Careers With Animals Information & Resources on Jobs Working with Furry and Non-Furry Friends

A love for animals may be what sparks one’s interest in pursing an animal career, but it won’t be enough to enter the profession. Find out what’s required to enter this industry, what types of careers are available, and how and where animal lovers can successfully land a job working with the animal kingdom

Those who are interested in animal careers have expansive options available to them—from the type of animals they want to work with to the settings that they feel are most rewarding. This guide explores and explains the different career paths that are available in this occupational sector, including the education that is needed to get a job, the salaries that top animal careers command, and the types of organizations that are looking to hire caring and compassionate animal lovers.

Finding Your Career Path

Animal career paths are as vast as the animal kingdom itself. As a result, it may be challenging to narrow down your options and decide on which specific route to take. Options, however, can be a good thing as long as you have a solid idea of where and how to start exploring. The following questions serve as a starting point. Before diving into the in and outs of today’s animal industry, it’s important to carefully think about where you want to be and what you want to do. Use the questions below to assess your skills, interests, and preferences, then read on to see which animal occupations might be a match.

1. What kind of animals do you want to work with?

2. What interests you most?

3. What type of setting do you want to work in?

4. How closely do you want to work with animals?

5. Do you want to work with animals in distress?

6. How much education do you want to pursue?

7. What are some of your top qualities and skills?

Top Career Fields for Animal Lovers

Although there are a myriad of career choices available, the most popular jobs among animal workers are those in the medicine/veterinary, animal rescue, and wildlife rehabilitation areas. Unlike other animal careers, these categories are the most rewarding – and challenging – because they’re directly involved in the care and well being of a wide range of animals, some of which are in severe distress. For many animal lovers, making this kind of a contribution is worth a hard day at work.

Learn more about the top three fields by clicking on one for more details.

Medicine/Veterinary

Veterinary medicine is focused on the health care of animals—from house pets, to livestock, to those that can be found at the zoo or racetracks. Like doctors who work with humans, veterinarians examine animals in order to find out the cause of their illnesses, treat injuries, prescribe medications, perform surgeries, and monitor patients’ progress in follow-up visits.

Professionals within veterinary medicine are also responsible for conducting research about animal health, preventing and controlling the spread of illnesses, and euthanizing animals that are too ill to be treated.

Employment opportunities within veterinary medicine are diverse. While the majority of veterinarians, and related animal care professionals, work in private animal clinics, many also work for government agencies, research centers, farms, and colleges and universities.

Education Requirements

Those interested in pursuing careers in veterinary medicine at the highest level are required to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from an accredited college or university. Admission into these programs is extremely competitive, so in order for students to increase their chances of admission, they should successfully complete courses in biology, anatomy, zoology, chemistry, and physiology when they are undergraduates.

Veterinarians are also required to obtain a license in the state where they practice, which entails passing both a national and state-specific examination. Veterinarians who work for the state or federal government, however, may or may not need a license, as licensing requirements depend on the agency that employs them.

Other medical jobs do not require as much formal education. For example, veterinary technicians and technologists can find a job after earning a two- and four-year degree, respectively. After completing their studies, state licensure may be required, depending on where a graduate plans to work.

Job Titles

There are several job titles for those in the veterinary medicine field, including:

  • Veterinarian
  • Vet Technologist
  • Vet Technician
  • Veterinary Assistant
  • Animal Behaviorists
Animal Rescue

The responsibilities of animal rescue workers are diverse, and sometimes heartbreaking. Oftentimes people in these careers are required to save animals that have been the victims of abuse and neglect, as well as stray and feral animals that do not have owners. Animal rescue teams may also be called upon during emergencies, such as wildfires or oil spills. When these workers are not dealing with issues directly related to animal cruelty or displacement, they may help animal owners get their pets neutered, work in animal adoption clinics, or provide necessities such as toys, food, and bedding to pet owners who cannot afford them.

Education Requirements

In most cases, animal rescue jobs do not require a postsecondary degree. Some employers, however, do favor candidates who already have experience in the field, but generally these workers are able to receive on-the-job training.

