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Aquarist Job Description, Career as a Aquarist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job


Training/Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s degree

Median Salary: $51,500 per year

Job Prospects: Good

Job Description


An aquarist handles all of the fish and other animal life in an aquarium. Aquarists usually work under the direction of an aquarium curator, who manages the displays and operations at an aquarium. The aquarist is the person that actually tends to the fish and ensures that they are fed and receive everything they need to live and thrive in their environment.

Aquarists tend to the environment that the fish live within. They clean the tanks, and they clean algae from the glass through which the public views the fish. Aquarists must have a strong working knowledge of fish, mammals, and other plants and animals that live within the displays at the aquariums. Aquarists are responsible for the animals’ and plants’ well-being; aquarists handle everything from ensuring that the aquarium is set at the right temperature to feeding the fish the proper type and amount of food.

In addition to providing daily attention to the plant and animal life in the aquarium, aquarists also care for the creatures when they are sick or require special attention. Aquarists observe the fish within the aquarium for different experiments and to capture valuable information that will be used for a variety of purposes. These people who work daily with the plants and animals in an aquarium may be involved as scientists in experiments, if their education and experience allows for that, or may simply handle gathering the specimens and observing them as necessary.

The primary focus of aquarists is caregiving. Aquarists are responsible for ensuring that the life within an aquarium is fed properly, that the environment is conducive to the plants and animals growing and thriving, and that the creatures have everything else that they need to live well. Aquarists are also responsible for ensuring that the displays and exhibits remain clean and that the fish are in good shape to be viewed by the public. Those who work with the tanks are an integral part of the staff at an aquarium, as they not only care for the fish but also keep the aquarium and the aquarium curator’s best interests in mind.

Training/Educational Requirements


It is required that an aquarist have a bachelor’s degree to get hired into the position. It is preferred that the degree be in either environmental engineering, biology, science, or veterinary science, though this is not necessarily a requirement. The educational requirement is the most important aspect at the beginning, but beyond that experience will become important.

Some of the best and most important training for the role of an aquarist comes on the job. It can be helpful if a new aquarist works directly under an aquarium curator or other more experienced aquarists. As they work through the various responsibilities, new aquarists will learn what it takes to care for the fish and their environment. Additional training may be offered later on, and it can be helpful to take advantage of such opportunities. This will help to keep an aquarist functioning well in her or his current job and to prepare the aquarist for further career development.

How to Get Hired


The best way to get hired initially is to have educational experience in a related field. Though an aquarist’s degree may not be in an aquatics-related field, individual aquatics courses can help to prepare an individual for this job.

As an aquarist gains experience working in an aquarium environment and with a wide array of fish, he or she will become adept and competitive. Therefore, this experience will help the aquarist to get hired for other aquarist roles in the future, or to even move up to a role with greater responsibility.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook, and Career Development


Though this can be a competitive field, as many people are interested in working in such an environment, experience will help to secure job opportunities. Though there is always a need for aquarists, there may appear to be fewer jobs in tougher economic times because there will be greater competition for the jobs that do exist. Having an educational background and proven experience in caring for fish in different environments can help an aquarist to advance, and this leads to a positive individual career outlook.

Working Environment


This working environment is quite unique in that aquarists spend much of their time working in an actual aquarium environment. They may have an office or an area within the aquarium where they can complete paperwork and attend meetings, but aquarists will generally spend much of their day working with the fish directly. They may handle inventory or prepare food or chemicals in a separate area, but aquarists will then get into the actual tank or display to feed and care for the fish. Aquarists may work unusual hours as the caregiving dictates, or to avoid the hours that the public views the fish.

Salary and Benefits


The average salary for an aquarist is around $51,500 per year, though there can be variances based on several factors. The geographical location that the aquarist works within, as well as specific employer and actual responsibilities can factor into the salary that an aquarist earns. Additionally, the level of experience that an aquarist has can factor in to how much is earned. When working as part of a staff at an aquarium, an aquarist can expect to earn traditional benefits, such as paid vacation and sick days, medical coverage, tuition reimbursement, and pension plan. If aquarists work on a contract basis, then they may be responsible for covering their own benefits, but this is not the norm.

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesAgribusiness, Environment, and Natural Resources