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Dolphin Research Center Training Institute's

Dolphin Academy Certificate Program

Next Application Period: June 1st-July 21st

Session 1:


Session 2:

Online Class Begins~ August 5th

Onsite Dates~ November 3rd-8th OR November 10th-15th




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Do you dream of a career working with dolphins or other animals?  Dolphin Academy will help you achieve it!

One mission of Dolphin Research Center is to teach our relationship based training style to those entering the animal training field. No previous animal training is required, but it is helpful. In our Dolphin Academy program, we work with small groups of students on-site - no more than 6 per class. This ensures students maximum dolphin time and focus of the trainers/instructors. 

Attending the Dolphin Academy, you have the opportunity to:

  • Build relationships with dolphins, learning how to play with them both on the docks and in water.
  • Work with dolphins in training sessions
  • Learn and understand how to implement relationship-based positive reinforcement from the Dolphin Research Center (DRC) dolphins, who will act as your primary “professors”. 
  • Learn to read basic dolphin behavior andunderstand how they communicate with us
  • Participate in discussion groups with marine mammal care and training specialists, covering topics such as training, welfare, Q&A, and career direction
  • Experience on-line classes that focus on relationship building, training, physiology, and public speaking.  DRC trainers participate in the discussion groups online, giving you a foundation of knowledge before you arrive onsite to actually work with the dolphins.
  • Learn to give live presentations that are entertaining, informative, flexible, and motivating. By the end of the week on-site the students will give a public presentation at DRC, both working with the dolphins and narrating.
  • Understand how these relationship-building and training techniques work with all animals, adapting for each species and individual animal’s personality and needs.

This is an intensive immersion program requiring students to participate in programming exceeding 10 hours a day during the onsite portion of the program. Students will be working with a team of marine mammal care and training specialists caring for and actively training marine mammals in a non-profit, educational facility that is open to the public. Graduates of this program will have experienced online classroom instruction as well as the hands-on experience that most zoos, aquariums, rescue facilities, sanctuaries, etc. value in job candidates.

  • This is a hybrid learning program and consists of both online and onsite learning
  • Multiple onsite dates may be offered depending on demand.


  • Furthering Relationships and Enrichment

  • Basic Behavior Modification and Training

  • Public Speaking and Controversy of Animals in Professional Care

  • Physiology

2024 Program Dates

Online Portion

Start Date: August 5, 2024

The online portion must be completed prior to arriving for the onsite portion.

Online classes are at your own pace and schedule.


Onsite Portion

November 3, 2024 - November 8, 2024


November 10, 2024 - November 15, 2024

Application Information

  • Application Period: June 1st - July 21st

  • You must submit a completed application with all required documents for your application to be considered valid.

Enrollment and Admissions Information

  • Upon acceptance, you will be provided with an enrollment form to complete

  • Minimum age: 18 years old

  • International students are eligible 


Meet the DRCTI Professional Animal Trainer course instructors


If you are a team member of a facility/organization that would like to schedule a group class, please email prior to completing any paperwork.

Performance Standards

General Student Performance Standards

All students are expected to maintain the highest personal and ethical standards of conduct consistent with the professional effort expected by DRCTI faculty and all personnel at Dolphin Research Center. These standards are outlined below. Any information indicating that such standards are not being maintained will be reviewed by faculty and may result in student dismissal by the administration.


All students must meet attendance requirements as defined by program policy or guidelines. Absences must be planned and coordinated in advance with the program director. Programming can exceed 10 hours a day during the onsite portion of the program. As this program includes participation in the operation of a marine mammal facility that is open to the public, appropriate behavior is expected. Due to the nature of a facility that cares for live animals, students are expected to be understanding and flexible in scheduling.


All students will be expected to:

  • Communicate effectively
  • Meet the unique needs of different audiences
  • Absorb new information without difficulty
  • Speak and write clearly, concisely, and coherently
  • Express information accurately and in an organized manner
  • Listen to all of the information given and listen respectfully to others’ opinions
  • Keep the appropriate people properly informed
  • Use the appropriate communication channels.

Critical /Analytical Thinking

All students should be able to:

  • Exercise sound judgment
  • Prioritize
  • Understand critical issues in complex situations
  • Know how much analysis is needed to move ahead
  • Assess risks and rewards with a minimum of data and know what data is missing and how to get it
  • Gather facts before making decisions
  • Take actions rather than acting on assumptions.

Interpersonal skills

All students should demonstrate the ability to:

  • Interact with individuals and groups of various ages with diverse social, emotional, cultural, and intellectual backgrounds
  • Facilitate cooperation to implement/adhere to college and program policies
  • Actively seek to establish and maintain relations with individuals at all levels
  • Cooperate readily with others and elicit cooperation to achieve goals
  • Modify personal behavior to adapt to the requirements of the people and program involved
  • Function effectively under stressful conditions
  • Deal positively and confidently with unexpected events.

