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Fast Track Your Way to A Career with Dolphins!

dolphin and trainer panama city beach

Many of us, when we’re young, have big dreams about what we’d like to be when we grow up. Some of us want to be professional athletes or singers, others astronauts or firefighters, and still others have a passion to somehow work with animals when we get older.

Nicki LaPierre was one of those kids who knew at a very young age she wanted to work with dolphins. At seven years old her parents gave her a dolphin necklace and she instantly fell in love and set her mind on having a career with dolphins. She had such a love for these graceful animals that nothing was going to stand in her way of making that dream come true. Not only did Nicki realize her dream, but she did it in record time, becoming one of the youngest dolphin handlers in the entire state of Florida.

Dream Big to Become a Dolphin Trainer
Dream Big to Become a Dolphin Trainer

Each and every day when Nicki gets up for work she does so with a big smile on her face because she gets to hang out with the magical creatures she’s been in love with since she was a little girl.

If you also have a passion for dolphins and would love nothing more than to make a living training and interacting with them, then the fastest way to reach your dream is to go to school for a marine biology degree.

Is Marine Biology a Good Career?

If you asked Nicki (and countless others) she would give you a resounding “Yes!”

What most people don’t realize is that marine biology is a term that is used to cover a whole host of disciplines and jobs in the marine sciences. Although they all deal with the study of marine life, they can vary greatly.

For instance, with a marine biology degree you may go on to become a biological technician, marine mammalogist, fishery biologist, microbiologist, and of course, a dolphin trainer, to name a few specific careers. Heck, even economists and sociologists who deal with marine resource issues work within what is considered the field of marine biology.

A Fun and Exciting Career - Marine Science
A Fun and Exciting Career – Marine Science

Getting a Marine Biology Degree

There are many universities and colleges that offer degrees in marine biology, many of them located on the Pacific Coast. A good resource to find academic programs is or look at this book ” How to become a Marine Mammal Trainer“.

Some good schools on the west coast to consider are the University of California programs at San Diego (Scripps Institution of Oceanography), Davis, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz, the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife or Department of Oceanography at Oregon State University in Corvallis; and Humboldt State University in California. On the east coast there are quality programs at schools like the University of Miami, University of Rhode Island, and the University of Massachusetts.

Courses to Consider

For a career in marine biology you can expect to take preparatory classes in basic biology, zoology, chemistry, physics, biometrics, mathematics, and statistics. You may be surprised to learn that you’ll have to take some English classes as well, because marine biologists write a lot of scientific papers with the hopes of getting them published.

You will most likely take courses in oceanography as well as ichthyology and fishery biology. If you hope to eventually have a career where you will often deal with the public or public policies, courses in social sciences are also recommended.

You Must Love Water and Marine Animals!
You Must Love Getting in the Water and Marine Animals!

Marine Biologist Salary

On average, marine biologists earn $37.00 per hour, or $77,630 as an annual salary. These salaries typically start at $39,000 and can go all the way up to $124,680. Pay will vary based on the level of education (get those degrees!), amount of time in the industry, and the size and location of the company.

Train Dolphins for a Living

If you’d rather wear a wetsuit to work instead of a suit and tie, then being a dolphin trainer is the career for you. But you might be wondering what exactly dolphin trainers do each and every day.

Generally, dolphin trainers get to work very early, typically before 7AM, and when they arrive they are instantly greeted by thousands of pounds of frozen fish. So one of your first tasks might be to sort all of these fish into buckets (you didn’t think it was all glamorous work, did you?!) and then weigh each bucket carefully to ensure each dolphin is getting the right amount of fish for the day’s activities.

Training and Taking Care of Dolphins
Training and Taking Care of Dolphins

After a bit of cleanup, you might find yourself heading into meetings with coworkers to discuss all of the animal’s health and well-being. After the meeting everyone grabs some buckets of fish and heads over to the pool to say good morning to the dolphins and give them their breakfast.

You might have a show later in the morning and have to set props and get into your costume and then give the audience what they came for, a spectacular show they’ll never forget.

