Working as an aquarist at a public aquarium can be a very rewarding career. Not only do you get to learn and look after many varied species of animals related to the underwater world, but you can also contribute to research and our understanding of some amazing animals.
On any given day, you may be asked to clean aquarium tanks, prepare food for the animals, dive and feed large sharks and rays, deliver public presentations and go out on collections for new animals to be put on display. You may even get the chance to be involved in learning the best way to keep animals that no one has been able to keep in captivity before. It’s a job that is fascinating and requires knowledge across a range of disciplines…but that’s what makes it so interesting. You’ll get to hang out with animals that have their own personalities and that is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
But it can be a difficult industry to break into. There are few jobs and those there are, are often tightly held. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible though. There are some steps you can take to help you get your foot in the door.
1. Get a degree. Anything ocean related is good but some useful subjects include marine biology, oceanography, zoology, even vet science with some field experience can help.
2. Learn to scuba dive. Looking after fish in a public aquarium will involve diving. Large tanks will need to be cleaned and animals will need to be fed. Go diving – a lot. You will need to be comfortable in the water. A large display with sharks and rays can be an unpredictable place and you’ll need to be able to deal with any situation that might come up.
3. Volunteer anywhere you can. It doesn’t need to be an aquarium but somewhere ocean related is good. There’s always small educational or research organisations that are always looking for help. But the trick is to be consistent and committed. Treat these volunteer positions like a job – they very well might lead to one.
4. Apply for an internship. Many Aquariums offer programs where you can learn on the job.
5. Take up underwater photography. This in itself won’t get you a job but it’s a skill that’s useful as often sharks and fish are identified by their markings and good photos are valuable.
6. Be comfortable talking to large groups of people. Aquariums need to make money and sometimes you may be the attraction. People are always interested in hearing about what an aquarist does.
7. Be prepared to start at the bottom. Sometimes that might mean cutting up fish food and cleaning the floors but it’s a foot in the door and if you impress it won’t take long to move up.
Working in a public aquarium as an aquarist requires commitment. It’s a job that isn’t going to make you rich but it will provide you with experiences that you won’t get anywhere else. If you love the ocean and the animals that live there, this could be the job for you.
Source by Jane E Mitchell