Marine mammal trainers train animals such as dolphins, sea lions and seals. They work in zoos, aquariums and other wildlife facilities. They also care for their animals by exercising them, monitoring their diets and socialising them.
Besides training duties, marine mammal trainers play with their animals and provide companionship to them, while keeping a keen eye out for possible health problems and behavioural changes that could signal the need for veterinary care.
Marine mammal trainers are usually animal lovers and take much pleasure from their jobs. However, some of their duties may be unpleasant and even dangerous. Animals such as dolphins and sea lions as well as Orcas (killer whales) may sometimes injure their trainers. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, marine mammal trainers have a higher incidence of on the job injuries than most other professions.
In addition, marine mammal trainers must often do physically exhausting work such as lifting heavy supplies, bending repeatedly, as well as working outside in all kinds of inclement weather.
Marine mammal trainers may work long or irregular hours, especially in zoos or aquariums. Animals must be fed and trained daily including weekends or holidays. When an animal under their charge is sick they must often attend to them twenty four hours a day.
Many marine mammal trainers, especially those who work in zoos and aquariums, are required to posses at least a bachelor's degree. Most zoos require their animals trainers to hold a degree in a marine biology, biology or another similar degree. Additionally most employers prefer their trainers to have had previous experience working with animals. Experience as a zoo keeper or even an unpaid zoo volunteer can satisfy this requirement, and is a good way for a prospective marine mammal trainers to enter the career field.
Skilled and experienced marine mammal trainers may be promoted to head trainer, or could even be hired as a head curator at a zoo or aquarium. Successful candidates would be very experienced and possibly posses advanced degrees in marine biology. However, these kinds of job openings are few and far in between and competition for them is fierce.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median annual salary for an animal trainer working in the United States was just over £17, 000 as of May 2008. The bottom 10 per cent of trainers earned about £10,855 while the top 10 per cent made more than £33, 400 a year.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor predicts that jobs for marine mammal trainers will grow more slowly than most other occupations between 2008 and 2018. As more graduates enter the work force with degrees in marine biology or biology they are expected to outnumber the jobs available. As such, competition for available jobs will be very strong and successful candidates will be those who have had previous experience working with animals, even if only as volunteers.