Job Titles

Common job titles include:

  • Animal rescuer
  • Animal shelter attendant
  • Animal adoption counselor
  • Animal rescue program coordinator
  • Humane educator
  • Animal control officer
Wildlife Rehabilitation

Wildlife rehabilitation—which combines veterinary medicine, animal behavior, natural history, and environmental studies—is all about treating and caring for wounded, sick, or orphaned animals, with the goal of returning those animals to their natural habitats once they’re well enough to survive on their own. This work involves tasks such as cleaning, caring for injuries, administering medication, and feeding. In addition, some animals may need extensive recovery time before they can be released to their natural habitat, so workers will often provide needed vaccinations and routine exercise until the animals are well and independent.

Education Requirements

Some workers are required to have a federal or state permit to gain employment, depending on what they want to specialize in. For example, states may require that professionals earn a permit in order to work specifically with birds, aquatic animals, reptiles, or mammals. It is not necessary for these professionals to have a degree in order to get licensed, however, people interested in these jobs are advised to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in biology, wildlife management, animal science, or ecology in order to gain a deeper understanding of animal care and wildlife science than hands-on job training can provide.

Job Titles

Some of the most common job titles in this category include:

  • Wildlife caretaker
  • Wildlife educator
  • Wildlife rehabilitator
  • Wildlife rehabilitation technician
  • Rehabilitation veterinary
  • Program supervisor

Other Animal Career Fields

While the three previous categories may make up the lion’s share of available jobs, there are other occupational categories that individuals might be interested in. The following slideshow describes some of the other career paths that people who love animals may want to explore.

  • Animal training

    Animal trainers use enrichment—the process of providing choices that promote positive behaviors—to teach animals to respond to specific commands. Trainers also work with animals to get them accustomed to human interaction. Training can be for the purpose of protection, detection, or entertainment.

    Career Examples

    Dog trainer, dolphin trainer, horse trainer, behaviorist, service animal trainer, search and rescue trainer

  • Pet business

    Pet businesses are ideal for those who want to combine their love of and interest in animals with an entrepreneurial venture. These workers may provide animal care services in a number of different ways, including sitting, grooming, and walking.

    Career Examples

    Pet groomer, dog walker, pooper scooper, pet masseuse, pet sitter

  • Conservation

    Those in animal conservation are dedicated to preserving the habitats of animal species, as well as plants. For example, their work may include finding strategies to keep water and soil safe and preventing wildfires.

    Career Examples

    Wildlife manager, wildlife educator, wildlife inspector and forensics specialist, wildlife consultant, wildlife economist

  • Protective services

    Jobs in animal protective services are focused on the health and safety of various animals, as well as humans who have been attacked by them. These jobs are a combination of public health and safety, law enforcement, and pet protection.

    Career Examples

    Animal control officer, cruelty investigator, rabies control/bite investigator, animal services officer, livestock officer

  • Administration or policy

    People who are concerned about the welfare of animals, but prefer not to work on the front lines of the profession, may pursue administration or policy positions that allow them to help make decisions that impact overall animal welfare. This may include lobbying on behalf of animal welfare to affect legislation or running an organization.

    Career Examples

    Policy analyst, animal welfare auditor, animal welfare compliance coordinator

  • Teaching/Research

    Teachers and researchers advance the knowledge of animal health and issues, either in the classroom or the laboratory. They may work in colleges and universities, government agencies, or research facilities.

    Career Examples

    Veterinary medicine lecturer, laboratory technician, animal research technologist

Spotlighting Top Animal Careers

People who are interested in animal careers have a wealth of options available to them. Whether students choose to work with house pets or more exotic animals, in an indoor or outdoor setting, or directly or indirectly with animals, there is a job title to satisfy almost any preference. The following are some of the most common careers with animals.

  • Animal Attendant/Kennel Worker

    Job category: Protective services

    Kennel workers/animal attendants are responsible for the day-to-day care of animals in facilities. This work includes feeding, grooming, bathing, and exercising nonfarm animals. These workers may also help to treat animals that have been injured, ensure that quarters are clean and disinfected, and find good homes for animals that have been abandoned. They may get jobs at kennels that take care of animals while their owners are away, like catteries, or those that take care of animals that have been abused or abandoned. Also, work may be found at quarantine, breeding, and racing kennels.

    Required education: These jobs do not require a specific formal education and workers can learn through on-the-job training.

