Animal Care and Service Workers

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Animal care and service workers attend to animals.

Work Environment: Animal care and service workers are employed in a variety of settings, including kennels, zoos, stables, animal shelters, pet stores, veterinary clinics, and aquariums. Some parts of the job may be physically or emotionally demanding, and workers risk injury when caring for animals.

How to Become One: Animal care and service workers typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn the occupation on the job. Many employers prefer to hire candidates who have experience working with animals.

Salary: The median annual wage for animal trainers is $30,430. The median annual wage for nonfarm animal caretakers is $24,780.

Job Outlook: Employment of animal care and service workers is projected to grow 22 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth along with high job turnover should result in very good job opportunities.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of animal care and service workers with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as an animal care and service worker with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Animal Trainer Jobs

  • Investigator - Animal Cruelty - Pasado's Safe Haven - Monroe, WA

    Experience in animal cruelty investigation, private investigation or law enforcement Education Required ; and experience/ training working with animals desired (not required). Experience: Must be ...

  • Rescue Foster Coordinator - Galveston County Health District - Houston, TX

    Required: · Graduation from an accredited high school or equivalent · Experience with animal training and or advanced animal handling in an animal shelter preferred · 1+ years of experience with ...

  • Animal Care Technician I - Altasciences Preclinical Services - Everett, WA

    Attend training programs to become more knowledgeable of and develop expertise in laboratory animal science * Comply with the appropriate safety and study requirements as described in the Standard ...

See all Animal Trainer jobs

Top 3 Animal Groomer Jobs

  • Pet Groomer - Animal House - Absecon - Absecon, NJ

    You get to focus on your craft and skill of grooming . We have instituted all new no contact check in and other safety procedures in keeping with the CDC and and International Grooming Association

  • Pet Groomer - Midtown Groom & Board - Austin, TX

    Established in 1970, Midtown Groom & Board is Austin's premiere locally-owned animal grooming salon and boarding/daycare facility. We are currently hiring a professional Dog Groomer . Cat grooming is ...

  • Profession Groomer - Ox Bottom Animal Hospital - Tallahassee, FL

    We are looking to add a Professional Groomer to Ox Bottom Animal Hospital team! You will be responsible for the overall care and well-being of the our patients that come to you for care and grooming

See all Animal Groomer jobs

What Animal Care and Service Workers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Animal care and service workers provide care for animals. They feed, groom, bathe, and exercise pets and other nonfarm animals.

Duties of Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers typically do the following:

  • Give food and water to animals
  • Clean equipment and the living spaces of animals
  • Monitor animals and record details of their diet, physical condition, and behavior
  • 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 or to behave in a specific manner

Animal care and service workers train, feed, groom, and exercise animals. They also clean, disinfect, and repair animal cages. They play with the animals, provide companionship, and observe behavioral changes that could indicate illness or injury.

The following are types of animal care and service workers:

Animal trainers train animals for obedience, performance, riding, security, or assisting people with disabilities. They familiarize animals with human voices and contact, and they teach animals to respond to commands. Most animal trainers work with dogs and horses, but some work with marine mammals, such as dolphins. Trainers teach a variety of skills. For example, some may train dogs to guide people with disabilities; others teach animals to cooperate with veterinarians, or they train animals for a competition or show.

Groomers specialize in maintaining a pet's appearance. Groomers typically work in kennels, veterinary clinics, or pet supply stores, where they groom mostly dogs, but some cats, too. In addition to cutting, trimming, and styling pets' fur, groomers clip nails, clean ears, and bathe pets. Groomers also schedule appointments, sell products to pet owners, and identify problems that may require veterinary attention.

Groomers may operate their own business, work in a grooming salon, or run their own mobile grooming service that travels to clients' homes. Demand for mobile grooming services is growing because these services are convenient for pet owners, allowing the pet to stay in its familiar environment.

Grooms care for horses. Grooms work at stables and are responsible for feeding, grooming, and exercising horses. They saddle and unsaddle horses, give them rubdowns, and cool them off after a ride. In addition, grooms clean stalls, polish saddles, and organize the tack room, where they keep harnesses, saddles, and bridles. They also take care of food and supplies for the horses. Experienced grooms sometimes help train horses.

Kennel attendants care for pets while their owners are working or traveling. Basic attendant duties include cleaning cages and dog runs, and feeding, exercising, and playing with animals. Experienced attendants also may provide basic healthcare, bathe animals, and attend to other basic grooming needs.

Nonfarm animal caretakers typically work with cats and dogs in animal shelters or rescue leagues. All caretakers attend to the basic needs of animals, but experienced caretakers may have more responsibilities, such as helping to vaccinate or euthanize animals under the direction of a veterinarian. Caretakers also may have administrative duties, such as keeping records, answering questions from the public, educating visitors about pet health, and screening people who want to adopt an animal.

Pet sitters look after animals while their owner is away. Most pet sitters feed, walk, and play with pets daily. They go to the pet owner's home, allowing the pet to stay in its familiar surroundings and follow its routine. More experienced pet sitters also may bathe, groom, or train pets. Pet sitters typically watch over dogs, but some also take care of cats and other pets.

Zookeepers care for animals in zoos. They plan diets, feed animals, and monitor the animals' eating patterns. They also clean the animals' enclosures, monitor their behavior, and watch for signs of illness or injury. Depending on the size of the zoo, they may work with one species or multiple species of animals. Keepers may help raise young animals, and they often spend time answering questions from the public.

