Animal Handler Job Description, Career as a Animal Handler, Salary, Employment
Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job
Training/Educational Requirements: High school diploma and training
Median Salary: $57,000 per year
Job Prospects: Good
Animal handlers work in a variety of different environments to care for various types of animals. Animal handlers help the animals achieve the purpose they are intended for. Handlers may attend to animals in the capacity of scientific experiments or may provide general care as required for domestic pets. The responsibilities all vary depending on the specific role in which an animal handler serves.
At the most basic level, animal handlers provide all necessary care for their animals. They may prepare the animals for immunization or blood work at a veterinary office. They may observe and record data on animals that scientists experiment on. If animal handlers work for an animal breeder, the handlers may create the perfect environment in which the breeding process can happen.
Animal handlers usually work to keep the animals under their care healthy in every way possible. They may have to deal with some difficult circumstances if the animals are resistant to care or sick, so handlers must be prepared for these situations. If working in a veterinary office, animal handlers must know how to deal with domestic animals that aren’t cooperative with receiving shots. There are potential dangers to animal handling if the animal becomes enraged, and handlers must be well-versed in keeping the animals calm in any way possible.
Animal handlers may keep the environment that the animals live in clean and fit for them. Handlers may set up or clean up exam rooms, experiments, or any other environment that the animals may serve within. Animal handlers must be nurturing to animals and must work to keep them calm and happy, oftentimes in stressful environments. The scope of animal handler’s responsibilities may vary as widely as the types of animals that animal handler could care for; there is usually a lot of variation within this role.
Though an animal handler may have a bachelor’s degree, the minimum requirement is usually a high school diploma or GED. Because animal handling is usually an entry-level type of role within the world of animal care, there isn’t usually a strong educational requirement. Background experience all depends on the nature of the job and the employer for whom an animal handler works. If working in a lab or with experiments, animal handlers may face more stringent educational requirements.
The best training for animal handlers comes on the job. This is a role that somebody can stay with and perfect throughout an entire career, or one that a person may use as a stepping stone to another role. In whatever capacity an animal handler works, the handler may expect to keep up with best practices and trends from their on-the-job training and from learning from colleagues more experienced.
How to Get Hired
The type of animal handler and the specific employer may require different ways of entering the field, but generally starting at the bottom and working one’s way up can be the best way to get hired. Employers want to see that animal handlers have worked with a variety of different types of animals in a variety of different environments. Animal handlers may start off by working in a general handling capacity and then develop a specialty. Going into this role with an open mind and an ability to learn fast is the best way to get hired and to move up.
Job Prospects, Employment Outlook, and Career Development
Fortunately there appears to be steady growth for animal handlers. As there are a wide array of different environments that animal handlers may work within and employers for which handlers may work, there is often opportunity for those wishing to enter the field or get hired into different positions. If an animal handler wishes to gain experience in a variety of different environments, this openness can add to the likelihood of being hired. There is always a need for animal handlers, whether it be at a veterinary office, through a breeder, at a laboratory, or on a farm. The more employers there are hiring for animal handlers in various capacities, the more jobs there will be. Adding to the hiring trend for animal handlers are the animal shelters that require this position. As more attention is put on animal abuse, this increases the hiring within this environment, specifically.
The working environment may vary based on the type of employer that an animal handler works for. Most of the time, handlers work with animals in cages or in examination rooms, but this can vary. Animal handlers may work in veterinary offices, for breeders, at animal shelters, in laboratories, at kennels, on farms, or for any one of a wide array of different employers who all have individualized environments. Animal handlers usually work in a rather casual environment that is conducive to animal care, and this, plus the fact that the job can sometimes be messy, means that handlers can dress casually. There can be stressful days for an animal handler, particularly when dealing with unruly or apprehensive animals.
It’s important that animal handlers put the needs of the animals first and have the ability and desire to keep the animals calm at any cost. This may result in small injuries, such as scratches, to the handler, if an animal gets upset, and the animal handler must be able to cope with this.
Salary and Benefits
Though the average salary for an animal handler is around $57,000, the range may vary quite significantly. The scope of responsibilities, the environment in which animal handlers work, as well as the geographical location can all dictate what the specific salary earned is. There are major peaks and valleys in the range because an entry-level worker can earn as little as $9.20 an hour, but an experienced animal handler may expect to earn a great deal. The benefits are also dependent on the type of employer and on the environment. If animal handlers work in a part-time role, they may not receive any benefits. Most animal handlers, however, can expect to receive paid vacation and sick days, as well as medical coverage.
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