    Required skills and characteristics: Compassion for animals, physical stamina, customer service

    Median annual salary: $20,340

  • Animal Behaviorist/Animal Trainer

    Job category: Animal training

    Whether a jockey wants a horse to perform a high jump, a dog owner needs an animal to guard the house, or a cat owner needs a pet to stop spraying around the home, behaviorists and trainers can help to teach animals the desired behaviors. These professionals do this by training animals to respond to commands, getting them accustomed to hearing human voices, and creating training programs to ensure that the animals learn specific behaviors. Employment opportunities can be found at circuses, zoos, aquariums, animal shelters, movie and television production companies, and research facilities. Some animal trainers are self-employed.

    Required education: On-the-job training for most animal trainers. Those who want to work as marine mammal trainers need a bachelor’s degree in marine biology or animal science.

    Required skills and characteristics: Listening, time management, verbal communication, instruction, problem solving

    Median annual salary: $25,770

  • Groomer

    Job category: Pet business

    From show dogs to house pets, groomers maintain an animal’s appearance, which includes shampooing, combing, and styling. These workers also perform services designed to promote good hygiene such as teeth cleaning and nail cutting. There are also some administrative duties associated with these positions, such as maintaining clients’ records to ensure their pets are getting the services they need. They may work in grooming salons, pet daycare centers, kennels, veterinary clinics, pet stores, or animal shelters.

    Required education: High school diploma or equivalent

    Required skills and characteristics: Customer service, the ability to follow directions, attention to detail

    Median annual salary: $29,758

  • Horse Groomer

    Job category: Pet business

    Horse groomers are groomers that specialize in the care and cleaning of horses. This job includes tasks such as grooming, bathing, feeding, and watering. In addition, horse groomers also provide care for injuries that horses may suffer from, keep racetracks clean, and warm up racehorses before jockeys ride them. In some cases, these professionals may also operate the farming equipment that is related to the animals. Job opportunities can be found at racing stables, breeding or boarding farms, polo clubs, and riding schools.

    Required education: Typically, no formal education is required other than on-the-job training.

    Required skills and characteristics: Horsemanship skills, customer service, attention to detail

    Median annual salary: $15,000

  • Humane Educator

    Job category: Teaching/Research

    Humane educators work to disseminate information about how humans can interact with animals in a caring and compassionate way. They may teach members of a community about topics such as animal welfare and rights, as well as explain how different types of animals behave. To accomplish this, educators create programs targeted toward different audiences. These professionals are generally employed by humane societies or animal shelters, but their actual work may take place at several other locations. They may travel to conduct classes at summer camps, community centers, businesses, schools, colleges and universities, and scout meetings.

    Required education: At least a bachelor’s degree in education, animal science, or a related field. At some colleges, students may be able to earn a degree specifically in humane education. If a school offers only general education degrees, students can supplement this curriculum by taking courses in zoology, animal science and behavior, and similar topics. Public speaking coursework can also be helpful.

    Required skills and characteristics: Verbal and written communication, learning, administrative

    Median annual salary: $22,000

  • Humane Law Enforcement/Animal Control Officer

    Job category: Protective services

    Humane law enforcement officers are responsible for ensuring that people adhere to laws that promote humane animal treatment. They investigate accusations of animal abuse and have arrest powers. Types of cases that humane law enforcement officers may investigate include those related to dog fighting, puppy mills, and animal hoarding. Depending on the jurisdiction, they may be employed by law enforcement agencies, humane societies, animal shelters, or animal control agencies.

    Animal control officers also help to enforce laws related to the treatment of animals. Their job entails capturing stray animals, removing pets from abusive homes, and inspecting an animal breeder’s place of operation. They can find jobs at the local, state, or federal government levels.

    Required education: Humane law enforcement officers must complete police certification training. Animal control officers receive on-the-job training.

    Required skills and characteristics: Understanding of animal humane laws, listening, speaking, problem solving skills

    Median annual salary: Humane law enforcement officers make $67,000; animal control officers make $32,366

  • Kennel Attendant

    Job category: Animal rescue

    These workers provide basic care for animals that are caged in kennels. This position includes cleaning the animals’ quarters, as well as exercising and feeding animals. In addition, kennel attendants may provide grooming services. In most cases, they care for dogs and cats, but there are instances where they may work with other types of domesticated animals.

    Required education: Workers usually receive on-the-job training, though some employers may require that candidates have a high school diploma.

