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Animal Trainers

At a Glance

  • Often specialize in one type of animal
  • Work both indoors and outdoors
  • Must be calm and patient
  • Have flexible schedules
  • Sometimes work long hours
  • Train on the job

Career summary

Animal trainers train animals to work, perform, or serve as companions.

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Animal trainers help teach animals to do desired behaviors and stop doing undesired behaviors. For example, they may train dogs to walk-nicely on leash, stop barking, search for drugs, or guide blind people. They may train horses for show, racing, or working. In addition, trainers may teach animals to perform. They may train dolphins to find and retrieve objects. They may teach other animals to sit, stand, beg, or perform other tricks on cue. Trainers usually specialize in one type of animal and one type of training program.

Regardless of the type of animal they train or the purpose of the training, animal trainers must know how to do many of the same things:

Identify suitable animals

Animal trainers must find animals to teach. They may breed their own animals, buy animals, or adopt them from animal shelters. Before choosing animals, trainers evaluate them to determine whether they are trainable.

Training practices

Trainers begin by getting animals used to human voice and contact. Most training involves getting the animals to respond to hand, voice, and physical commands. Training is a slow process and trainers must be patient.

Animal psychology

Trainers must understand the psychology of the animals they train. Once animals are trained, trainers may also need to teach the animals' owners. They may train a horse and its rider, or a dog and its human handler.

Animal care

Training animals is only part of a trainer's tasks. They must also care for animals. Trainers who keep animals while they are being trained must also feed the animals, exercise them, give them medicine, and clean their kennels, stables, or other living areas. They keep records of diet, health, and behavior. Trainers who have large facilities may have animal caretakers who do animal maintenance tasks. Trainers may hire, train, and supervise these workers.

Related careers

This career is part of the Hospitality and Tourism cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to animal trainers.

Common work activities

Animal trainers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, animal trainers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Animal trainers frequently:

It is important for animal trainers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for animal trainers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Animal trainers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an animal trainer, you typically need to:

Education after high school

There are no formal education requirements beyond high school for most animal trainers. However, trainers who work in zoos or aquariums usually have a bachelor's degree. Their degrees often are in marine biology or animal management. These programs include courses in animal science and psychology.

Work experience

Work experience as an animal caretaker is helpful. Similarly, volunteering at an animal hospital or clinic is also valuable.

On-the-job training

Almost all animal trainers receive informal, on-the-job training from an experienced worker. On the job, you learn to:

Training generally lasts up to a year.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many animal trainers are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers look for applicants who have experience working with animals. They also look for education or training beyond high school. Zoos and aquariums often require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in a related field.

Strong communication skills and a calm, patient manner are important. This is because many trainers also work with people as well as with animals.

Costs to workers

Some workers join professional associations, which may have annual dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


The minimum wage for Washington State as of January 1, 2020 is $13.50 per hour. Some areas of the state may have a higher minimum wage.


Animal trainers (SOC 39-2011)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $12.16 $13.73 $18.49 $23.54 $30.46
Monthly $2,107 $2,379 $3,204 $4,079 $5,279
Yearly $25,300 $28,550 $38,460 $48,960 $63,350
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $13.42 $16.36 $20.60 $24.45 $29.07
Monthly $2,326 $2,835 $3,570 $4,237 $5,038
Yearly $27,910 $34,030 $42,846 $50,848 $60,474
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $11.97 $12.11 $12.68 $14.44 $16.14
Monthly $2,074 $2,099 $2,197 $2,502 $2,797
Yearly $24,898 $25,181 $26,376 $30,023 $33,579
    Vancouver Hourly $10.83 $11.26 $11.96 $12.71 $24.19
Monthly $1,877 $1,951 $2,073 $2,203 $4,192
Yearly $22,523 $23,414 $24,885 $26,416 $50,329
United States Hourly $9.74 $11.21 $14.08 $19.57 $26.81
Monthly $1,688 $1,943 $2,440 $3,391 $4,646
Yearly $20,270 $23,310 $29,290 $40,710 $55,760

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The type of animal trained and the trainer's level of experience also affect wages.

Animal trainers who work full time generally receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Animal trainers who are self-employed must provide their own insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Animal Trainers (SOC 39-2011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 676 44.4% 16.1% 151
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 43 53.5% 13.4% 11
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 17 35.3% 8.6% 4
    Benton and Franklin Counties 19 42.1% 15.0% 4
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 26 61.5% 11.9% 7
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 50 56.0% 15.2% 13
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 14 42.9% 14.1% 3
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 11 63.6% 14.6% 3
    King County 278 36.0% 19.6% 56
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 11 63.6% 13.8% 3
    Pierce County 55 54.5% 15.2% 14
    Snohomish County 85 40.0% 12.4% 18
    Spokane County 56 48.2% 13.9% 13
United States 45,300 13.0% 5.2% 7,600

National employment

About 43% of animal trainers are self-employed.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is growing. Most of the growth in this occupation will come from the needs of pet owners. As more of these pets live indoors or with other pets, the likelihood of behavior problems increases. Trainers will be hired to solve these problems.

Because of the high cost, police departments and other groups that need trained animals can buy only a small number of animals each year. Budget cuts may limit demand.

Job for trainers at zoos and marine parks will be hardest to get. Zoos and marine parks have low turnover, and job openings attract many applicants.

Other resources

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (external link)
2365 Harrodsburg Road, A325
Lexington, KY 40504
Certified Horsemanship Association (external link)
1795 Alysheba Way, Suite 7102
Lexington, KY 40509
Guide Dogs for the Blind (external link)
P.O. Box 151200
San Rafael, CA 94915
International Association of Canine Professionals (external link)
PO Box 928
Lampasas TX 76550


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational clusters