Working with Marine Mammals

There are many different careers that allow you to work with these amazing animals including training, veterinary care, research, education, and others. All require dedication and hard work; all can be personally rewarding and enriching to both you and the animals with which you connect.

Alliance members are frequently asked about the educational requirements, internship positions, previous experience requirements, and other details about how to obtain a position in this rewarding field. Read below to discover what you can do to be a part of this extraordinary line of work.

Education

For those who want to work directly with animals, recommended courses at the undergraduate level include animal behavior, zoology, ecology, physiology, anatomy, genetics, cognitive psychology, child psychology, statistics and experimental design, and learning theory. Depending on your focus, other recommended courses are chemistry, physics, computer science, mathematics, environmental science, and marine biology. At the high school level, classes that offer a broad science background as well as math, computer science and language courses will provide a good educational base.

Although having a college degree is desirable, some professionals in the field got started by working/volunteering for zoos or aquariums in different capacities. A degree in biological sciences, husbandry or psychology will also provide a solid background.

Dolphin Research Center Training Institute (DRCTI) in the Florida Keys offers two career-focused programs. 

Students who complete the Marine Mammal Behavior, Care and Training (MMBCT) program acquire the practical knowledge and hands-on skills to successfully assess marine mammal behavior, adeptly provide appropriate husbandry care and apply positive training techniques for the wellbeing and enrichment of marine mammals in human care. Graduates of this intensive immersion program earn an Occupational Associate's degree and will be prepared to seek positions as experienced marine mammal trainers at facilities that house/display cetaceans and/or pinnipeds, although skills may easily be transferred to other marine or terrestrial species.

DRCTI offers a Professional Animal Trainer (PAT) Program to individuals currently working in the animal training/handling field or those who have one year of consecutive training/handling experience within the past two years. While the program’s focus is marine mammals, the courses offered can be applied for trainers who work with both marine and terrestrial animals. This is a hybrid learning program that consists of 14 weeks of online learning followed by five days onsite at Dolphin Research Center.

For more information, please click here.

Internships

We recommend that students who want to work with marine mammals get as much hands-on interaction with animals as possible. Many of our member facilities offer internship and volunteer opportunities, as well as other educational programs. Veterinarian offices and animal shelters are also valuable resources for hands-on experience. These types of experiences not only give students firsthand knowledge about animal behavior, but also help students to define their individual career goals.

For a list of AMMPA-accredited member facilities, please click here.

International Marine Animal Trainers' Association

The International Marine Animal Trainers' Association (IMATA) is a professional organization for trainers. It is dedicated to providing and advancing the most professional, effective, and humane care of marine mammals in all habitats.

The IMATA website is another great resource for information about marine animal training, educational resources, careers and more, including postings for jobs and internships in the field.

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