Animal Caretaker Career Profile

How do I become an animal caretaker?

READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.

RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.

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23 September 2023


What is an Animal Caretaker?

An Animal Caretaker is the general and overall description used for someone who cares for the needs of animals. They feed, water, groom, bathe, and exercise animals. They work with domesticated or wild animals, in a variety of places, such as animal shelters, kennels, zoos, stables, pet stores, veterinary clinics, and aquariums.

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This page is dedicated to the general description of an “animal caretaker”, but you can learn more about the specific careers (based on where you can work) included under the “similar careers” tab at the bottom of this page.

Alternative Names

The name Animal Caretaker is also known under other names:

  • Animal Caregiver
  • Animal Care Attendant
  • Kaitiaki Kararehe

Career Categories

The Animal Caretaker career can be found within the following OZT career categories:

  • Animal Care
  • Livestock & Farms
  • Marine Conservation
  • Wildlife Conservation
  • Zoos, Aquariums, Museums and Theme Parks

What does an Animal Caretaker do?

Groups of animals an Animal Caretaker works with

Cats List Icon
Dogs List Icon OZT
Critters List Icon OZT
Farm Animals Icon OZT
Farm Animals
Mammals List Icon OZT
Birds List Icon OZT
Fish List Icon OZT
Reptiles List Icon OZT
Amphibians List Icon OZT
Insects List Icon OZT
Arachnids List Icon OZT
Crustaceans List Icon OZT
Mollusks Link Icon OZT
Myriapods List Icon OZT
Worms List Icon OZT

What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?

With whom does an Animal Caretaker work?

Animal caretakers often work closely with a diverse group of people as part of their daily responsibilities. These interactions can vary depending on the specific job setting and the nature of their work.

Here are different kinds of people that animal caretakers may work with daily:

  • Supervisors and Managers: Animal caretakers report to supervisors or managers who oversee daily operations, assign tasks, and provide guidance on animal care and facility management
  • Co-Workers: Animal caretakers collaborate with fellow staff members who share responsibilities for animal care, enclosure maintenance, and other daily tasks. Teamwork is essential to ensure the well-being of the animals
  • Veterinarians: Animal caretakers often work closely with veterinarians who provide medical care, diagnose illnesses, perform surgeries, and prescribe medications for the animals. They may consult with vets on health concerns and treatment plans
  • Veterinary Technicians and Assistants: In veterinary clinics and facilities, animal caretakers may collaborate with veterinary technicians and assistants in providing care and treatment to animals
  • Animal Behaviorists: In some settings, especially those involving exotic or behaviorally complex animals, caretakers may consult with animal behaviorists to address behavioral issues and implement enrichment programs
  • Educators and Outreach Specialists: Those working in educational settings, such as zoos or wildlife sanctuaries, may interact with in-house educators and outreach specialists who provide information to the public about the animals and conservation efforts
  • Visitors and Tourists: In public-facing roles at zoos, aquariums, and wildlife parks, animal caretakers may interact with visitors and tourists, answering questions and providing information about the animals
  • Animal Owners: Pet caretakers working in boarding kennels or pet daycare facilities may communicate with pet owners, discussing the care and needs of their pets
  • Animal Welfare Inspectors and Regulators: Animal caretakers may interact with government inspectors and regulators who ensure that facilities are complying with animal welfare laws and regulations
  • Wildlife Biologists and Researchers: In research settings, animal caretakers may collaborate with wildlife biologists and researchers who conduct studies and experiments involving animals
  • Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Organizations: Wildlife rehabilitators often work with volunteers, interns, and staff members from animal rescue and rehabilitation organizations to provide care to injured and orphaned wildlife
  • Conservation Organizations: Those involved in the care of Endangered species may collaborate with conservation organizations and experts to participate in breeding programs and conservation efforts
  • Media and Filmmakers: In some cases, animal caretakers may interact with media professionals and filmmakers who are documenting the work of animal care facilities or conducting wildlife-related projects
  • Volunteers and Interns: Many animal care facilities rely on volunteers and interns to assist with daily tasks, and animal caretakers may oversee and work alongside these individuals.

