What do animal care workers do?
Think fast, if you could meet anyone in history, alive or dead, who would it be? If you're glossing over political figures, writers, artists, religious leaders and relatives to skip straight to Steve Irwin, Jack Hanna, Cesar Milan and Dr. Dolittle, you might want to consider a career in animal care.
It's time to face the facts. You won't be happy unless you're dog (or cat, horse, pig, reptile or parrot) whispering, so why waste your time? Animal care workers are a unique group that includes trainers, kennel staff, groomers and other caretakers who oversee every aspect of an animal's healthy life. The good news is that you get to leave the sick and sad parts to a veterinarian and save all the fun stuff for yourself.
The job consists mainly of working directly with one or more animals to turn them into well-behaved members of animal society. You'll probably have a somewhat irregular schedule. There will be weekends, nights and holidays involved in almost every animal care position. Animals need care 24/7, not just 9-5. Also, not to be Debbie Downer, but there is a slightly higher risk of injury than most other jobs (think biting dogs and kicking horses). Still, you can't really beat snuggling kittens for a living.
How much do animal care workers make?
The average hourly pay for all animal care workers is around $10 per hour, but will vary by experience and location. Animal care workers with a significant amount of experience and the appropriate certification can expect to earn up to $15 per hour.
What are the education requirements?
Depending on what kind of position you're looking at, you'll probably only need a high school diploma or GED to get into animal care. The exception to this would be some training jobs that require you to work with animals like Shamu, or anything exotic in a zoo. This requires more education than just the school of hard knocks. Most other trainers (for horses and dogs alike) learn as apprentices during on-the-job training. Watching "Dog Whisperer" just isn't going to cut it, sorry.
Career paths for animal care workers
Most animal care workers start from the bottom (and we mean bottom) and work their way up. Cleaning out stables, crates and other types of living quarters will be a good way to get your foot in the door. As you become more comfortable around the animals and acquire more experience, you'll be given more responsibilities. For instance, you can move from dog bather, to walker, to groomer, to trainer.
The future of animal care jobs
According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), job opportunities for animal care workers are projected to grow by 21 percent between 2008 and 2018. This is nearly double the average job's growth rate. Because baby boomers have more disposable income than any other generation, there will be more demand than ever for services like grooming, boarding and training - and the more people it will take to fulfill their needs.
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