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Animal Care and Service Workers

Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REIGWH6Tedw.
Quick Facts: Animal Care and Service Workers
2018 Median Pay $23,950 per year
$11.51 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, 2018 330,900
Job Outlook, 2018-28 16% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2018-28 51,700

What Animal Care and Service Workers 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 an Animal Care and Service Worker

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for animal trainers was $29,290 in May 2018.

The median annual wage for nonfarm animal caretakers was $23,760 in May 2018.

Job Outlook

Employment of animal care and service workers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth along with high job turnover should result in very good job opportunities.

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 attend to animals. They feed, groom, bathe, and exercise pets and other nonfarm animals.

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

The following are types of animal care and service workers:

Animal trainers teach animals a variety of skills, such as obedience, performance, riding, security, and 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 train dogs to guide people with disabilities, or they may train animals for a competition.

Groomers specialize in maintaining a pet’s appearance. They typically groom dogs and cats, which may include cutting, trimming, shampooing, and styling fur; clipping nails; and cleaning ears. Groomers also schedule appointments, sell products to pet owners, and identify problems that may require veterinary attention.

Groomers may work in or operate a grooming salon, kennel, veterinary clinic, pet supply store, or mobile grooming service, a self-contained business that travels to clients’ homes.

Grooms work at stables, caring for horses and maintaining equipment. Responsibilities include feeding, grooming, and exercising horses; cleaning stalls; polishing saddles; and organizing the tack room, which stores harnesses, saddles, and bridles. Experienced grooms sometimes help train horses.

Kennel attendants care for pets, often overnight, in place of owners. They clean cages and dog runs and feed, exercise, and play 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 and 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. Experienced caretakers may have more responsibilities, such as helping to vaccinate or euthanize animals alongside a veterinarian.

Pet sitters look after animals while the pet 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. 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 and monitor behavior for signs of illness or injury. Depending on the size of the zoo, they may work with one species or multiple species of animals. Zookeepers may help raise young animals, and they often spend time answering questions from the public.

Work Environment About this section

Animal care and service workers
Mobile groomers travel to customers' homes to wash, cut, and brush an animal's coat.

Animal trainers held about 45,300 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of animal trainers were as follows:

Self-employed workers 43%
Support activities for agriculture and forestry 19
Animal production and aquaculture 8
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 7
Retail trade 7

Nonfarm animal caretakers held about 285,600 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of nonfarm animal caretakers were as follows:

Other personal services 33%
Self-employed workers 27
Professional, scientific, and technical services 13
Retail trade 11
Social advocacy organizations 4

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

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.

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 an Animal Care and Service Worker About this section

Animal care and service workers
Most animal care and service workers have a high school diploma and learn the occupation on the job.

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 people who have experience with animals.

Education

Animal care and service workers typically need 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 zookeepers to have a bachelor’s degree in biology, animal science, or a related field.

Training

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

Animal trainers may learn their skills from an experienced trainer. Pet groomers often learn their trade under the guidance of an experienced groomer.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills. For example, professional associations and 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 many animal care and service workers positions, it helps to have experience working with animals. Volunteering and internships at zoos and aquariums are excellent ways to gain such experience.

Important Qualities

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

Customer-service skills. Animal care and service workers should understand pet owners’ needs so they can provide excellent customer service. 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 maintaining records and monitoring changes in animals’ behavior.

Patience. All animal caretakers and animal trainers need to be patient when working with animals.

Physical stamina. Animal care and service workers must be able to kneel, crawl, and lift heavy supplies, such as bags of food.

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

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

Pay About this section

Animal Care and Service Workers

Median annual wages, May 2018

Total, all occupations

$38,640

Animal trainers

$29,290

Personal care and service occupations

$24,420

Animal care and service workers

$23,950

Nonfarm animal caretakers

$23,760

 

The median annual wage for animal trainers was $29,290 in May 2018. 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 $20,270, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $55,760.

The median annual wage for nonfarm animal caretakers was $23,760 in May 2018. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,160, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $37,250.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for animal trainers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Arts, entertainment, and recreation $34,190
Retail trade 23,700

In May 2018, the median annual wages for nonfarm animal caretakers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Other personal services $23,730
Retail trade 23,250
Social advocacy organizations 22,840
Professional, scientific, and technical services 22,840

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 About this section

Animal Care and Service Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2018-28

Personal care and service occupations

17%

Nonfarm animal caretakers

16%

Animal care and service workers

16%

Animal trainers

13%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Overall employment of animal care and service workers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2018 to 2028, 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

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

Employment projections data for animal care and service workers, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Animal care and service workers

39-2000 330,900 382,600 16 51,700 Get data

Animal trainers

39-2011 45,300 51,200 13 5,900 Get data

Nonfarm animal caretakers

39-2021 285,600 331,400 16 45,700 Get data

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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 on Entry-Level Education 2018 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Agricultural workers

Agricultural Workers

Agricultural workers maintain crops and tend to livestock.

See How to Become One $24,620
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 $67,950
Veterinarians

Veterinarians

Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to protect public health.

Doctoral or professional degree $93,830
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and others with their daily tasks.

High school diploma or equivalent $27,540
Veterinary technologists and technicians

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Veterinary technologists and technicians do medical tests that help diagnose animals’ injuries and illnesses.

Associate's degree $34,420
Zoologists and wildlife biologists

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals and other wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems.

Bachelor's degree $63,420

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about pet groomers, visit

National Dog Groomers Association of America, Inc.

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

National Association of Professional Pet Sitters

Pet Sitters International

For more information about animal trainers, visit

The 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

CareerOneStop

For a career video on animal trainers, visit

Animal trainers

O*NET

Animal Trainers

Nonfarm Animal Caretakers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Animal Care and Service Workers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/animal-care-and-service-workers.htm (visited December 13, 2019).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 4, 2019

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2018 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 2018, the median annual wage for all workers was $38,640.

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, 2018

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2018, which is the base year of the 2018-28 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2018-28

The projected percent change in employment from 2018 to 2028. The average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent.

Employment Change, 2018-28

The projected numeric change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

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 2018-28

The projected numeric change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2018 to 2028.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

2018 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 2018, the median annual wage for all workers was $38,640.