    Required skills and characteristics: Record keeping, attention to detail, administrative

    Median annual salary: $20,340

  • Marine Biologist

    Job category: Teaching/Research

    These professionals research and observe aquatic animals. This work entails studying animals in their natural habitat, collecting and examining animal specimens, and conducting experiments in controlled and natural environments. In addition, these workers may also educate the public about marine animals and ensure they are not mistreated in zoos and aquariums. Specializations in the field include molecular marine biology, which applies molecular techniques to the study of organisms in different marine environments. Also, some marine biologists focus their research on protists, which are single-celled organisms that have been around for billions of years.

    Required education: Master’s degree in marine biology, aquatic biology, oceanography, ecology, or wildlife and fisheries science.

    Required skills and characteristics: Research, interest in on-going learning, math, observant, problem solving

    Median annual salary: $51,615

  • Natural Pet Supply Store Owner/Worker

    Job category: Pet business

    These workers provide products to pet owners, which entails ordering items and maintaining inventory, assisting customers with purchases, and keeping sales records. Storeowners are also responsible for hiring and training staff members, and creating workplace rules for employee conduct and safety, as well as sales and operations policies. They may run independent pet stores or franchises.

    Required education: High school diploma or equivalent

    Required skills and characteristics: Time management, decision-making, math, writing, speaking, coordination, negotiation, customer service

    Median annual salary: $37,860

  • Naturalist/Wildlife Biologist

    Job category: Conservation

    These professionals conduct studies about different animal species in order to find out information on how the natural environment and human interventions affect them. In addition, they may look at plant populations in the wild, work with public health officials to prevent the spread of wildlife diseases, and educate people about wildlife. Wildlife biologists often choose an area to concentrate their research on. Terrestrial biologists focus on land organisms and limnologists study freshwater organisms, for example.

    Required education: Bachelor’s degree in zoology or wildlife biology, or a related field such as ecology. For research positions, at least a master’s degree in these disciplines is required. Prospective researchers should also take courses in mathematics and statistics to prepare for complex data analysis.

    Required skills and characteristics: Critical thinking, speaking, time management, writing, teaching

    Median annual salary: $58,270

  • Pet Photographer

    Job category: Pet business

    Pet and animal photographers capturing images for commercial, artistic, or personal purposes. These workers use photographic techniques to get the best images, enhance photographs with software, and maintain equipment. In addition, these workers must market themselves in order to attract clients, as well as provide good customer service to retain them. Some pet photographers specialize in a specific type of animal. While some choose to work with domestic animals like cats and dogs, others prefer working with horses or even more exotic pets like reptiles.

    Required education: Photography training

    Required skills and characteristics: Customer service, artistic ability, technical skills, detail oriented, communication

    Median annual salary: $30,490

  • Shelter/Rescue Sanctuary Manager

    Job category: Animal rescue

    These workers are responsible for managing the operations of a shelter or rescue sanctuary, from working with incoming animals to overseeing the work of staff members. This work entails giving medication to animals, treating wounds, and ensuring that facilities are clean and safe. In some cases, they may work closely with veterinarians to make treatment or euthanasia decisions. In addition, people in these jobs hire and manage staff, create budgets and ensure the funds are used accordingly, and create reports about a shelter’s operations. Customer service is also an element of this position, as shelter managers may assist with animal adoptions, as well as give tours of shelters and provide education about animal care to those interested in acquiring pets.

    Required education: An associate or bachelor’s degree in animal handling or animal management, or a related discipline, is required in some cases, while other employers provide on-the-job training. Students often study animal-related subjects such as animal handling, feline management, disease prevention and management, animal cruelty, and nutrition. Courses in business and accounting are also helpful.

    Required skills and characteristics: Customer service, budgeting, verbal and written communication

    Median annual salary: $38,659

  • Therapist/Animal Behaviorist

    Job category: Teaching/Research

    Animal therapists and behaviorists study the way animals learn, communicate, and behave. In order to do this, they apply the principles of behavioral psychology to research and analyze different animal issues. These professionals may also choose specialties, such as a specific type of animal (e.g. whales or gorillas) or a certain behavior (e.g. migration or mating). There are also several options for where animal behaviorists can work. For example, those who work in zoos and aquariums often hold animal curator positions where they are responsible for the acquisition and maintenance of specific animals, while those employed by pharmaceutical companies study the effects of disease and medication on an animal’s behavior.

