"...As you can imagine, we get hundreds of applicants each year for trainer positions. For killer whale trainers there may only be one or two openings each year— so this is an even more competitive area to get into. While a college degree is not currently required, those applicants that have a degree in marine biology, animal behavior, zoology, psychology, or related fields are almost always the ones that get interviews. Also, the swim test and microphone test are critical parts of the interview process. Most people who take these tests do not pass the underwater swim portion of this test, so it is critical to practice for this..." seaworld.org
Yes you can become an Orca Trainer, but it will be hard. There are a lot of people that are applying for one or two spots and that includes people already working at a park training other animals such as dolphins, sea lions, etc.
You need to work on your swimming skills, become scuba certified, improve your public speaking and performance skills (when you watch the SeaWorld videos and animal shows notice how energetic, engaging, and animated the trainers are. You will be a performer and educator for the public as well as a trainer for the animals), and get as much experience with animals as you can. Zoos and Aquariums usually have volunteer opportunities for teens and college students. Some have keeper positions, some offer camp counselor positions, other offer jr docents/guides; any of these will give you good experience for a zoological job. There are also camps, classes, and other volunteer opportunities that will give you the experience you need.
Start learning what you can about animal training, animal behavior, psychology, and other subjects that may relate to being an animal trainer. It would also be good to join the International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA). The IMATA also has a list of recommended books.
In college get a degree in psychology, animal behavior, animal management, theater, education, or something similar. And take some courses in: speech, drama, CPR, swimming, scuba, psychology, animal behavior, animal management, education, zoology, marine bio, etc. If you can in college continue volunteering your time and gaining experience with animals.
After college, you might not be able to get a job right away as a marine animal trainer. You may have to work a different job or work with other animals till a marine animal trainer position becomes available. It might also be a good idea to do some sort of internship before applying. An internship is a good way to get experience and it may help get your foot in the door.
With so many people applying for so few positions, you need to do what you can to give yourself the edge over your competition.
Here are some links. Good Luck.
Associate Trainer, Trainer or Senior Trainer
Park: Sea World San Diego
Basic Job functions: Enthusiastically represents SeaWorld by displaying a positive attitude, high level of energy and commitment to quality throughout all aspects of the job. Assists the Animal Training staff in providing proper nutrition, appropriate sanitary living conditions, constant care for animals and water interaction depending on need. Principle Duties: Maintains safe and sanitary working areas and living conditions. Prepares daily animal diets, maintains safe and sanitary food preparation and storage areas. Administers animal vitamins under close supervision as required. Develops speaking skills and stage presence for performing supportive roles in education and general public shows. Assist in the training of animals. Develops an awareness of guest satisfaction with the SeaWorld product. Maintains facility pools with the use of SCUBA gear. Maintains excellent physical condition as needed to perform job functions. Required Skills Knowledge: Must be at least 18 years of age. Must have SCUBA certification at the time of applying. Must be able to lift 60 lbs. Must be able to work weekdays, holidays, and nights. Must have at least 6 months of paid animal training experience. Must pass a swim test. Theatrical experience strongly preferred. Required Training Education: Must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Degree in psychology, performing arts or theater, or marine, biological or zoological sciences is desirable.
How do I become a marine animal trainer?
The following information is SeaWorld's basic job description, requirements, and background information on an entry-level animal trainer position.
Responsible for the daily care, feeding and maintenance of show animals. Develops and trains animal behaviors and performs in animal shows for the public and educational shows for school groups. An apprenticeship period of at least a year is required for all trainer positions, even with previous experience.
Our requirements for animal trainers include:
° must be at least 18 years of age
° prior experience training animals
° public speaking, drama, or other performance and communication skills (a microphone test is part of the interview process)
° experience working with animals
° scuba diving certification
° CPR certification
° an ability to interact with the public
° academic coursework in zoology, marine biology, animal behavior or psychology (preference is given to those applicants with a college degree)
° strong swimming skills (part of the interview process is a rigorous swim test that includes a 200 ft. freestyle swim, a 100 ft. underwater swim, and a free-dive to the bottom of a 26 ft. pool.)
° excellent physical health and the ability to lift 50 lbs.
In addition, even with previous training experience, new trainers are hired as associate trainers, and learn about SeaWorld’s training methods and animals in at least a one-year apprenticeship period.
HOW TO GET EXPERIENCE
To try and see if a career in animal training or animal care is for you, SeaWorld offers a weeklong Career Camp for grades 9-12 during the summer at all three parks. Check online at SWBG-AdventureCamps.com for more information.
Many colleges and universities offer internship opportunities along with the local zoos or aquariums as part of a zoological science or similar type of degree program. Moorpark College in Southern California offers a special Exotic Animal Training and Management program designed for those who want to enter into zoological careers. In Florida, Santa Fe Community College and Pensacola Junior College offer similar programs. Volunteering at...
...Other great sites to check out are the websites for the International Marine Animal Training Association (www.imata.org) and the Society for Marine Mammalogy (this has an excellent section on pursuing a career in marine mammal science at
[see this site instead, for the info that marinemammalogy.org used to have]
How Do I Become an Animal Trainer
Tell Me How - Dolphin Trainer
Julie's Career Bio
Chapter: Dolphin Dreams
...He [a trainer at SeaWorld] tells them to get scuba- and CPR-certified, to join the International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA), and to get a college degree. In interviews, he tells them, don't say you only want to work with dolphins. You may have to work with sea otters, even walruses, to get your foot in the door. Don't mention any spiritual connections you might have with cetaceans. "If someone says in an interview, 'I was a dolphin in a previous life,' uh, they're out of here," he says. Give yourself any edge you can, because "everyone wants to be a dolphin trainer. They'll kill you for it."...
For more info, including colleges and internships, see:
How do I become a dolphin trainer?