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Animal Caretaker Certificate and Education Program Options

Learn about the requirements and courses for an animal caretaker certificate program. Find out about employment options, continuing education and types of certifications.

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Essential Information

Animal caretakers are responsible for feeding, bathing, exercising and sometimes training animals in shelters, kennels, pet stores, zoos, animal clinics and more. Employers have differing educational requirements for the position of animal caretaker. Many animal shelters and kennels hire high school graduates and provide on-the-job training. However, some employers do prefer or require at least a certificate in animal care.

Students enrolled in an animal care certificate program learn about animal nutrition, characteristics of different breeds and species, obedience training, animal behavioral problems and basic veterinary issues. Many certificate programs also include a clinical experience that allows students to practice working directly with animals, including how to properly bathe and feed different types of animals.

Education Prerequisites

There are little or no educational prerequisites for gaining enrollment in the majority of animal care certificate programs. Some that are offered through community schools do require that students have a high school diploma; however some non-credit certificate programs do not even require that.

Program Coursework

A certificate program in animal care is likely to contain a majority of courses that are practical and hands-on in nature. Students are often expected to work directly with animals to build their skills and knowledge in the following areas:

  • Veterinary anatomy and physiology
  • Animal science
  • Animal training techniques
  • Animal nutrition
  • Laboratory animal care
  • Clinical practicum

Popular Career Options

A certificate in animal care can prepare students for a variety of entry-level careers working directly with animals. Some of these include:

  • Animal shelter employee
  • Humane Society staff
  • Animal laboratory research assistant
  • Private practice veterinary assistant
  • Pet store manager

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, animal care and service workers were projected to see a 23% increase in employment opportunities from 2010-2020. The mean annual wages for nonfarm animal caretakers were $22,370 in May 2012.

Certification Options

There are several organizations offering certification for animal caretakers, depending upon their chosen specialties and vocations. For example, the National Dog Groomers Association of America offers certification for professional dog groomers, while the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters offers a certification program as well. Individuals interested in working in a particular branch of the animal care industry should contact potential employers and inquire as to what certifications, if any, are necessary to gain that particular job.

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