After the show you and your dolphin pals will take a lunch break, but then head back to the pool for for some training sessions where you may teach the dolphins to do flips and other new tricks for upcoming shows. We would highly recommend that you try a Dolphin Interactions in one of our location and speak with a trainer directly. They will always give you great advice.

Work Hard to Get This Career

Becoming a marine biologist and going on to be a dolphin trainer will not happen overnight, and the work will be hard and often exhausting. But it will be equally rewarding. Like Nicki, you may also want to consider doing an internship at an animal park. Dolphin training is a coveted position and there are only so many in the country, so to have the most chance, go for an internship.

You Too Can Have a Career with Dolphins!
You Too Can Have a Career with Dolphins!

Nicki will be the first to tell you it’s not glamorous, the work is hard and you don’t get paid, but you get a chance to learn from the best and if they see potential in you, they just may hire you like they did Nicki.

If you have the same passion that Nicki has and would love to work with dolphins one day, find a good school and get the right degree, work toward that internship, and never give up!

Your Marine Animal Experience and Feed Back

We would love to hear from you and what you did to get involved with Marine Animals. Did you do any of these suggestions that we have listed here? In fact we are so interested in hearing what you have to say that we will entice you to comment, the first 5 comments will receive a $5 Amazon Gift card by email. The only thing we ask that you comment has something to do about Marine Animal Careers or Marine Science.

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Dolphins and Snorkeling near Key Largo Marine Sanctuary!

Dolphins and Snorkeling

Just a short drive from Miami is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park with America’s only living coral reef. It is celebrating its 50th anniversary and its success in protecting and conserving its natural resources. This is the jewel of the Florida Keys because of its live coral reef.

When you visit the sanctuary you visit America’s first underwater preserve. The live coral reef and abundance of sea life is truly breathtaking and unique. When you ride in the boat with the glass bottom, you can see the coral reef up close and admire its beauty.  Also, the Florida Keys is one of the few places where you have Dolphins and Snorkeling in one place.

Video of the Snorkel Boat We Use – Get a Taste of What You Will See

Dolphins and Snorkeling in One Day

Many visitors want to snorkel and swim with the dolphins while in the Florida Keys, well, you can do this with Dolphin World. We offer the 1 Day Dolphin Swim Mini Workshop where you can do both fun filled activities.  It will be a full day where half of the day you will get the 30 minute dolphin swim in Islamorada.  During your 30 minutes, you will get to know your bottlenose dolphin where you get to pet, play and swim with them in deep water. This experience will entail a  snorkel and free swim with them in an all natural salt water lagoon.   Included in your day, you can snorkel in John Pennekamp Coral Reef park in Key Largo.  Your experienced boat captain will take you and your family to the best spots of the reef to explore all the wonders of the colorful tropical fish and coral structures.

Florida Keys Dolphin Encounter


Attractions of the Greenery and Animal Life

When you visit the marine sanctuary you will get to explore the nature trails with the lush greenery, walk the beautiful sandy beaches, and admire and learn about the abundant wildlife that inhabit the state park. The beautiful blue water gives you the perfect window to view the fish and coral reef in its natural habitat.

You get to scuba dive with the fish and get up close and personal with the only live coral reef in America along with all the beautiful fish. There is a rainbow of life under the water waiting for you to explore it. The beauty and peace felt when faced with such a unique and majestic sight is truly unlike anything you will ever experience. There is the beauty and peace felt when in paradise and then there’s the beauty and peace you feel when in a totally different world, away from the world and sound of land life.

Book Your Florida Keys 1 Day Dolphin/Snorkel Program >>

The Christ of the Abyss

Below 25 feet of turquoise water stands a nine foot bronze statue of the Christ of the Abyss, an exact replica of which rests in the Mediterranean Sea. It is surrounded by living coral reef formations and highlights the miracle of America’s only living coral reef. When you scuba dive you can get up close and see the entire ecosystem that has grown onto the statue. The beauty of the adaptation of the organism is truly breathtaking.

