animal care and service workers may be bitten, scratched, or kicked when working with scared or aggressive animals. Injuries may also happen while the caretaker is holding, cleaning, or restraining an animal.
Although most animal trainers work full time, part-time work is common for both trainers and animal caretakers. Work schedules may vary to include evenings, weekends, and holidays. In facilities that operate 24 hours a day, such as kennels, animal shelters, and stables, animals may need care around the clock.
Animal care and service workers typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn the occupation on the job. Many employers prefer to hire people who have experience with animals.
Animal care and service workers typically need at least a high school diploma or equivalent.
Although pet groomers typically learn by working under the guidance of an experienced groomer, they can also attend grooming schools.
Animal trainers usually need a high school diploma or 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.
Dog trainers and horse trainers may take courses at community colleges or vocational and private training schools.
Most zoos require zookeepers to have a bachelor’s degree in biology, animal science, or a related field.
Most animal care and service workers learn through on-the-job training.
Animal trainers may learn their skills from an experienced trainer. Pet groomers often learn their trade under the guidance of an experienced groomer.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not required, certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills. For example, professional associations and private vocational and state-approved trade schools offer certification for dog trainers.
The National Dog Groomers Association of America offers certification for master status as a groomer. Both the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International offer a home-study certification program for pet sitters. Marine mammal trainers should be certified in scuba diving.
Many states require self-employed animal care and service workers to have a business license.
For many animal care and service workers positions, it helps to have experience working with animals. Volunteering and internships at zoos and aquariums are excellent ways to gain such experience.
Animal care and service workers typically have an interest in the Building and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a animal care and service worker, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Animal care and service workers should also possess the following specific qualities:
Compassion. Workers must be compassionate when dealing with animals and their owners. They should like animals and must treat them with kindness.
Customer-service skills. Animal care and service workers should understand pet owners’ needs so they can provide services that leave the owners satisfied. Some animal care and service workers may need to deal with distraught pet owners; for example, caretakers working in animal shelters may need to reassure owners looking for a lost pet.
Detail oriented. Workers must be detail oriented because they are often responsible for keeping animals on a strict diet, maintaining records, and monitoring changes in animals’ behavior.
Patience. Animal caretakers and all animal trainers need to be patient when training or working with animals that do not respond to commands.
Physical stamina. Stamina is important for animal care and service workers because their work often involves kneeling, crawling, bending, and occasionally lifting heavy supplies, such as bags of food.
Problem-solving skills. Animal trainers must be able to assess whether the animals are responding to teaching methods and identify which methods are most successful.
The median annual wage for animal caretakers was $28,600 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $38,750.
The median annual wage for animal trainers was $31,280 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,160, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,790.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for animal caretakers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Other personal services||$28,580|
|Social advocacy organizations||27,540|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||27,460|
In May 2021, the median annual wages for animal trainers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Arts, entertainment, and recreation||$38,110|
Although most animal trainers work full time, part-time work is common for both trainers and animal caretakers. Work schedules may vary to include evenings, weekends, and holidays. In facilities that operate 24 hours a day, such as kennels, animal shelters, and stables, animals may need care around the clock
Overall employment of animal care and service workers is projected to grow 29 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
About 80,900 openings for animal care and service workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Many people consider their pets to be a part of their family and are willing to pay more for pet care than pet owners have in the past. As more households include companion pets, employment of animal care and service workers will continue to grow.
For more information about pet groomers, visit
National Dog Groomers Association of America, Inc.
For more information about pet sitters, including information on certification, visit
National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
For more information about animal trainers, visit
The Association of Professional Dog Trainers
International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association
For more information about keepers, visit
Association of Zoos & Aquariums