My childhood dream that I never saw through… being a Dolphin Trainer. I sent an email to the contact link on www.dolphintrainer.com and they were nice enough to send a response! Check out all of the great information they sent! This career is truly one that is done for the love of the animals. Check it out! Thank you to dolphintrainer.com for taking the time to respond!
There are many roads to becoming a marine mammal professional, but only you (with your parents’ help) can choose your own best path. Remember, it can be very difficult to start a career as a marine mammal trainer. There is a lot of competition and the jobs are pretty scarce. It’s a good idea to have a “fall back plan,” just in case it doesn’t work out or the job isn’t what you thought it would be.
The vast majority of questions we get here are about starting a career with marine mammals and what type of education is required. If you have not already done so, you should start by reading our “Career Guide” at http://www.dolphintrainer.com/career_guide.htm. You should also check out the links to the various professional associations and colleges listed on our “Great Links” page http://www.dolphintrainer.com/great_links.htm. I strongly recommend visiting the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association (IMATA) and Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) websites. You should also look under the section entitled “Oceanariums, Aquariums, Zoos and other Public Facilities Displaying Marine Mammals.” The Dolphin Quest and Sea World websites have a great deal of quality information as well.
Many of us in this profession have done very well with a BA or BS degree from our local universities. For some a good alternative may be Moorpark College’s Exotic Animal Training and Management Program (in Southern California). You can click on and check out their website through our “Great Links”page http://www.dolphintrainer.com/great_links.htm. More important than where you go, is how well you do with the material. A degree in marine mammals is also not necessarily a prerequisite. Biology, psychology, animal behavior, etc., are great subjects for this career and are available at many colleges and universities around the world. In any case education must also be joined with experience and dedication. Any experience with large or exotic animals and “getting a foot in the door” will be very helpful.
The working conditions for trainers vary greatly depending upon the type of facility you work for. Generally however, you are working outdoors in all types of weather. You must be able to lift at least 50 lbs (blocks of frozen fish). You are working around the water, so you need to have very good swimming ability and most facilities require SCUBA certification. You also need to be able to work with and get along well with people, since good training relies on team work.
The pay rate for trainers is not very high, especially at the entry level. This is because so many people think this is a great job and want to try it. There are many more applicants than positions, so the law of supply and demand allows for lower wages than in many other, less desirable professions. (Plus there are a lot of people willing to volunteer for free just to be around these animals.) The pay rate increases with experience but you will never get rich as a marine mammal trainer. We do it because we love the animals and the ability to work them on such an intimate basis. Depending upon the location and individual facility entry level pay for trainers with little or no experience will be between $7.25 (or minimum wage) to $12.00 per hour in the USA. A senior trainer with 8 to 12 years of experience may make $25,000 to $50,000 per year. It is also a very time consuming job. You have to be available for any emergency, or illness, or birth. We work when everyone else is off: weekends, holidays, etc. The animals eat and need our care 24/7. This all means that time for our families and ourselves often has to come second. This field is definitely only for people who really love these animals!
I hope this information has been helpful. If you have more questions about marine mammal careers, we highly recommend that you check out the book: “Starting Your Career as a Marine Mammal Trainer.” You can find out more about it by clicking on the name or going to our website www.dolphintrainer.com.