Dolphin Trainer: Degree Requirements & Salary

Always dreamt of becoming a dolphin trainer? Here you'll learn about the degree requirements, the job duties and the potential salaries to see if this might be the right career for you. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Dolphin Trainer Information at a Glance

Dolphin trainers do more than just teach dolphins how to do tricks - they also provide mental and physical stimulation, nurse sick animals, prepare meals, and keep the animal's habitat clean. Also, dolphin trainers often give talks about the important work of conservation or answer questions from visitors. This chart provides a quick glance at the education requirements, key skills and wages.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree required for some positions
Education Field of Study Zoology, biology, animal husbandry, marine biology
Training Required On-the-job apprenticeship
Key Skills Communication, physical fitness, patience
Job Growth (2016-2026) 11% (for all animal trainers)*
Median Salary (2017) $28,880 (for all animal trainers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Do Dolphin Trainers Do?

Dolphin trainers are in charge of the care and feeding of dolphins. This can involve a wide range of responsibilities, from making sure they're fed the right foods to administering medicine and providing mental stimulation through training exercises. Of course, the training typically serves another purpose as well -- it's part of the show. Many captive dolphins are part of shows at theme parks and are trained to perform certain tasks on command. In this sense, dolphin trainers are performers, too. They are asked to speak publicly in front of crowds and work hand-in-hand with the dolphins to put on a performance.

How Do You Become a Dolphin Trainer?

Some employers only require the minimum of high school diploma but others require candidates to have at least a bachelor's degree. There is no degree specifically in dolphin training, but dolphin trainers may have a degree in animal husbandry, biology, animal sciences or marine biology. Even with a degree, there are a limited amount of dolphin trainer jobs out there, so it helps to have hands-on experience with large animals. This doesn't necessarily have to be with dolphins, though. An internship at a zoo, a volunteer program at an aquarium or an animal handling job at a wildlife rehabilitation center are all helpful.

What Skills Do I Need?

Aside from the bachelor's degree, employers often look for applicants with a specific skills set - for instance, they'll want you to be a consummate swimmer. Scuba certification and CPR and basic first aid training are also often required. Also, dolphin training is physically demanding work, so some employers might prefer candidates who are fit.

What Else Can You Do to Become a Dolphin Trainer?

Since there are so few jobs in dolphin training, it can be incredibly competitive. In fact, places like SeaWorld might only hire around 10 trainers per year. Prospective applicants should have a wealth of experience working with large animals, certifications in CPR, first aid and scuba. But they'll also set themselves apart by being physically fit, having experience talking to large crowds and possessing a great deal of patience.

How Much Do Dolphin Trainers Get Paid?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for all animal trainers (not just dolphin trainers) in 2017 was $13.88, or $28,880 annually. The top 10% brought home $56,000 or more, while the lowest 10% made $19,610 or less. In 2019, the Dolphin Research Center reports that entry-level positions in dolphin training pay between $18,000 and $20,000, while more seasoned trainers (those with around a decade of experience) might make anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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