Animal caretaker jobs are available in a variety of areas, with some requiring little or no formal schooling, while others requiring a Bachelor's or post-graduate degree in order to secure an entry-level position.
The only requirement that everyone seeking an animal caretaker job should possess is a love for animals, and a desire to care for them and look out for their welfare in a safe and humane manner.
Animal caretaker jobs come in a variety of career areas, from working in an animal shelter to running a doggie day care center or assisting in a veterinarian's office. Some of these jobs can be learned as an apprentice or helper right out of high school, while others require formal training. Much of the educational level depends on the type of animals you'll be caring for - pets such as dogs and cats don't require the same level of education and training as working with zoo animals would. Zookeepers and zoologists typically hold at least a Bachelor's degree, and many have a Master's degree as well.
If your goal is to work locally or for yourself in a pet-related business, you can start part time by caring for animals in your neighborhood, or for friends and family. Pet sitting is a good place to start, and this is a business that can be run in the evenings and on weekends while you're learning the ins and outs of feeding and caring for family pets. You can also find a pet store in your area that might be looking for part-time employees, or you could volunteer at an animal shelter in order to get valuable experience working with stray and neglected animals. You'll learn how to groom, feed, train, exercise, and provide companionship to animals. What the position lacks in pay, it often makes up for in rewarding experience for the volunteer.
Other sources of volunteer or part-time employment are biological parks, wildlife sanctuaries, National Parks, dog walking services, animal rescue shelters, pet stores, grooming salons, kennels, horse stables, farms, and more. There are thousands of different animal species each requiring their own level of care, and so this field will only grow in demand in the coming years.
You'll also want to work hard and develop your skills as an animal caretaker or professional animal care specialist. And although your job will primarily be involved with handling and caring for animals, you'll want to develop your people skills as well. Being effective in communicating with the owners of animals, as well as your co-workers and associates is a vital part of working in this field. After all, if the animal owner doesn't feel comfortable leaving his or her animal in your care, then you'll have a hard time keeping an animal caretaker job for very long.
If you're short on time and money, you can start your education by reading specialized books, watching DVDs, or joining professional organizations. Or you could take some night classes at your local community college, or enroll in a quality home study course that covers animal care. Another inexpensive option is to visit your local zoo often and watch the zoo workers as they care and handle the animals, and talk to them and build relationships if you can. This could also lead to a volunteer job at the zoo if you're real lucky.
If you decide to seek an animal caretaker job that does require a formal degree, there are many options as well. Colleges and schools offer a variety of options for students seeking to earn a degree that leads to an animal caretaker job. These can range from certificate programs, to Associate's Degree programs, all the way up to a Master's Degree in zoology or biology if your ambitions run in that direction.
Animal caretaker jobs that usually require an Associate's or Bachelor's degree include:
Marine Mammal Trainers
But there are many more career paths that don't require this level of formal training in order to gain an entry-level job or position. Many students can work through a certificate program in their field of choice, and gain the knowledge needed to get that first job where they can get the training and experience they need to move up to the next career level.
Students seeking an animal caretaker job should also consider their long-range career goals, and whether they want to work for a small pet-related business, a larger organization like a zoo or wildlife sanctuary, or eventually strike out on their own and start a business for themselves. They should also consider whether an accredited training program could be the right choice for them. One association where accreditation is provided is the American Veterinary Medical Association ( http://www.avma.org/ )
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