The specific individuals with whom an animal caretaker interacts daily can vary widely based on the nature of their job and the organization or facility they work for. Effective communication and collaboration with these diverse groups of people are crucial for providing excellent care to the animals under their supervision and for fulfilling educational and conservation goals.

What does an Animal Caretaker focus on?

As a generalized career, animal caretakers may work in over 80 specific Animal Care careers. The daily duties and requirements are generally the same across all of the careers, with entry requirements ranging from High School to Bachelor’s Degrees.

The general profession of animal caretaker is divided into three types, according to the grouping of all of the different animal care careers:

  • Non-farm animal caretaker – taking care of pets
  • Farm animal caretaker – working with farm animals
  • Wild animal caretaker – working as a keeper

What are the daily tasks of an Animal Caretaker?

  • Clean equipment and the living spaces of animals
  • Monitor animals and record information such as their diet, physical condition, and behaviour
  • 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 and listen to commands
  • Feed and give water to animals
  • Connect with the public to arrange for adoptions
  • Educate the public on animals

Working conditions of an Animal Caretaker

Where does an Animal Caretaker work?


Animal caretakers can work both outdoors and indoors (kennels, cages etc).

Places of Employment –

They work in a variety of places, such as aviaries, animal shelters, catteries, kennels, zoos, stables, pet stores, veterinary clinics, and aquariums. They may also start their own business.

What is the average annual salary of an Animal Caretaker?

The average salary for animal caretakers globally is slightly less than the average salary earned within any specific country. This means that being an animal caregiver isn’t a career where you work to get extremely wealthy, but you do the work because it’s a passion.

  • Australia – $44,000
  • Canada – $29,400
  • New Zealand – $35,000
  • South Africa – R101,000
  • United Kingdom –  £19,600
  • United States – $30,000

Can an Animal Caretaker be promoted?

The levels of promotion for an Animal Caretaker can vary depending on the organization, such as animal shelters, zoos, wildlife rehabilitation centers, research facilities, and veterinary clinics.

Promotions within the field of animal care often depend on factors such as experience, performance, specialized skills or certifications (e.g., wildlife rehabilitation certification, veterinary technician certification), and the size and structure of the organization. Some animal caretakers may choose to specialize in working with specific types of animals, such as exotic species, marine life, or endangered species, which can lead to more specialized career paths.

Additionally, continuing education and professional development are important for career advancement in the field of animal care, as staying up-to-date with best practices and industry standards is essential for providing high-quality care to animals.

Here are some common levels of promotion for animal caretakers:

Animal Caretaker (Entry-Level)

This is the starting position for individuals interested in working with animals. Entry-level animal caretakers are responsible for basic tasks such as feeding, cleaning enclosures, providing water, and monitoring the well-being of animals.

Senior Animal Caretaker or Lead Animal Caretaker

After gaining experience and demonstrating proficiency in their duties, animal caretakers may be promoted to a senior or lead role. These individuals often take on additional responsibilities, such as training new staff, overseeing daily operations, and ensuring the quality of care provided to animals.

Animal Care Supervisor

Animal care supervisors are responsible for managing a team of animal caretakers. They coordinate work schedules, provide guidance and training, and may be involved in the hiring and evaluation of staff members. They also work closely with veterinarians and other professionals to ensure the health and well-being of animals.

Animal Care Manager

In larger facilities, there may be animal care managers who oversee multiple areas or departments within the organization. They are responsible for budgeting, strategic planning, and overall operations related to animal care.

Curator of Animals or Curator of Collections

In zoos, aquariums, and larger facilities, a curator is responsible for the care and management of a specific group of animals or an entire collection. Curators often have extensive experience and may be involved in research, conservation efforts, and exhibit design.