    Required education: Bachelor’s degree in animal behavior, or a related discipline such as animal biology, zoology, ecology, or wildlife biology. Those who want to teach at the college level or conduct research must earn a doctorate degree in animal behavior, as well as postdoctoral training in the field.

    Required skills and characteristics: Research, learning, attention to detail, math

    Median annual salary: $61,110

  • Veterinarian

    Job category: Medicine/Veterinary

    Veterinarians examine, diagnose, and treat animals that are suffering from a variety of illnesses or injuries. This work includes administering vaccinations, performing surgery, treating wounds, and euthanizing animals that are too sick for proper treatment. Veterinarians sometimes specialize in a specific type of animal, or work in research jobs or education positions at colleges and universities. For example, equine veterinarians specialize in horses, while food animal veterinarians treat farm animals.

    Required education: Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. Coursework in biology, zoology, microbiology, and animal science can help undergraduates prepare for graduate-level veterinary studies.

    Required skills and characteristics: Problem solving, verbal and written communication, compassion, time management, listening, monitoring

    Median annual salary: $87,590

  • Veterinary Technician

    Job category: Medicine/Veterinary

    These professionals help to treat animals under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Their job duties include taking animal x-rays, preparing animals for surgical procedures, collecting laboratory samples for testing, and nursing and monitoring animals recovering from surgeries. Veterinary technicians may also help to keep patient records up to date. Veterinary technicians may specialize in a specific type of animal. Equine veterinary technicians work exclusively with horses, for example. Other professionals work in a specific type of animal care, such as dentistry, dermatology, emergency medicine, or administering anesthesia.

    Required education: Associate degree program for veterinary technicians. Students are encouraged to study biology and math during their high school years.

    Required skills and characteristics: Writing, listening, speaking, monitoring, time management, coordination

    Median annual salary: $31,070

  • Wildlife Rehabilitator

    Job category: Wildlife rehabilitation

    These professionals provide care to wild animals that are suffering from illnesses and injuries or have been orphaned and abandoned, with the ultimate goal of releasing them to their natural habitat. In some cases, wildlife rehabilitators work closely with veterinarians in order to determine how to provide the best, most effective care. Other times, they actually are the veterinarian: Wildlife rehabilitators often have other primary jobs—such as zoologist, biologist, or veterinarian positions—and they practice wildlife rehabilitation as part of their primary occupation.

    Required education: Postsecondary degree in animal behavior/biology, ecology, or a related discipline. State or federal permit may also be required

    Required skills and characteristics: Compassion, attention to detail, communication

    Median annual salary: $20,340

  • Zoologist

    Job category: Teaching/Research

    Zoologists study topics related to wildlife, including animal behavior, classifications, interrelationships, genetics, life processes, diseases, and origins. People who pursue these careers are responsible for creating and conducting experiments in indoor and outdoor settings, monitoring the health of wildlife, and educating the public about issues that impact wildlife and how to treat animals humanely. Zoologists may specialize in a specific area to research. For example, ornithology is the study of birds and herpetology focuses on amphibians and reptiles.

    Required education: Bachelor’s degree in zoology, wildlife biology, ecology, or a related field. Those who want to conduct research are required to earn a doctorate.

    Required skills and characteristics: Communication, problem solving, critical thinking, monitoring, coordination

    Median annual salary: $58,270

Types of Employers

When choosing an animal career, those who want to enter the field should consider what kind of employer they are interested in working for. Animal workers can be found in several settings, including zoos, schools, research facilities, government agencies, and animal shelters. The following outlines some of the employers than animal workers can choose from.

Animal clinics

Veterinary clinics provide care to pets, generally with a focus on preventive medicine. Although these facilities examine animals and make diagnoses, they are not equipped to perform laboratory testing. In addition, clinics can perform some minor surgeries, like spaying and neutering pets, but major surgeries are done by hospitals.

Animal hospitals

Veterinary hospitals also provide animal care services, but on a larger scale than clinics. Unlike clinics, these facilities provide advanced medical care, including ultrasounds, oxygen therapy, laser surgeries, and laboratory testing. In addition, animal hospitals are able to keep and monitor pets that need inpatient care.

