How to Become an

Animal Trainer

The complete career guide to be an Animal Trainer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $33,600
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 11.1%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Dependable Daily Workload
    Career Attribute

Animal trainers work with dogs, horses, dolphins, and other mammals, and train then to perform certain tasks. They may train horses to compete in races, train dogs to work as service animals, or train dolphins to perform in shows or swim with humans for entertainment purposes.

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What is an Animal Trainer?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in animal trainer roles:

  • Train animals to conduct certain actions as a result of a voice command or gesture
  • Conduct obedience training for dogs to teach dogs how to behave and listen to owners
  • Train animals how to provide services to humans, such as seeing-eye dog training or drug-sniffing dog training
  • Train dogs, horses, and other animals to compete in competitions
  • Train all types of animals for performances, including both live performances and TV/movies

A Day in the Life

Animal trainers are experts in animal behavioral sciences that train dogs, horses, dolphins, and other animals how conduct jobs, entertain audiences, assist the disabled, or respond to human commands and gestures. The most well-known animal trainers are those that conduct obedience training for puppies or other dogs with behavioral issues. These trainers teach dogs how to behave and how to respond to voice commands and gestures, but the job of an animal trainer can be much more than simple obedience training.

Some animal trainers train animals to succeed in competitions. For example, a horse trainer may train a horse how to compete in races or other popular equestrian competitions. Others may train dogs, cats, birds, dolphins, and other animals how to entertain people. Some may train dolphins to perform tricks at Sea World, some may train dogs and cats to perform certain tasks for television shows or movies, and some may train animals at petting zoos to be calm and allow people to hold or pet them.

Other animal trainers train working animals. They may spend months with dogs, training them to serve as seeing-eye dogs for blind companions. They may train dogs to work with law enforcement officials. Law dogs may perform a variety of activities—they may use their sense of smell to aid officers in discovering drugs, locate the positions of bombs and other explosives, or find missing people or bodies. These dogs work for a living, and animal trainers teach them to conduct their roles effectively.

Typical Work Schedule

Animal trainers usually work full-time schedules, though part-time schedules are often available as well. Many animal trainers are self-employed and are able to set their own schedules. Others work for training facilities and conduct most of their work during normal business hours.

Animal Trainer Specializations

  • Obedience trainers teach dogs how to respond to owner voice commands and gestures to help ensure dogs that are kept as pets are well-behaved.
  • Service dog trainers train dogs how to use their natural skills to function as seeing-eye companions or law enforcement animals.
  • Horse trainers train horses how to compete in competitive races and equestrian sports.
  • Dolphin trainers train dolphins how to perform for audiences at aquariums and other sea-life exhibitions.

Typical Employers

Animal trainers may be hired by a variety of employers. They may work for obedience training facilities, for breeders who specialize in breeding service animals, for aquariums or zoos where animals perform for audiences, or for horse farms and horse owners. They may also be self-employed and work for agencies or TV/movie production companies on a freelance basis.

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How To Become an Animal Trainer

Some form of professional training is required to work as an animal trainer, though there are multiple paths you can pursue to qualify for roles in this career. Some may find work with only a high school diploma, starting in entry-level or apprenticeship positions under an experienced animal trainer, and studying the techniques of the role for many years before qualifying to train animals on their own.

Others pursue an education in areas that lead to animal trainer roles. For example, many aspiring dolphin trainers go to college and pursue bachelor’s degrees in marine biology or animal sciences. Some animal trainers learn the role by earning a certificate in animal training from a trade, community, or vocational college.

Many horse trainers learned their trade by working on farms or competing in equestrian racing or sports in their youths. This experience provides them with the skills and talents needed as adults to properly train horses to succeed in competitions.

Regardless of the path you choose to take to pursue a career as an animal trainer, experience and talent will be the key competencies needed to succeed in the role. If you’re struggling to break into the field of animal training with only a high school diploma, a formal college education could set you on the right path. If you’re struggling to find work after graduation, volunteering at a zoo, farm, or animal shelter could put you in a position to meet other animal trainers who are willing to take on an apprentice.

Animal Trainer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Animal Trainer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Animal Trainer's can make an average annual salary of $33,600, or $16 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $20,640 or $10 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #644 Nationally for All Careers

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming an Animal Trainer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Animal Trainers

  • 1.1%   Doctorate
  • 3.3%   Masters
  • 26%   Bachelors
  • 8.1%   Associates
  • 27.3%   College
  • 28%   High School
  • 6.1%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Animal Trainer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 4,100 jobs for a total of 40,900 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 11.1% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #159 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Animal Trainers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Self-employed workers 15,900 2,400 3%
Animal production and aquaculture 6,200 500 1%
Support activities for agriculture and forestry 4,900 600 1%

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