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How do I become an animal caretaker

  • Read about the career and the info you need to decide on following this career.
  • ​Follow the 7 points below and search for a tertiary institution near you for future studies. If you already are graduated, you may also search through our list of Jobs in the main menu.
  • If you want to PLAN the way you need to prepare, then join our community where you will learn everything, while chatting with other potential caretakers and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!

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UPDATED: 28 April 2021

1. 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.

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 on this page.

Alternative Names:

The name Animal Caretaker is also known under other names:

  • Animal Caregiver
  • Animal Care Attendant
  • Kaitiaki Kararehe

2. What does an Animal Caretaker do?

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 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

3. Working conditions of an Animal Caretaker

Where does an Animal Caretaker work?

Environment

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?

Promotion to senior levels are available in most animal caretaker careers. The levels of each promotion might differ from organization to organization, but generally are the following:

Intern Caretaker -> Junior Caretaker -> Senior Caretaker -> Manager

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.

4. 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

Career Skills:

  • Understanding animal behavior
  • Knowledge of animal handling and care techniques
  • ​Good health and physical fitness
Life Skills
40%
Career Skills
60%

5. 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.

6. 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 studies:

Some of the careers will require a higher level of education, such as a college 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 and Bachelor’s Degrees will be between 2 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 Caregiver Group in STEP 9 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%

7. 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:

8. 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.

Do you want to contribute to the career information? Please click on the red beetle to learn about being an OZT mentor or contributor.

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JOIN the OZT community

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming an animal caretaker.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being an Animal Caretaker and want to join our Community, then please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu to start a new search and learn about a different career.

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