Work Environment for Animal Care and Service Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Animal caretakers hold about 300,700 jobs. The largest employers of animal caretakers are as follows:

Other personal services 33%
Self-employed workers 26%
Professional, scientific, and technical services 12%
Retail trade 12%
Social advocacy organizations 4%

Animal trainers hold about 50,200 jobs. The largest employers of animal trainers are as follows:

Self-employed workers 35%
Support activities for agriculture and forestry 21%
Animal production and aquaculture 14%
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 7%
Retail trade 7%

Animal care and service workers are employed in a variety of settings. Many work at kennels; others work at zoos, stables, animal shelters, pet stores, veterinary clinics, and aquariums. Their work may involve travel.

Although animal care and service workers may consider their work enjoyable and rewarding, they face unpleasant and emotionally distressing situations at times. For example, those who work in shelters may observe abused, injured, or sick animals. Some caretakers may have to help veterinarians euthanize injured or unwanted animals.

In addition, a lot the work involves physical tasks, such as moving and cleaning cages, lifting bags of food, and exercising animals.

Injuries and Illnesses for Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers may be bitten, scratched, or kicked when working with scared or aggressive animals. Injuries may also happen while the caretaker is holding, cleaning, or restraining an animal.

Animal Care and Service Work Schedules

Animals may need care around the clock in facilities that operate 24 hours a day, such as kennels, animal shelters, and stables. Caretakers often work irregular schedules, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Some nonfarm animal caretakers work part time.

How to Become a Animal Care and Service Worker[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Animal Care and Service Workers near you!

Most animal care and service workers have a high school diploma and learn the occupation on the job. Many employers prefer to hire people who have experience with animals.

Find a Degree:


Education for Animal Care and Service Workers

Most animal care and service worker positions require at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

Although pet groomers typically learn by working under the guidance of an experienced groomer, they can also attend grooming schools.

Animal trainers usually need a high school diploma or equivalent, although some positions may require a bachelor's degree. For example, marine mammal trainers usually need a bachelor's degree in marine biology, animal science, biology, or a related field.

Dog trainers and horse trainers may take courses at community colleges or vocational and private training schools.

Most zoos require keepers to have a bachelor's degree in biology, animal science, or a related field.

Animal Care and Service Worker Training

Most animal care and service workers learn through on-the-job training.

Some animal care and service workers may receive training before they enter their position. For example, caretakers in shelters can attend training programs through the Humane Society of the United States, Inc. and American Humane. Animal trainers also may learn their skills by training under an experienced trainer. Pet groomers often learn their trade by training under the guidance of an experienced groomer.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Animal Care and Service Workers

Although not required by law, certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills. For example, several professional associations and hundreds of private vocational and state-approved trade schools offer certification for dog trainers.

The National Dog Groomers Association of America offers certification for master status as a groomer. Both the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International offer a home-study certification program for pet sitters. Marine mammal trainers should be certified in scuba diving.

Many states require self-employed animal care and service workers to have a business license.

Other Experience for Animal Care and Service Workers

For many caretaker positions, it helps to have experience working with animals. Nearly all animal trainer and zookeeper positions require candidates to have experience with animals. Volunteering and internships at zoos and aquariums are excellent ways to gain such experience.

Important Qualities for Animal Care and Service Workers

Compassion. Animal care and service workers must be compassionate when dealing with animals and their owners. They should like animals and must treat them with kindness.

Customer-service skills. Animal care and service workers should understand pet owners' needs so they can provide services that leave the owners satisfied. Some workers may need to deal with distraught pet owners. For example, caretakers working in animal shelters may need to reassure owners looking for a lost pet.

Detail oriented. Animal care and service workers are often responsible for keeping animals on a strict diet, maintaining records, and monitoring changes in animals' behavior.

Patience. All animal caretakers and animal trainers need to be patient when training or working with animals that do not respond to commands.

Physical stamina. Animal care and service workers often kneel, crawl, bend, and lift heavy supplies, such as bags of food.

Problem-solving skills. Animal trainers must be able to assess whether the animals are responding to teaching methods and identify which methods are most successful.

Reliability. Animal care and service workers need to care for animals in a scheduled and timely manner.

Trustworthiness. Pet sitters must demonstrate that they can be trusted when caring for animals and properties while the owner is away.

Animal Care and Service Worker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for animal trainers is $30,430. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $59,110.

The median annual wage for nonfarm animal caretakers is $24,780. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,630, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $38,630.

The median annual wages for animal trainers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Arts, entertainment, and recreation $33,910
Retail trade $24,730

The median annual wages for nonfarm animal caretakers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Other personal services $24,780
Retail trade $24,180
Social advocacy organizations $24,100
Professional, scientific, and technical services $23,670

Animals may need care around the clock in facilities that operate 24 hours a day, such as kennels, animal shelters, and stables. Caretakers often work irregular schedules, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Some nonfarm animal caretakers work part time.

Job Outlook for Animal Care and Service Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Overall employment of animal care and service workers is projected to grow 22 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Many people consider their pets to be a part of their family and are willing to pay more for pet care than pet owners have in the past. As more households include companion pets, employment of animal care and service workers in the pet services industry will continue to grow. Employment of animal care and service workers in kennels, grooming shops, and pet stores is projected to increase in order to keep up with the growing demand for animal care.

Job Prospects for Animal Care and Service Workers

Overall job prospects should be good. The majority of job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

Employment projections data for Animal Care and Service Workers, 2019-29
Occupational Title Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29
Percent Numeric
Animal care and service workers 350,900 426,400 22 75,500
  Animal trainers 50,200 56,900 13 6,700
  Animal caretakers 300,700 369,500 23 68,800


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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