Zoos

Zoos provide animal experts with the opportunity to educate the general public about different kinds of animals on a regular basis. Whether they are organizing exhibits or giving lectures, zoos provide an audience that is eager to see and learn about different animal species. And behind the scenes, workers may feed and provide medical care at the zoo, as well as perform administrative tasks that keep the facility running.

Schools

Animal educators often work with school districts in order to provide classes designed to help students of different grade levels understand animals and how to treat them. Also, educators may work on the college level, providing the training that professionals like veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and zoologists need to practice.

Shelters

Shelters are responsible for housing and caring for animals that have been removed from abusive homes, as well as those that are found homeless. Professionals who work in these facilities treat sick and injured animals, and then look for good owners to place them with.

Research centers

Unlike research labs or facilities that usually conduct animal testing, research centers are dedicated to the study and conservation of various animals. For example, marine mammal research centers focus on the preservation of marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. Marine biologists respectfully observe, track, and monitor one or more subgroups – cetaceans, pinnipeds, sirenians, and fissipeds – to analyze behaviors such as migration, breeding and birth, feeding, health, and interspecies interaction. Biologists also examine the effects humans and other environmental stressors have on these mammals. New findings add to existing knowledge and help humans to better co-exist with animals as well as preserve their natural habitats.

Government agencies

Those who want to contribute to animals by positively affecting policies, legislation, and regulations may work for government agencies. This allows professionals to become decision makers on a variety of animal and animal rights issues, such as education programs, conservation programs, guidelines for humane treatment, and managing wildlife.

Biggest Employers

The Humane Society of the United States

This is the largest animal protection agency in the United States, providing care to over 100,000 animals annually. The Humane Society also advocates on behalf of animals in order to educate the public about cruelty and put an end to instances of abuse.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

Founded in 1970, the NRDC strives to protect the air, land, and water from pollution and corporate greed, according to its website. It has been labeled the most effect environmental action group and is comprised of more than 2 million members and activists, including lawyers, scientists, and business and community leaders.

Petco

Petco sells pet supplies, toys, and foods for those who own dogs, cats, fish, reptiles, and birds. The store also fills prescriptions and provides grooming and training services.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is dedicated to protecting animals from abuse and exploitation. As the largest animal rights organization, it focuses on four major areas – factory farms, clothing trade, laboratories, and entertainment. PETA’s work includes public education, investigation, research, animal rescue, lobbying services, and protest/awareness campaigns.

VCA Animal Hospitals

VCA has over 600 animal hospitals around the country that provide a full range of veterinary services, including specialized care such as neurology and oncology treatments.

How to Start a Career With Animals

Animal careers can be rewarding, but with so many options, it can be difficult to narrow down one’s options. Furthermore, a love of animals alone is not enough to prepare workers for these jobs. In order to start a successful animal career, prospective employees must go through rigorous education and training. The following are some steps to help prepare you for the journey.

1
Test the Field

Although many animal careers do not require a formal education, on-the-job training is imperative. In some cases, professionals in animal careers actually begin by volunteering for veterinary clinics, animal rescue organizations, animal shelters, or wildlife rehabilitation centers. Individuals can volunteer for special events or on a regular basis, doing typical day-to-day tasks. There are also many internship opportunities available to aspiring animal professionals where they can gain experience in areas such as animal behavior, nutrition, medicine, or rehabilitation.

Conducting informational interviews with someone already in the field can give people valuable insight on what animal careers are actually like. In some cases, individuals may be able to shadow workers for even more insight into what their jobs are like, what to expect from the industry, and the best ways of getting trained for a job.

2
Postsecondary Education

While some people are able to enter an animal career with on-the-job training alone, in some cases, workers are expected to have a formal education, which may include an associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degree, depending on the specific career. In order to be admitted into these programs, students are expected to have a strong knowledge of science—so it’s essential to take courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology, as well as classes specific to animal science and behavior. In addition, college-level mathematics classes are generally expected when training for certain animal careers. Postsecondary education can be pursued at a vocational school, community college, or a four-year university.

Vocational Training

Vocational schools allow students to gain a great deal of hands-on experience working with animals, as well as knowledge about animal behavior, the technologies that are used in the field, and animal biology, in a relatively short amount of time. This can be the ideal educational path for someone looking to enter the field quickly via an entry-level role. In many cases, students in these programs complete an apprenticeship, which bridges the gap between classwork and real-world experience. During this time, students work in the field to learn the tricks of the trade as they finish their degree programs.

