How to Become a Dolphin Trainer
  • December 18, 2019
  • By John McNamara

If you’re very lucky in life, you get to go to a job every day that you truly love. And if there’s a job that almost anyone could love, it would have to be a dolphin trainer.

Dolphins are some of the most intelligent, playful creatures on the planet. In fact, they are so special and unique, they should probably be training us humans! Luckily they tolerate us training them.

Keep reading to find out how to become a dolphin trainer.

What Dolphin Trainers Do for a Living

Dolphin Trainer

Dolphin trainers have a very rewarding job. They get to interact with some of the coolest animals on the planet. Dolphin trainers do many interesting things each day. Depending on the type of dolphin trainer you want to be (We’ll get to those types in a minute), you will have specific activities you will do each day.

But, no matter what type of trainer you become, there are certain general activities all trainers do. For starters, dolphin trainers identify individual dolphin personalities to determine what kind of training techniques will work best. Some dolphins may respond to one reward (a fish) while others may respond to something totally different (a toy). Yes, dolphins LOVE toys to play with. So to train well a trainer must know what tools will work the best.

All dolphin trainers will be responsible for the overall care and well-being of the dolphins, oversee their diet, and ensure these beautiful animals are living in the safest, most hygienic, species-appropriate environment. Trainers must also constantly monitor and observe the
animals, and constantly come up with new and interesting ways to interact with them.

Now let’s take a look at some of the specific dolphin trainer professions:

1.Show Trainer

Dolphin Trainer Show

Many people think of a show trainer when they think of training dolphins. Arguably the most popular type of dolphin trainer, these trainers work with dolphins at sea life facilities like Sea World. You may have seen these trainers yourself riding on top of the dolphins and feeding them little fish after the dolphin performed a trick.

To be this kind of dolphin trainer, you have to have a love of performance yourself. Not only do show trainers interact with dolphins, but also people, so it’s important to have an outgoing personality.

2. Care/Interaction Trainer

Feeding Dolphin Trainer

Just like people, not all dolphins were meant for a life in the spotlight. Some dolphins prefer simple interactions with people, but away from the big crowds. Care trainers work with dolphins in facilities where people can come and learn about their behavior and interact with them in small groups.

If you love the idea of working with dolphins, but do NOT like the idea of performing in front of big crowds, then you may want to consider a career as a dolphin care/interaction trainer.

Though you will still have to interact with the public, you’ll get to work with small groups of people, educating them on dolphin behavior.

3. Research Trainer

Research Trainer

Research trainers work with dolphins to uncover more information about these creatures. These fascinating animals can teach US a lot, but first we must learn all we can about them. The more we understand their behavior and needs, the more we can protect them in the wild. Research trainers not only are responsible for the safety and well-being of the dolphins, but also for
making the research as fun for the dolphins as possible.

Education Requirements

No matter which direction you choose to go, a career as a dolphin trainer begins with a bachelor’s degree in an animal-related field. There are currently no educational institutions that offer a marine mammal trainer specialty degree, however aquariums, zoos and training facilities do accept a bachelor’s degree in marine biology, animal behavior or another life science. You can expect to take many classes in biology, marine animal physiology, marine mammalogy, oceanography and animal behavior. Your studies may include lab work, field work or extensive research.

The Importance of Internships

Become an intern

Jobs as dolphin trainers are coveted. You may find once you graduate college that you will have to take an internship to not only learn more and have hands-on experience, but to get your foot in the door somewhere.

SCUBA Certification

You will have to obtain your SCUBA certification. Beyond interacting in the water, sometimes deeper water, as in a research capacity, some trainers will also have to perform other underwater tasks that may require they wear scuba gear. Although your basic SCUBA certification may be adequate, a master SCUBA diver or rescue diver credential might be beneficial for some.

Physical Fitness

Although incredibly fun, working with dolphins can be quite physically demanding. You will not only be in the water a lot, but have to handle equipment, buckets of fish and other heft items. Maintaining a high degree of physical fitness will help to ensure that you can handle these
challenging tasks.

Working with dolphins has to be one of the most rewarding careers you can pursue. Once you decide which type of trainer you’d like to be, research the colleges and universities that offer the best courses. You might want to visit a facility such as Dolphin World and interact with some dolphins as well. It could be your opportunity to speak with the trainer and get some inside pointers.

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