Aquafacts / Marine Mammal Trainer

About AquaFacts

AquaFacts contain information on the Aquarium animals or other Aquarium-related topics. We’ve compiled the most popular questions about becoming a marine mammal trainer. Please email our librarian for other inquiries.

Quick info

Bachelor of Science degree

Basic requirement to be a trainer

24 hrs

How long trainers need to be on call

4-5

Trainers to a group of animals

Volunteer!

The best way to begin a career!

What kind of university or college courses should I take if I am considering a career as a Marine Mammal Trainer?

To become a marine mammal trainer, you should take as many of the science courses as possible in high school and in the first year of university. The basic requirement to be a trainer at the Vancouver Aquarium is a Bachelor of Science degree – which will

How can I get experience?

A good way to start pursuing a career as a trainer is to volunteer. Any volunteer work with animals can help you to become a marine mammal trainer. Volunteering at the Aquarium can allow you to gain valuable knowledge in the daily routine of a trainer.

What is a typical day like for a marine mammal trainer?

Marine mammal trainers are responsible for the animal’s mental and physical health. Apart from the actual training, trainers must keep up-to-date records about the animals, prepare food, clean habitats, perform general maintenance duties, interact with the public, give interviews, answer letters, give trainer tours, do enrichment with the animals and carry out training discussions.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Interview with a Marine Mammal Trainer: Brian Sheehan

I enjoy the relationship that we develop with the animals. I like developing the trust and respect that is so essential to working with these animals. It's great to be out with the animals, working so closely with them.

Is there a lot of competition to be a marine mammal trainer?

While working with marine mammals in an aquarium is a fascinating and rewarding career, it is one that is difficult to get started in. There are only two aquariums in Canada that house marine mammals, and the competition for those few positions is fairly stiff. There are work opportunities in the U.S. and around the world, but again, there is a lot of competition. It is also fairly unlikely that there will be many new aquariums built over the next 10 years or so.

What are your major job duties/responsibilities?

My responsibilities as a trainer include preparing food, feeding the animals, training behaviours, working with animals for training sessions and research, observing animals, providing behavioural information to veterinarians, leading interpretation sessions with the public, recording animal behaviour and food intake, assisting in maintaining the animal’s habitat (mostly cleaning) and husbandry (health care).

What are the working conditions like?

We work outside every day regardless of weather. It’s nice when it’s warm and sunny but it can be pretty miserable during the winter when it’s cold and wet. We can work long hours (all night, sometimes) and we have to come into the Aquarium every single day, which means that some of us work on Christmas, New Year’s and Easter.

Glen, Thomas B. 1997. The Dolphin and Whale Career Guide. Omega Publishing Division. Chicago.
Marine Mammal Staff of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.