How to become an animal handler: Australian careers in animal care

Animal handlers are passionate about the care and safety of all animals and assist with the general daily and long-term care of an animal in zoos, stables, animal training organisations and in areas of science and conservation. Animal handlers usually work under someone who is highly-qualified in animal studies, such as a veterinarian or scientist, assisting in the provision of animal needs such as dietary requirements, the administration of medication, cleaning, hygiene and grooming. The more qualifications you are able to gain, the more responsibility and involvement you will have with the animal.

  • Task Career in focus: What an animal handler does

    As an animal handler, you will work with animals in sorts of environments, such as enclosures, in their natural habitat or in foreign situations such as a movie or television sets. Most animal handlers work with all sorts of different species, or you can choose to specialise in a certain area, focussing your knowledge on one particular type of animal. You will work with other animal experts to help develop dietary plans, monitor the fertility of an animal, exercise and general health and wellbeing of an animal.

    Tasks:

    • Preparing and feeding appropriate meals
    • Monitoring general health and happiness
    • Cleaning enclosures
    • Assist in animal rescues
    • Under supervision, administer prescribed medication
  • Skills Core qualities: Skills to succeed as an animal handler

    A day in the life of an animal handler can be unpredictable and is never the same. Because you are working with live animals, the job can be, at times, labour intensive so you should be able to meet these physical demands of the job. You may also come across animals who are distressed or seriously injured, so you should be able to remain a calm composure to comfort the animal whilst animal medical professionals attend to its requirements.

    Skills/attributes
    • Passion for animals
    • Good team and work ethic
    • Physically fit
    • Calming and patient demeanour around animals
  • Specialisations The field: Specialisations within animal handling

    There are a lot of career pathways available to those who wish to work in the animal industry as well as the opportunities to work in specialist areas and different locations around the world.

    Dog Trainer

    Dog trainers help train and curb the behaviour dogs, whether they are domestic pets, guide dogs, therapy dogs or sometimes security dogs. You can find yourself working with a range of government and non-government agencies, working and learning under the supervision of senior trainers.

    Pet Groomer

    Pet groomers aim to help domestic pets with their hygienic and grooming needs, working with pet owners across Australia to ensure both owner and pet are happy. Most pet groomers deal with dogs and cats but there are potential opportunities to expand your skills to other longhaired pets such as rabbits or other species.

    Veterinary Nurse

    Veterinary nurses work alongside clients, other vet nurses and qualified veterinaries to ensure the wellbeing and health of all animals. Because you will be exposed to a wide variety of animals, your day will never be the same, as you may deal with domestic pets and wildlife as well as provide other support services such as updating medical records, speaking with clients and assisting in surgical procedures. If you love animals, as well as a challenge, there are many ways you can start your career as a veterinary nurse.

    Zookeeper

    A zookeeper looks after animals in zoo and wildlife setting as well as ensuring the daily care of the animals is to a high standard. Daily tasks would include tending to the preparation of food, cleaning out stalls and grooming the animals. You would also work alongside medical professionals when the animals were injured or ill, helping the public understand and care for animals and their habitats.

  • Pathways The right track: Find study options for becoming an animal handler

    Most employers of animal handlers will require you to hold a qualification in animal studies or sciences. These are often required before you start on the job. Luckily, there are many courses available for you to study.

    Starting Out

    Check out these interesting entry-level courses to get you started in your animal-handling career. 

    Building Skills

    If you are working towards your dream job, add to your knowledge by completing a short, online course that can work around your lifestyle. 

    Developing Your Resume

    A polished resume can often put you ahead of the game when it comes to applying for jobs. To get your job application to a high standard, check out these sample resumes and cover letters. 

    Industry Recognition

    You will need some form of industry accreditation to work as an animal handler in Australia. This can also vary according to what state or territory you wish to work in and what species of animal you are working with.

    Entering the Workforce

    Landing your dream job can be a challenge when you are competing against similar candidates. Make sure you stand out from the rest with a professional resume that is tailored to your desired employer. 

    Prospects in Animal Handling: Working life as an animal handler

    Job opportunities in animal handling are looking good, as they have been on the steady increase over the past years and are set to remain positive.

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