Director of Animal Care or Director of Operations

At the highest level within an organization, the director of animal care or operations oversees all aspects of animal care and facility management. This role involves setting policies, managing budgets, liaising with regulatory agencies, and making strategic decisions to ensure the welfare of the animals and the success of the organization.

What kind of difficulties can an Animal Caretaker face?

Being an animal caretaker does have some difficult moments, and it’s good to know these things before you truly make a decision to pursue this career. Cleaning up after some of the animals can get messy, and you should be able to see this as part of your daily routine. Although caretakers are taught how to deal with animals, their behavior might be erratic, especially wild animals, and when they are sick or frightened they may bite, kick, or otherwise injure those who take care of them. Animal caretakers might also be required to work long hours, and over weekends and holidays.

Future growth & possibilities

The yearly growth of job opportunities for this career is around 22%, which is much higher than for other related careers. One of the reasons for this high turnaround is due to the fact that many use this career as a steppingstone to a different career.

Availability of Jobs


Which Skills are required by an Animal Caretaker?

The skills required for a career as an animal caretaker can be divided into two very important groups. First is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem Solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship
Life Skills

Career Skills

  • Understanding animal behavior
  • Knowledge of animal handling and care techniques
  • Handling equipment
  • Customer focus
  • Computer skills
  • ​Good health and physical fitness
Career Skills

Which Subjects must I have at School to help prepare for this career?

These subjects are the ones recognized around the world and recommended for the more advanced and competitive of the animal caretaker careers, such as zookeeper or aquarist. Most of the careers in animal care don’t really require specific subjects, BUT it is always important to plan properly. If one of the animal care careers is maybe a stepping stone career (entry careers towards something more advanced) for you, then you will definitely need to take the three subjects to be able to progress.

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

What will I need to Study to become an Animal Caretaker?

Minimum educational requirements

In most cases there is no formal college diploma or University degree needed, but it is advised that you do finish your High School Diploma (Senior National Diploma, Matric or Grade 12).

Study Focus

Short Courses:

Completing Short Courses on topics such as animal care; animal first aid; basic animal behaviour; modern office procedures and correct language usage within animal care will help you prepare for this career. There are a lot of the short courses that you may complete while still in school.

General Animal Studies:

It is also advised that you continue to study as much as possible about the animal(s) you are working with to become an expert in animal care and secure the best career. OZT has an entire section on the different animals to help you gain some knowledge.

Advanced or Further Studies:

Some of the careers will require a higher level of education, such as a college certificate or diploma in animal care or animal management, or a Bachelor’s Degree in subjects that teach you more about animal sciences.

Study Duration

The duration of the different Short Courses depends on the difficulty and institution presenting it. Most Short Courses are between a few weeks and a year. College diplomas are up to 2 years, while University Degrees will be between 3 to 4 years.

Possible Career Preparation Paths

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to be.

Possible Path:

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternative(s):

Stepping Stone Career

Being an animal caretaker can also be used as a stepping stone career. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high fees etc).

You can begin as an intern animal caretaker after basic short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.

Some of the possible paths:

Training and apprenticeship

Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal caregiver careers, most of required skills will be acquired through on-the-job training. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.

In some cases entry level positions (or junior positions) require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.

Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior person or expert. The more hands on careers, such as animal grooming might require apprenticeship.

Join the Animal Caregivers Group to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of educational qualification people had when entering the Career:

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

Licenses, Registration, Certification and Professional Associations

Certain animal caregiver careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and do it well. For example most animal groomers use their certification to prove to their customers that they can work on their animals, without disastrous consequences!

For some careers there are extremely important certifications, without which they wont even be able to perform their daily duties. For example, most aquarists will require certification in scuba diving.

Licenses are issued by government and shows that a person is legally allowed to perform specific animal care duties, or open a place where animals are kept and looked after. Most countries do require some form of registration and license to operate an animal business.

Professional Associations

Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards animal care.

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  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
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