Animal Training Careers
So You Want to be a Trainer...
- Each year, hundreds of men and women apply for positions in SeaWorld's and Busch Gardens' Animal Training departments. But the number of openings is generally very limited - we may hire fewer than 10 applicants per park each year.
- Who gets the job? Out of hundreds of applicants, how do five or six individuals stand out above the rest? This section will detail the requirements of SeaWorld animal trainers, as well as a few extra tips for gaining an edge in the competitive field of animal training.
Hundreds of people apply for positions in the Animal Training
departments, but the number of openings is generally very limited.
- When you apply for a job as an animal trainer, your prospective employer will assume you love animals. They will be much more interested in your education and experience. Parks have different educational requirements. At Busch Gardens, future keepers must have a college degree in Animal Husbandry, Animal Science, Zoology or a related field. For SeaWorld, a college degree is not required to be eligible for an animal training position, but it is preferred. Applicants are expected to complete some college coursework in biology, marine biology, zoology, and animal behavior or psychology. (While few colleges offer courses or programs specific to animal training, a list of institutions which do provide such offerings are given in the Appendices.)
Keepers at Busch Gardens must have a college degree in
Animal Husbandry, Animal Science, Zoology, or a related field.
- Perhaps the best background a prospective trainer can bring to an interview is experience working with animals. Prior experience with large animals is preferred. Experience working with horses or birds, working on a farm, or volunteering at an animal hospital is beneficial. The more experience you have with different kinds of animals, the greater your chances will be of getting hired. And of course, applicants should exhibit a strong personal commitment to, respect for, and patience with animals.
Prior experience working with large animals is very beneficial.
The more experience you have with different kinds of animals
the greater your chances will be of getting hired.
- At SeaWorld parks, animal trainers often work in and around water. They must have SCUBA and CPR certificates, as well as basic first aid skills. A job as an animal trainer requires a degree of physical strength and athletic ability. Strong swimming is a must. Applicants must be able to pass a rigorous swim test. The test includes a 67 m (220 ft.) freestyle swim and a 33 m (110 ft.) underwater swim. The applicant must also perform a 7.3 m (24 ft.) free dive to retrieve a relatively small weight and bring it to the surface. Regular exercise - particularly swimming - and a healthy, drug-free lifestyle will help prepare you for a career with animals.
To perform the responsibilities of an animal trainer at SeaWorld
individuals must have physical strength and athletic ability.
Strong swimming is a must.
- Working with animals is only part of being a trainer. Animal trainers must perform and speak in front of large audiences. They may also be required to answer questions for tours and other small groups. Strong communication skills and experience in public speaking or drama are desirable traits among trainer applicants. A microphone test is part of the interview process.
Animal trainers must perform and speak comfortably in front of large
audiences as well as small groups.
- Zoos and aquariums often hire qualified people from within their own ranks. Those hopeful for an animal training career may break into the field by taking a job in another department. Starting in any department is a good way to get "your foot in the door". While gaining park experience and knowledge, you can establish yourself as a reliable and ambitious team member. This strategy may greatly increase your chances of working with animals in the future.
- Finally, many professional organizations have special membership rates for nonprofessionals and students. You can learn more about animals and animal careers through these organizations' newsletters. Also, by attending local workshops and national conferences, you might make some good contacts and get more information on how to chart a path toward an animal training career. (A selection of professional organizations associated with the animal training field may be found in the Appendices.)
- An on-the-job apprenticeship is required of each new trainer. The apprenticeship period may last a year or more, even if new trainers have had animal training experience somewhere else. During their apprenticeship, new trainers learn animal training methods, and become familiar with the animals, their personalities, feeding, and care.
During their apprenticeship, new trainers learn animal training
methods and become familiar with the animals, their
personalities, feeding, and care.
- SeaWorld trainers may be apprentices for four years before doing waterwork segments with killer whales. Over time, apprentice trainers may become associate trainers, trainers, and senior trainers. Senior trainers perform in many park shows and help train apprentice trainers.
Senior trainers perform in many park shows and help train
- At Busch Gardens, keepers are trained by levels that vary in hands-on involvement with the animals. The Bird and Reptile Department requires keepers to complete eight phases of training levels. Within each phase, keepers must complete multiple tests and training courses before moving to the next phase. In other animal departments, keepers are required to complete specific courses and training related to animal behavior, health, and training. They must also learn park policies, computer competencies, and media training.
Keepers at Busch Gardens complete specific courses and training
related to animal behavior, health, and training.
Additional Career Options
- After fully investigating the requirements and duties of animal trainers, you may decide to explore other career opportunities working with animals. You may also wish to investigate opportunities in veterinary medicine, animal husbandry, marine wildlife research, education, and the growing field of wildlife management and conservation.
Other animal related fields you may want to investigate include
veterinary medicine, animal husbandry, marine wildlife research, education
and the growing field of wildlife management and conservation.