If you have a soft spot for animals, you should consider a profession that allows you to work closely with them. Animal trainers teach animals how to perform many functions, such as assisting disabled people, competing in contests, performing in events, and rescue or police work. They also ensure that a wide array of animals (particularly dogs, horses, and marine mammals) are properly cared for and regularly monitor their progress. They examine animals' diet, weight, and behavior which all play a significant role in the training process.
Animal trainers work in a variety of settings, including zoos, kennels, animal shelters, pet stores, veterinary clinics, farms, and circuses. Many of them are required to visit pet owners' homes. Besides frequent travel, they're often exposed to other stressful situations, such as work-related injuries, overexertion, and irregular hours. The average salaries for these professionals typically depends on the types of animals they train, their experience level, and their location.
Animal Training Degrees Available
- Certificate: 1 year to complete
- Associate Degree: 2 years to complete
- Bachelor's Degree: 4 years to complete
- Master's Degree: 2-3 years to complete
- Doctoral Degree: 3-5 years to complete
A certificate in animal training qualifies individuals to enter the workforce as animal trainers. Most programs are offered at private institutions or specialized training schools and place emphasis on specific animals, such as wildlife, horses, dogs, or dolphins. Some programs enable students to earn a degree in a broader animal-related discipline with a concentration on animal training. Classes discuss several topics in obedience training, animal psychology, personal safety, animal anatomy, client and owner relations, and animal physiology.
An associate degree in animal training also prepares individuals for entry-level jobs in this field. The program teaches the fundamental concepts associated with animal training, as well as best practices and industry trends. Students are expected to gain considerable hands-on experience through apprenticeships and other on-site opportunities at local animal care facilities. They may study a large array of subjects, such as conservation, animal behavior management, record keeping, wildlife education, and capture and restraint.
While some associate degree graduates opt to immediately obtain employment, others choose to transfer to a bachelor's degree program. An undergraduate degree in animal training is usually rare, but several schools encourage students to enroll in bachelor's degree programs in animal science with an emphasis on animal training. Examples of class topics may include human and animal sociology, research and documentation methods, physiological development, biochemistry, and neurochemistry.
Those who want to advance into supervisory positions in animal training may also enroll in master's degree programs which provide more in-depth knowledge that can be applied to various aspects of the field. Lastly, doctoral degree programs are offered to individuals who want to enter careers in teaching, consulting, or research in animal training. Most masters degree programs require the completion of an original these before graduation, whereas dissertations are mandatory in order to finish a doctoral program.
A high school diploma or the completion of a GED program is the only requirement for certificate and associate or bachelor's degree programs. However, graduate programs typically request undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, standardized test scores, and written essays. Some also prefer candidates with related work experience.
Difference Between Traditional and Online Animal Training Degrees
Although online animal training degrees are available, it's important to keep in mind that the majority of programs require some form of hands-on training. This means distance learning students can't complete their work entirely over the Internet and may have to schedule visits with local organizations or private institutions to complete internships.
Tuition for certificate programs in animal science tends to range between $2,500 and $5,000 yearly. Degree programs in the field largely vary by location, school and type of animal that an individual plans to study.
Going to an accredited school will increase the chances of getting a worthwhile learning experience and obtaining employment after graduation. Most animal training degree programs are accredited by national accreditors, which formally recognize specialized training schools and programs. Online schools are typically approved by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).
Choosing the Best School for You
It's important to weigh all of your option for animal training degree programs carefully before choosing a degree program. Getting a second opinion from qualified professionals at your prospective school or workers who are already in this field will help you become confident during the decision-making process.
Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). (2012).