Salary and Benefits of Marine Mammal Training
Growth Trends for Related Jobs
A marine mammal trainer is someone who loves to be around marine animals. If you are someone who loves animals and wants to be active, outdoors and in front of the public, a career in marine mammal training might be just right for you.
Marine Mammal Trainer Job Description
Marine mammal trainers have a range of duties. The job is good for someone who likes to be busy doing a variety of activities. You may be cleaning an exhibit or pool in the morning but giving a public presentation in the afternoon.
Typically, training sessions are spread throughout the day to allow the animals to digest their meals and be ready to take part in a variety of interactions. Work days are typically long during tourist seasons, and shorter during the off season or in poor weather.
Trainers try to bring out the animal’s natural behaviors. If an animal has speed, balance or agility, that animal just might display this during a show. The animal may make its usual sounds. Trainers create solid relationships with each animal they work with, and the trainers make their expectations clear to the animals. Trainers and animals each vary who they work with, which gives both animals and their trainers variety. Trainers need to enjoy working with animals and have patience. They need to earn the trust and friendship of the animal they work with.
Trainers come from a variety of backgrounds. You may start working for a marine company with only a high school education, cleaning enclosures and equipment or doing other odd jobs. Having a bachelor’s degree in zoology, biology, marine biology, marine science, microbiology or psychology will help. Check out prospective colleges. Going to a school that has a well-regarded marine biology program will give you an advantage. Getting a two-year degree as a veterinary technician, along with some volunteer experience, may help you get an entry-level job. Scuba certification is also a plus. To become a dolphin trainer, you’ll want to start with a bachelor’s degree - at the very least - in marine biology or in another animal-related field.
Volunteering at a zoo or in an animal care facility - especially one that specializes in marine mammals, will give you an some of the marine animal trainer requirements you'll need on your resume to look for a job in the field. Experiences in public speaking, guest services, being a tour guide, educational presentation skills, as well as swimming and diving skills, are also a plus. You will want to get internships and apprenticeships, so that you can show that you are good with animals and are willing to get your hands dirty.
Industry and Working Conditions
You should be willing to relocate, as you will need to go where the jobs are, which is often near an ocean or another large coastal area. You may work in a an aquarium, at a marine animal park like Sea World, at a zoo, or in a research center. You may spend a lot of time in front of the public, or you may work behind the scenes. You should be in good physical shape and you should be able to adapt to all kinds of weather.
Marine Mammal Trainer Salary Range
The salary of a marine mammal trainer can vary significantly. Typically, these jobs are not highly paid, so anyone who goes into the field should do so because of other perks. Salaries of marine trainers average in the low- to mid-$30,000 range. A typical dolphin trainer salary is a little higher. The dolphin trainer salary can range from $36,000 to $78,000 annually, with an average of $55,000. Newly hired dolphin trainers who have good credentials can start at $45,500. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, animal trainers who work at a local, state or federal government-owned facility average $46,000 annually, while animal trainers who work at privately owned centers, average $43,000 annually.
For those who work at a top-level aquarium or for the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal program, annual salaries average around $71,000.
Job Growth Trend
Jobs for animal trainers in general, which includes marine mammal trainers, are expected to grow considerably over the next few years, by about 22 percent a year through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are lots of applications for each job, making for strong competition. Employment growth and high-job turnover should contribute to opportunities. And you get to spend your day with many wonderful sea mammals.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational and Employment Wages May 2009; Animal Trainers
- Dolphin Encounters: Ask A Trainer: Do You Want to be an Animal Trainer?
- Paysa: National Aquarium Marine Mammal Trainer Salaries
- Salary Comparison: Dolphin Trainer Salary
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Animal Care and Service Workers
- Simply Hired: U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program Salaries
Karen Gardner is a writer and editor who spent many years in community journalism. Her worklife began as a Library Page, shelving books in a local library, and selling children's clothing in a department store. Those early customer service experiences gave her the foundation she needed to navigate through tricky office situations in later jobs.