Florida Keys Snorkeling

Miles of Beauty and Paradise

The sanctuary covers 2800 square nautical miles of the waters throughout the Florida Bay, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic Ocean. There are coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove swamps that adorn the sanctuary waters. There is an infinite amount of wildlife that coexist and live in this giant span of water. The fish, birds, marine life, and land animals that grow and inhabit the lush greenery and water are numberless and beautiful.

The sanctuary is open year around and offers the visitors an experience unlike any other. The park has two man made beaches, kayaking and boat rentals, nature trails and 47 camping sites. You get a chance to experience the park on many different levels and in so many different ways you don’t miss a thing. You get to experience the nature and wildlife of so many different environments there is no park that can match the beauty and intimacy you experience at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

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Nicki’s Story: A Career in Marine Biology

Marine Biology Career Florida more

You have probably heard the saying, “Find a job that you love and you’ll never have to work another day

Nicki Marine Biologist
Nicki the Marine Biologist

in your life!” For many of us, it is hard to imagine having that kind of love for a day job, but for some like Nicki LaPierre, this statement couldn’t be more true. Nicki is a perfect example of how a little determination and a lot of hard work can lead to great success, even at such a young age. At the age of 21, she found her dream job in the beautiful Florida Keys and now, three years later, Nicki is one of the youngest and most talented dolphin handlers in the State of Florida. Her cheerful attitude clearly displays the passion she has for what she does for a living and the excitement she exudes when talking about the beauty and grace of dolphins commands respect of all participants in the dolphin swims. But her greatest skills are seen in the way she interacts with the dolphins-she loves them and they certainly love her!

Where It All Began

Nicki’s love of dolphins started when she was only seven years old, and her parents gave her a dolphin necklace. She fell in love with the necklaces and with dolphins and from that moment on, she knew that marine mammals were always going to have a special place in her heart. In high school, her favorite classes were the ones having to do with the outdoors and with oceans. Once, while vacationing in Florida, Nicki’s parents took her to SeaWorld in Orlando. It was during the time in this park that her love for dolphins was strengthened and she became convinced that her career would somehow involve dolphins and maybe even swim with dolphins in Florida too! After she graduated from high school in Centerville, Virginia, Nicki moved to the University of Tampa to study Marine Biology.

Marine Biology in Florida
Start a Marine Biology Career

Though many of the Marine Biology courses were extremely difficult, Nicki was able to stay focused and study hard with the help of Dr. Rice, one of her college’s guidance counselors who recognized Nicki’s strong will and heart for dolphins. Even though she knew the odds of working with dolphins were against her, she kept persevering, remembering how valuable Dr. Rice’s support was.

A Life Changing Summer

Since there weren’t any specific programs at her school for dolphin handling or care giving, Nicki realized that her best chance was to try to get an internship. She spent one semester interning with dolphins in the Florida Keys, and that semester changed her life forever. Nicki described her internship, saying, “Some people have a glamorous idea of what an internship is. They think it’s a vacation, time away from Marine Biology school. But it’s not like that at all. It’s definitely hard work, and you don’t get paid. It was a real eye-opener.” She remembers those times fondly, as she had a lot of fun and made several new friends. Nicki impressed the dolphin trainers at the facility so much that they offered her the first dolphin handler position that became available.

A lot of Scuba Diving in this Career
A lot of Scuba Diving in this Career

Where She Is Now

Today, Nicki recognizes that without her perseverance through her college years and that internship, she probably would not be where she is now. She is proud to be one the of the youngest dolphin handlers around and happily admits that she is living her dream.

Nicki and the Dolphins in Florida
Nicki and the Dolphins in Florida

Even though she is not in the water all the time, Nicki feels she has been accepted into the dolphins’ world and is a part of their family. Nicki loves her job and has a rare passion for what she does, telling us that she doesn’t see herself giving it up any time soon. Her biggest future plans is to work with special needs children as they get the chance to swim with dolphins. Nicki’s final words of advice to everyone who is trying to figure out what do for a living is, “do what you truly desire and follow your dreams.”

To read more about how to get a job or internship with dolphins and other marine animals, Dolphin Internship.