Personal Integrity

All students will be expected to demonstrate personal integrity in all matters including:

  • Honesty
  • The ability to maintain confidentiality
  • Earning the respect and confidence of others
  • Portraying a positive role model for others
  • Accepting responsibility for negative results
  • Maintaining an open mind and dealing productively with differing opinions
  • Treating all others with appreciation, respect, and courtesy
  • Adhering to organization policies, procedures, and guidelines.

Problem Solving

All students should show the ability to:

  • Use appropriate conflict-resolution techniques and confront difficult tasks effectively
  • Seek reasonable and mutually beneficial agreements/solutions to solve problems/achieve goals/directives.


Program Specific Performance Standards

In addition to DRCTI’s ‘General Student Performance Standards’, the following program-specific performance standards apply:


Mobility: Without assistance, sufficient to rapidly walk the span of Dolphin Research Center without interruption, run and swim distances of 50 yards, easily maneuver on and off floating/moving platforms without assistance, maneuver in tight spaces while manipulating overhead objects, work outdoors in both intense sun and heat as well as under rainy and cold conditions. Students are required to participate in the cleaning of coolers and other materials related to animal care.

Motor Skills: Gross and fine motor abilities sufficient to provide safe and effective animal care, including without assistance, the ability to lift up to 50 lbs. and maneuver non-motorized rolling carts carrying up to 60 lbs. over the entire span of the facility (approximately 230 yards) without interruption.

Hearing: Ability sufficient to monitor human communication, auditory training bridges and animal vocalizations and behavior across large distances (half the length of the facility animal habitats combined). 

Visual: Ability sufficient for observation and visual assessment of animals, humans, and habitats in extreme high light (intense sun) and low light situations, both indoors and outdoors. Students must see well at a distance of 90 feet or more. This is in accordance with human and animal safety issues and observational needs.

Swimming: Ability to swim comfortably at the surface for a minimum of 5 minutes, tread water for a minimum of 10 minutes, distance swim at least 200 meters, hold breath for at least 30 seconds, retrieve a dive ring from approximately 8-10 feet deep, and haul out of the water onto a floating dock without assistance.

Travel Expectations

Each student is responsible for his or her own food, transportation, and travel arrangments and expenses.


Student Housing

DRCTI Student Residence Housing

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The DRCTI Student Residence provides housing for up to six students throughout the duration of the onsite portion of the Dolphin Academy program. Student Residence bedrooms are shared with two to three students per room. One private bedroom is also available. The shared bedrooms are composed of either bunk or loft beds. All bedrooms will have desks and clothing drawer space. Closet space is also available. Two full bathrooms in the residence are communal. The Student Residence has a full kitchen, dining area, living room, study room, and laundry facilities. Housing costs include: washer and dryer, water, electric, cable, internet service, and building maintenance services. Bed linens will be provided but students will be responsible for providing their own towels, blankets, and pillows. Room selection is based on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, while the Student Residence is considered co-ed, bedrooms within the residence are not. Therefore, DRCTI reserves the right to determine the best configuration so co-ed habitation of the bedrooms is avoided.

Tuition & Fees

DRCTI's Dolphin Academy Certificate Program Tuition & Fees

Tuition Balance (includes Housing, Shirt, Lunches & Snacks, Photo Package, Materials) $3,699 (Online & Onsite - Refer to Cancellation and Refund Policy)
Total Tuition Price $3,899 Includes deposit
Required Reading Book



Price dependent on where you purchase

Touching Animal Souls by Gabrielle Harris

Animal Training 101 by Jennifer Zeligs

Other costs incurred by students may include but are not limited to travel, food, personal supplies, and other living expenses.

Download the credit card authorization form in the Aplication & Forms tab. Upload completed form to your application/enrollment forms. Please submit your application and remember to complete any additional requirements such as deposit, letters of recommendation, etc. 

Full payment of tuition is due 30 days before the start date of the program. If the date is within 30 days of the start of the program, the balance is due immediately. Payment of the balance not received by this deadline will result in the automatic removal of the applicant from the program.


Cancellation and Refund Policy

Should a student’s enrollment be terminated or canceled for any reason, all tuition fees will not be refunded after the online class start date. 
Refunds will be considered if DRCTI is notified in writing prior to the online class start date.




Application & Forms


Please complete and submit your application.


Forms & Waivers

Please locate the Resource Library at the bottom of the page to download and complete the required forms and waivers. When complete, upload them to the appropriate document (application or enrollment form). 


Resource Library



Our Mission - Through education, research and rescue, Dolphin Research Center promotes peaceful coexistence, cooperation and communication between marine mammals, humans and the environment we share with the well being of DRC's animals taking precedence.
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