Animal care and service workers attend to animals. They feed, groom, bathe, and exercise pets and other nonfarm animals.

Duties

Animal care and service workers typically do the following:

  • Give food and water to animals
  • Clean equipment and the living spaces of animals
  • Monitor animals and record details of their diet, physical condition, and behavior
  • Examine animals for signs of illness or injury
  • Exercise animals
  • Bathe animals, trim nails, clip hair, and attend to other grooming needs
  • Train animals to obey or to behave in a specific manner

The following are types of animal care and service workers:

Animal trainers teach animals a variety of skills, such as obedience, performance, riding, security, and assisting people with disabilities. They familiarize animals with human voices and contact, and they teach animals to respond to commands. Most animal trainers work with dogs and horses, but some work with marine mammals, such as dolphins. Trainers teach a variety of skills. For example, some train dogs to guide people with disabilities, or they may train animals for a competition.

Groomers specialize in maintaining a pet’s appearance. They typically groom dogs and cats, which may include cutting, trimming, shampooing, and styling fur; clipping nails; and cleaning ears. Groomers also schedule appointments, sell products to pet owners, and identify problems that may require veterinary attention.

Groomers may work in or operate a grooming salon, kennel, veterinary clinic, pet supply store, or mobile grooming service, a self-contained business that travels to clients’ homes.

Grooms work at stables, caring for horses and maintaining equipment. Responsibilities include feeding, grooming, and exercising horses; cleaning stalls; polishing saddles; and organizing the tack room, which stores harnesses, saddles, and bridles. Experienced grooms sometimes help train horses.

Kennel attendants care for pets, often overnight, in place of owners. They clean cages and dog runs and feed, exercise, and play with animals. Experienced attendants also may provide basic healthcare, bathe animals, and attend to other basic grooming needs.

Nonfarm animal caretakers typically work with cats and dogs in animal shelters or rescue leagues. All caretakers attend to the basic needs of animals and may have administrative duties, such as keeping records, answering questions from the public, educating visitors about pet health, and screening people who want to adopt an animal. Experienced caretakers may have more responsibilities, such as helping to vaccinate or euthanize animals alongside a veterinarian.

Pet sitters look after animals while the pet owner is away. Most pet sitters feed, walk, and play with pets daily. They go to the pet owner’s home, allowing the pet to stay in its familiar surroundings and follow its routine. Experienced pet sitters also may bathe, groom, or train pets. Pet sitters typically watch over dogs, but some also take care of cats and other pets.

Zookeepers care for animals in zoos. They plan diets, feed animals, and monitor the animals’ eating patterns. They also clean the animals’ enclosures and monitor behavior for signs of illness or injury. Depending on the size of the zoo, they may work with one species or multiple species of animals. Zookeepers may help raise young animals, and they often spend time answering questions from the public.

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Work Environment

Animal trainers held about 45,300 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of animal trainers were as follows:

Self-employed workers 43%
Support activities for agriculture and forestry                                      19
Animal production and aquaculture 8
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 7
Retail trade 7

Nonfarm animal caretakers held about 285,600 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of nonfarm animal caretakers were as follows:

Other personal services 33%
Self-employed workers 27
Professional, scientific, and technical services                                     13
Retail trade 11
Social advocacy organizations 4

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 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.

Work Schedules

Animals may need care around the clock in facilities that operate 24 hours a day, such as kennels, animal shelters, and stables. Caretakers often work irregular schedules, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Some nonfarm animal caretakers work part time.

Education and Training

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.

Education

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.

Training

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.

Other Experience

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.

Personality and Interests

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for animal trainers was $30,430 in May 2019. 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 $20,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $59,110.

The median annual wage for nonfarm animal caretakers was $24,780 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,630, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $38,630.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for animal trainers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Arts, entertainment, and recreation                                            $33,910
Retail trade 24,730

In May 2019, the median annual wages for nonfarm animal caretakers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Other personal services $24,780
Retail trade 24,180
Social advocacy organizations 24,100
Professional, scientific, and technical services                          23,670

Animals may need care around the clock in facilities that operate 24 hours a day, such as kennels, animal shelters, and stables. Caretakers often work irregular schedules, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Some nonfarm animal caretakers work part time.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of animal care and service workers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

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 in the pet services industry will continue to grow. Employment of animal care and service workers in kennels, grooming shops, and pet stores is projected to increase in order to keep up with the growing demand for animal care.

Job Prospects

Overall job prospects should be good. Most job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. 

For More Information

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

Pet Sitters International

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

American Association of Zoo Keepers

CareerOneStop

For a career video on animal trainers, visit

Animal trainers

 

FAQ

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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