Animal Care Manager Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as an animal care manager? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming an animal care manager is for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Animal Care Manager

Animal care managers are responsible for the care and upkeep of animals in an array of settings, including kennels, pet stores, zoos, people's homes, farms or animal shelters. To determine whether or not a career as an animal care manager is right for you, read the following pros and cons.

PROS of an Animal Care Manager Career
Good job for animal lovers*
Can work in variety of environments (kennel, shelter, zoo, etc.)*
No degrees or experience required (advancement can be based on experience)*
Lots of job opportunities (job growth rate of 15% from 2012-2022 is well above average)*

CONS of an Animal Care Manager Career
Median salaries are low ($20,340 for nonfarm animal caretakers)*
Can be dangerous (exposure to bites, scratches, heavy lifting)*
Can be emotionally difficult (sick animals, euthanasia, upset pet owners)*
Often requires long hours, holidays and weekends*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties, Salary and Career Info

The basic job duties of an animal care manager include feeding, bathing, cleaning, exercising and other tasks necessary for the welfare of animals. However, your duties will change depending on the area of the field in which you work.

Groomers bathe and care for animals' appearance. Trainers work with animals to teach them obedience commands or prepare them for performing, helping the disabled or for riding. Pet sitters look after other people's animals while they are on vacation or at work, while dog walkers are responsible for making sure pets get exercise. Zoo keepers or those who work in other environments, such as at aquariums, might have different or more specialized duties.

Animal care managers often need people skills as well as a penchant for animals. Workers at shelters, pet stores, kennels, zoos or veterinary offices must be able to interact with owners or audiences.

Job Prospects

An advantage to pursuing a career as an animal care manager is that the outlook for jobs is well above average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for animal care and service workers is expected to grow by 15 percent from 2012-2022, which is much faster than average for all other careers. However, if you want to enter a specialized area of animal care management, such as working at an aquarium or zoo, competition for jobs is tougher.

The abundance of jobs in this field is partly because many animal care managers leave the field each year to pursue other careers. The growing number of pet owners in America also plays a role in the increase in jobs. As the number of people with disposable incomes increases, so does the need for animal caregivers, groomers, trainers and other workers within the industry.

Salaries

Wages for animal care managers are low, with the median salary around $20,340 in 2014. People who go into a more specialized area, such as medical or surgical settings, can expect to do a little better, with a median salary of $36,210. Those who move into management and jobs with more responsibility can improve their salary expectations. For example, in March 2012, Washington County in Arkansas was seeking an animal shelter director, offering an annual salary of $42,473.

What Are the Requirements?

Becoming an animal care manager won't require you to spend years in school earning a degree. Most jobs require no specific education, but many employers do seek people who have experience working with animals. An associate's or bachelor's degree in animal management or a related field can improve your chances for moving up more quickly in the field. If you want to work in a specialized area of animal care management, such as being a trainer or working at a scientific institution, a bachelor's degree may be required. Certification though a college or an organization such as the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science can also improve your chances for finding better paying jobs in animal care management.

While formal education is not necessary to begin a career in animal care management, experience can be helpful in landing a job. However, that experience can be minimal. Many employers seeking animal care managers in March 2012 only asked for one or two years experience. Most importantly, employers seek out workers with a certain skill set that allows them to flourish in this specialized and sometimes demanding field. Some of the qualities employers ask for include:

  • Reliability and ability to work independently
  • Willingness to work long hours and weekends
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • A passion for animals
  • Ability to multi-task in a fast-paced environment

Job Postings from Real Employers

Animal care managers are sought in a variety of environments, including pet stores, kennels and homes. As a result, employers look for different skills, depending on the nature of the job. Experience or training in a certain area can improve your job opportunities, as can a degree in a related field or certification from a college program or organization. To give you an idea of the varied job opportunities available and experience that employers seek, the following are a few animal care manager job listings from Internet job websites from March 2012:

  • A college in Middlebury, Vermont, was seeking an animal care manager to oversee its laboratory animal care facility. The successful candidate would oversee the daily animal care duties, manage the animal care staff, hire and supervise assistants, work with veterinarians and maintain facility records. Applicants needed a bachelor's degree, or associate's degree with equivalent experience in a laboratory animal facility.
  • A pet store in Aliso Viejo, California, sought a person to work at its 'pet hotel.' Responsibilities included interacting with pet owners, feeding and watering the animals, walking them, cleaning and working in other departments within the store as needed. While no experience or special education was required, candidates needed to love animals and be willing to work flexible hours.
  • A research company in Newark, Delaware, was looking for an animal care technician to support its animal facility. Duties included cleaning, documentation of animal practices and health and maintenance of food and bedding areas. Training was provided on the job, though a high school diploma and a minimum of one year of experience was required.
  • A boarding kennel in Somerset City, New Jersey, advertised for an animal supervisor to clean, feed and exercise the dogs and cats. A high school diploma and one year experience was required. The employer was seeking a motivated person able to multi-task and be willing to work a flexible schedule and long hours.

How to Stand Out

The best way to be noticed in the field of animal care management is to have experience. Another way is to focus on a specific area within the field. Experience in a specialized niche such as working with aquatic animals, training horses or management of an animal facility can help you get jobs that pay better and give you more responsibility. However, competition for these jobs is stiffer than within the generalized field. Animal care managers can also garner more attention by starting their own business. No education or experience is required to start your own dog walking, pet sitting or grooming business.

Education can also be helpful, as some jobs require an associate's or bachelor's degree in animal care management or a related field. While there aren't many colleges that offer animal care management degrees, schools do offer similar degrees such as animal sciences or animal shelter management certification. Organizations for workers in the pet care field also offer educational opportunities or certification, such as the American Humane Association and the National Animal Control Association. Many associations also provide job listings that can help you find current openings.

Other Career Paths

Veterinarian

Becoming a veterinarian allows you to work with animals and earn a much higher salary than an animal care manager. The median salary for veterinarians in May 2011 was about $83,000, stated the BLS. However, extensive education and training are required to enter this field. In order to become a practicing veterinarian, you must earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, as well as pass a licensing exam and, in most states, a jurisprudence test that involves knowing state regulations and laws. According to the BLS, the number of available veterinarian jobs is expected to increase by 35% from 2010-2020. This increase is partially due to the growing number of pet owners in America with disposable incomes. In addition, admission into veterinary medicine program is extremely keen, as a result, there are fewer applicants for the jobs available.

Veterinary Assistant and Lab Animal Caretaker

Veterinary assistants and lab animal caretakers typically work under animal care managers or veterinarians. Assistants are responsible for cleaning and maintaining clinics and their kennels, caring for animals being held at clinics and making sure instruments and equipment are clean. They also monitor animals after treatment, assist veterinarians during procedures, give medicine to animals and perform routine medical tests. Working as a veterinary assistant can be helpful for people considering a career as a veterinarian.

There are no educational requirements for becoming a veterinary assistant, but a high school diploma and some experience is usually required. Working as an apprentice can increase your opportunities for success within this field. The median salary in 2011 was about $23,000 a year. Projected growth in the field is average at 14% from 2010-2020, stated the BLS.

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