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Dolphins vs Porpoises – Can they be different?

A Porpoise Head

Dolphins and Porpoises. Are they really that different? Well, while there are many similarities between them, they are also worlds apart from each other. To the naked and untrained eye, most people wouldn’t be able to distinguish the two, because generally they are very much related. However, there are 4 main differences between dolphins and porpoises:

  1. Porpoises are divided into 6 species and sub-species, while dolphins are divided into 40 species.
  2. The average dolphin is longer than the average porpoise.
  3. The mouth and teeth of dolphins and porpoises are very different.
  4. And dolphins and porpoises make sounds at different frequencies.
Dolphins vs Porpoises - Can you tell the difference?
Dolphins vs Porpoises – Can you tell the difference?


Dolphins are best known for their uncanny ability to impress the minds of many with their intelligence and skills. There are about 40 different variations of dolphins, from the Hectors dolphin and short finned pilot, to the spinner and white beak dolphins. Most dolphins inhabit salt water, but there are about 5 species of dolphin that are known to inhabit fresh water: the Amazon River dolphin, the Chinese River dolphin, the Ganges River dolphin, the Franciscan dolphin and the Idus River dollphin. The names of these species of dolphins are related to the waterway that is their habitat. On the other hand, there are 6 types of porpoises that currently reside in the world’s oceans, all belonging to the family, Phococenidae. They include the Burmeister’s Porpoise, Dall’s Porpoise, the Finless Porpoise, the Harbour Porpoise, the Spectacled Porpoise and the rare Vaquita.

A Dolphin Head

Dolphins get their name from the Greek word, Delphus, which means “a fish with a womb.” They are extremely intellegent animals and their friendly appearance and seemingly playful attitudes have made them popular in human culture. Dolphins love to play, especially with each other! At times, they have been known to harass other creatures, such as sea birds and turtles. Dolphins enjoy riding waves and frequently surf coastal swells and the bow waves of boats. They can be seen leaping between the dual bow waves of a moving catamaran. Occasionally, dolphins interact playfully with swimmers. Captive dolphins have been observed in aquariums engaging in complex play behavior, such as creating and moving bubble rings.

Another big difference between dolphins and porpoises is their lengths. Dolphins have a very wide range of lengths and widths, anywhere from 1.2 meters (4 ft) and 40 kilograms (88 lbs) up to 9.5 meters (30 ft) and ten tons, like the killer whale. On the other hand, the average length of a male porpoise is just over 1.5 meters (5 ft) and females are slightly larger with the average length of 1.7 meters (5.5 ft). The average adult porpoise weighs between 61 and 77 kilograms (135-170 lbs).


Due to their small size, porpoises lose body heat more rapidly than dolphins. Their stout shape, which minimizes surface area, may be an adaption to reduce heat loss. Their thick blubber also insulates them from the cold. Their small size also requires them to eat often, rather than depending on fat reserves. Porpoises are rarely held in captivity as they are generally not as capable of adapting to tank life as dolphins.

A Porpoise Head
A Porpoise Head

One of the easiest ways to tell dolphins and porpoises apart is by their mouth and teeth. Dolphins have conical teeth and shorter beaks, while porpoises have flattened, spade shaped teeth. Another difference is that there are more fused neck vertebrae in porpoises than in dolphins, which limits the range of mobility in the porpoise neck. The porpoise even got its name during the medieval times from this noticeable characteristic. They were called “pig fish” from porcus which means pig, and piscus which means fish.

The last way to tell dolphins and porpoises apart is by their sound making. Dolphins vocalize in a range audible to the human ear. However, porpoises vocalize at a much higher range that we simply can’t hear.A recent study showed that porpoises produce high frequency clicks that are restricted to a narrow band of frequencies, while those of a dolphin are not.

You have seen the many key differences between dolphins and porpoises, but there is one thing that you can be sure of when it comes to these two animals: they share the common ability to amaze and enthrall millions who are dazzled by their intellect and unique characteristics. It’s safe to say that these two creatures have been blessed by divine touch.

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