Animal Career Secrets: The Animal Industry & How to Get the Competitive Edge

In this post at Animal Career Secrets readers learn about the differences between the animal fields and how to get the competitive edge. All content copyrighted 2007 by Diana L Guerrero. Some rights reserved.

It was a relief to leave the private animal facility and animal acting world but when I landed at the “Harvard of animal trainers” it didn’t seem much different—except for that I was now accepted into the zoo realm.

Most people think that if you work with animals that you know everyone in the field. They also think that all the different realms of the animal industry are similar—they are not.

As animal trainers we were glorified in some circles but were snubbed in others. Believe it or not, at one time the zoo industry looked down on private animal facilities (and in some circles they still do) even though most zoological parks started as private menageries that evolved into the facilities you see today.

I wrote an animal behavior column for animal professionals for about ten years. When I decided to write about a privately owned primate the wrath of the readership reared up—but no bothered to talk to me about it! In the end I dedicated an entire column to why, as an animal behavior consultant, I would help someone who had a captive exotic animal as a pet.

Also, just because you work with captive wildlife doesn’t mean that you will interface with others. Marine mammal trainers are in their own industry just as the primatologists are.

In the animal training world, the horse people don’t usually interface with the dog world or the cat fancy unless they work for the movie studios. If you take a look into the dog world you will find that service dogs, therapy dogs, search and rescue, agility, obedience, and other specialty trainers don’t all mix either.

So, you see things can get really confusing which is why I wanted you to answer some of those questions in my earlier posts. The important point is that there really is not a blanket “animal industry” of one size fits all.

Ultimately, my decision to go to college for animal training and behavior management was a good one. The academic training and rigorous demands of the program came with a gold seal of approval.

At the time I beat out 1300 applicants for my spot and once in the elite group was able to meet and interact with industry professionals from around the world. The seal of approval allowed me to enter the gates of zoos, oceanariums, and other animal facilities as a colleague—and I was treated as an up and coming professional.

But that was not all; I worked my tush off and began networking so I would become known to industry leaders. It worked pretty well—but it was not really intentional—I was passionate about my career and very driven to make it a reality.

So, my point here is that although I have stressed that an apprenticeship program is really vital to becoming a good animal person, you also should get some academic training under your belt, too. The collegiate experience will give you tools and understanding that will take you beyond what the visceral experience gets you.

Basically, you get the competitive edge.

Diana L Guerrero is an animal career specialist and has extensive experience in many areas of the animal world. A well known animal expert, she has worked professionally with animals for over thirty years. Guerrero is the author of several books and the host of the syndicated, Ark Animal Answers.

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