Marine Mammal Trainer

Hallie Omohundro

Overview

Marine mammal trainers use their knowledge of animal behavior to train and care for a variety of marine species.

Tasks and Duties

Marine mammal trainers' duties and tasks include:

  • using positive reinforcement techniques to train the animals in their care
  • providing appropriate physical and mental exercises to keep animals healthy and happy
  • diet preparation and feeding
  • keeping accurate health and behavior records
  • ensuring the habitat is properly maintained
  • addressing the public during educational programs and demonstrations

Salary Range

A dolphin trainer salary can start as low as $8.00 an hour (minimum wage) increasing upwards of $35 an hour after building years of experience.


The most recent average salary $14.67 an hour or an annual salary of $30,510 a year.

Education Requirements

Having a college degree is not mandatory, but it is very difficult to become a marine mammal trainer without one. Common majors for marine mammal trainers include animal science, marine biology, animal behavior, zoology, psychology, and biology.


Most marine mammal trainers have prior experience as a marine biologist or zoo keeper. Trainers will usually volunteer or intern at a marine mammal facility to gain hands-on experience, which is essential for those seeking a job in this field. Prior experience working in another animal related field is beneficial if working specifically with marine mammals is not an option.

Skills Required and Working Conditions

In addition to a having both a degree and prior experience in the field, most marine mammal facilities require trainer applicants to have strong swimming skills and a scuba diving certification.


Marine mammal trainers must be physically fit and capable of working outdoors in varying conditions and extreme temperatures.

Additional Training

Once hired, successful applicants must complete an intensive training course under the direction of experienced trainers. New trainers learn the training techniques and management methods of the facility. They also have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the marine animals and other members of the training staff.

Hours

Most marine mammal trainers work all day, every day.


It is common for trainers to be on call for work at night, on weekends, and on holidays.

Interests and Qualities

Someone interested in marine mammal training must have a positive attitude and outlook, a willingness to work hard, a strong sense of commitment, and a true love for marine mammals.

Education Programs

Some other marine mammal training education program options include:


  • the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program
  • the Exotic Animal Training Management program at Moorpark College in California
  • The College of Marine Mammal Professions in Florida

Current Employment Trends

The three states with the highest number of available animal trainer jobs were California with 1,240 jobs, New York with 750 jobs, and Florida with 730 jobs.


There is extremely strong competition for marine mammal trainer positions nationwide. Only a few new marine parks and aquariums open each year, so the total number of marine mammal trainer positions is not expected to grow significantly. This fact, combined with the high level of interest in this career, makes it very hard to get a position in this field.

Citations

Kramer, Mary H. "Marine Mammal Trainer." Online posting. About Careers.About.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. <http://animalcareers.about.com/od/Wildlife/a/Marine-Mammal-Trainer.htm>.