Animal Care and Service Workers

Summary

animal care and service workers image
Trainers teach animals to respond to commands.
Quick Facts: Animal Care and Service Workers
2014 Median Pay $20,610 per year
$9.91 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2014 241,600
Job Outlook, 2014-24 11% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 25,700

What Animal Care and Service Workers Do

Animal care and service workers provide care for animals. They feed, groom, bathe, and exercise pets and other nonfarm animals. Job tasks vary by position and place of work.

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 of the work may be physically or emotionally demanding, and the rate of work-related injuries and illnesses is higher than the national average.

How to Become an Animal Care and Service Worker

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

Pay

The median annual wage for animal care and service workers was $20,610 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of animal care and service workers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth coupled with high job turnover should result in very good job opportunities for jobseekers.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for animal care and service workers.

Similar Occupations

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

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about animal care and service workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Animal Care and Service Workers Do About this section

Animal care and service workers
Pet sitters care for pets while the owner is at work or on vacation.

Animal care and service workers provide care for animals. They feed, groom, bathe, and exercise pets and other nonfarm animals. Job tasks vary by position and place of work.

Duties

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.

Boarding kennels, pet stores, animal shelters, rescue leagues, veterinary hospitals and clinics, stables, aquariums and natural aquatic habitats, zoological parks, and many laboratories house animals and employ animal care and service workers.

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.

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 train animals for a competition or show.

Groomers specialize in maintaining a pet’s appearance. Kennels, veterinary clinics, or pet supply stores employ groomers, 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.

Keepers care for animals in zoos. They plan diets, feed, and monitor the eating patterns of animals. 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.

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.

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.

Work Environment About this section

Animal care and service workers
Groomers wash, cut, and brush an animal’s coat.

Animal care and service workers held about 241,600 jobs in 2014. About 85 percent of these workers were nonfarm animal caretakers, and 15 percent were animal trainers.

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. Mobile groomers and pet sitters typically travel to customers’ homes. Caretakers of show and sports animals must travel to competitions. Nearly 1 in 4 animal care and service workers were self-employed in 2014.

Although most animal care and service workers consider the work enjoyable and rewarding, they may 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

Nonfarm animal caretakers have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Caretakers 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.

Work Schedules

Animals need care around the clock, so many facilities, such as kennels, zoos, animal shelters, and stables operate 24 hours a day. Therefore, caretakers often work irregular hours including evenings, weekends, and holidays. About 1 in 4 animal trainers and about 1 in 3 animal caretakers worked part time in 2014. Self-employed workers often set their own schedule.

How to Become an Animal Care and Service Worker About this section

Animal care and service workers
Some kennel attendants work in shelters and may try to match animals with families.

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.

Education

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. The length of each program varies with the school and the number of advanced skills taught.

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

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 typically qualify by taking courses at community colleges or vocational and private training schools.

Training

Most animal care and service workers learn through on-the-job training. They begin by performing basic tasks and work up to positions that require more responsibility and experience.

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 and the American Humane Association. Pet groomers often learn their trade by training under the guidance of an experienced groomer.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

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

Other Experience

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 experience in working with animals.

Important Qualities

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 must be detail oriented because they are often responsible for keeping animals on a strict diet, maintaining records, and monitoring changes in animals’ behavior.

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

Physical stamina. Stamina is important for animal care and service workers because their work often involves kneeling, crawling, bending, and lifting 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. In order to meet the customer’s needs, 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.

Pay About this section

Animal Care and Service Workers

Median annual wages, May 2014

Total, all occupations

$35,540

Animal trainers

$25,770

Personal care and service occupations

$21,260

Animal care and service workers

$20,610

Nonfarm animal caretakers

$20,340

 

The median annual wage for animal trainers was $25,770 in May 2014. 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 $17,650, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $57,160.

The median annual wage for nonfarm animal caretakers was $20,340 in May 2014. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,750, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $33,880.

Animals need care around the clock; many facilities, such as kennels, animal shelters, and stables, must be staffed 24 hours a day. Therefore, animal caretakers often work irregular hours including evenings, weekends, and holidays. About 1 in 4 animal trainers and about 1 in 3 nonfarm animal caretakers worked part time in 2014. Self-employed workers often set their own schedule.

Job Outlook About this section

Animal Care and Service Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Personal care and service occupations

13%

Animal trainers

11%

Animal care and service workers

11%

Nonfarm animal caretakers

11%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Overall employment of animal care and service workers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

As more households own pets, employment of animal care and service workers in the pet services industry will continue to grow. Employment in kennels, grooming shops, and pet stores is projected to increase to keep up with the growing demand for animal care.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities are projected to be very good for most positions. Employment growth and high job turnover are expected to result in many openings for dog trainers, groomers, pet sitters, kennel attendants, and caretakers in shelters and rescue leagues.

However, jobseekers will face very strong competition for positions as marine mammal trainers, horse trainers, and zookeepers. The relatively few positions and the popularity of the occupations should result in far more applicants than available positions.

Employment projections data for animal care and service workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Animal care and service workers

241,600 267,300 11 25,700

Animal trainers

39-2011 36,800 40,900 11 4,100 [XLSX]

Nonfarm animal caretakers

39-2021 204,800 226,400 11 21,600 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of animal care and service workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2014 MEDIAN PAY Help
Agricultural workers

Agricultural Workers

Agricultural workers maintain the quality of farms, crops, and livestock by operating machinery and doing physical labor under the supervision of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.

See How to Become One $19,330
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers

Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers operate establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products.

High school diploma or equivalent $68,050
Veterinarians

Veterinarians

Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to improve public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals.

Doctoral or professional degree $87,590
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers look after animals in laboratories, animal hospitals, and clinics. They care for the animals by performing routine tasks under the supervision of scientists, veterinarians, and veterinary technologists and technicians.

High school diploma or equivalent $23,790
Veterinary technologists and technicians

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to assist in diagnosing the injuries and illnesses of animals.

Associate's degree $31,070

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about pet groomers, visit

National Dog Groomers Association of America, Inc.

Petgroomer.com

For more information about pet sitters, including certification information, visit

National Association of Professional Pet Sitters

Pet Sitters International

For more information about animal trainers, visit

Association of Professional Dog Trainers

International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association

For more information about keepers, visit

Association of Zoos & Aquariums

American Association of Zoo Keepers

O*NET

Animal Trainers

Nonfarm Animal Caretakers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Animal Care and Service Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/animal-care-and-service-workers.htm (visited February 07, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

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2014 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2014, the median annual wage for all workers was $35,540.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2014 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2014, the median annual wage for all workers was $35,547.