For those who love fish or marine life, the job of an aquarist, or aquarium attendant, may seem like a dream position. These individuals are responsible for monitoring and caring for fish and other aquatic life, both in freshwater and saltwater settings. If you desire to become an aquarist, the most important thing you can do is study life sciences in school. After that, finding practical experience, perhaps by even helping at a pet shop or landing internships, would be another good place to start.
Though the process to become an aquarist is usually not difficult, it does start with a good foundation in science. Aquarists must often determine which species would do well in an environment together, monitor water quality, feed, and even provide some basic medical care for animals from time to time. Therefore, familiarity with at least some of these basic areas is a good start for anyone having a goal to become an aquarist. Even in high school, sciences are offered such as biology and chemistry. Some schools may even offer marine biology.
One of the most important steps you need to complete in the process of becoming an aquarist is simply to finish high school. Approximately half of all aquarists have a high school diploma or less. Thus, higher education may not be as important as practical experience in landing a basic job. Despite this, you are likely to earn more, and find it easier to become an aquarist if you do have a solid education that includes sciences and at least some college. If you plan on working at more sophisticated aquariums and displays, higher education may be a requirement.
If you decide to move on and further your education through college, there are a number of degree paths you could take. Aquaculture or marine biology are popular degree paths for this field, especially if your goal is to be a marine aquarist. Environmental toxicology, along with ecotourism, and recreation may also be beneficial degree paths, as long as they are mixed with a fair amount of aquatic and life science courses.
Internships can also be a great way to get some practical experience and make contacts. If you are fortunate enough to have a large aquarium in your area, check to see what types of programs they may offer. If not, even working in a local pet shop as an animal caretaker can provide some experience and serve as a resume builder.
The other thing to consider is the physical demands of the job. While they are generally not taxing for individuals who are in good health, they may preclude some individuals from this type of work. Anyone wishing to become an aquarist should understand that the job will likely involve some lifting, standing for prolonged periods, bending and stooping. In some cases, in very large displays, a diving certification may be required.