Community Colleges

Those who enroll in community college programs generally pursue careers that require more specialized skills and knowledge, such as veterinary technician jobs. Similar to vocational programs, students enrolled in community colleges also receive hands-on training in an animal field while taking classes that teach them about animal theories. Students are expected to complete general education courses outside of their animal education, so they often study topics such as English composition or communication to augment their regular classwork.

Four-Year Universities

Four-year colleges and universities offer both undergraduate and graduate degree programs for more advanced, leadership-type roles. For example, those who want to pursue careers as zoologists or veterinarians must earn a graduate degree from an accredited four-year college or university. During their studies, students learn advanced concepts designed to train them on how to provide treatment for animals, understand animal behavior, conduct research, and handle crisis situations. These programs have a strong emphasis on animal theory, and may provide less hands-on training, compared to vocational schools.

3
Build Work Experience

Students don’t have to wait until they’ve gotten their dream job to get work experience and in many cases, employers want applicants who already have some knowledge in the field. The following opportunities may help students and recent graduates land their dream job more quickly.

Complete an internship or externship

Degree programs often require, or at least strongly encourage, that students complete an internship or externship program during their time in school. Such opportunities provide experiential learning that classroom lectures, and even hands-on laboratory work, cannot provide. Externships and internships allow students to apply what they’ve learned to real world workplace scenarios and experience first-hand how professionals in the field handle their daily duties and challenges.

Find a mentor

Oftentimes, veterans in the field are willing to give back to the profession by acting as a mentor to someone who is just starting out. During the mentor/mentee relationship, novice animal workers can obtain guidance and feedback from their more experienced counterparts, as well as get an idea of what they can expect in the field. In addition, mentees may get the opportunity to shadow their mentors, which will allow them to watch and learn as professionals navigate their way through the workday.

Volunteer

Many animal workers begin their careers by participating in volunteer activities while they’re still in school. Volunteering for an animal clinic, rescue organization, or zoo can give students a realistic look at what animal careers are like, while providing hands-on experience that serves as a head start to their formal training.

4
Find a Job

Animal careers are unique, but finding a job in the field is just like job hunting in any other profession. Here are a few tips to help with the process:

Create a comprehensive resume

Although applicants may not have a lot of professional experience, they can still use their resume to sell themselves. Adding information about education, volunteer experiences, extracurricular activities, and internships related to animals will help demonstrate an applicant’s strengths and knowledge.

Do your research and practice interviewing

In any field, it’s important to have strong interviewing skills. In order to get these abilities, it takes practice. Before an interview, applicants should:

  • Carefully research the organization you want to work for in order to demonstrate genuine interest – and knowledge – in the position and company
  • Create a list of potential interview questions and practice your answers with a friend
  • Know how to sell yourself and your skills, while still being humble
  • Prepare a list of thoughtful questions to ask your interviewers

If possible, job applicants should do mock interviews with someone they trust to get honest feedback regarding their weaknesses and how to sharpen their answers.

Participate in networking events

Since the majority of available jobs are not advertised, networking is a must for any job seeker. Many professional associations give animal workers the opportunity to meet one another and share ideas. For example, the Animal Care Expo and the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators National Conference are events where those in the animal control field can take continuing education courses and get to know their colleagues in the industry. By attending these kinds of events, people can make contacts that may eventually lead to a job opportunity. Also, joining online groups that cater to the industry, such as discussion boards on LinkedIn, can be a great way to expand one’s professional network.

Attend job fairs

Much like networking events, local job fairs can be a valuable resource when looking for work. Animal-related organizations that are recruiting employees may attend these events, and in some cases, employers hold job fairs of their own. This is another great way to meet fellow animal lovers and employees, find out about unadvertised career opportunities, and build a strong network.

Resources for More Information

American Veterinary Medical Association

Since 1863, this not-for-profit association has been working on behalf of veterinarians. Members include those who work in private practice, as well as for government agencies, colleges, and corporations.

Animal Behavior Society

This is a professional organization that focuses on studying animal behavior from a biological perspective. Offers journals and educational programs, as well as grants and awards.

Animal Careers

Provides information on the types of animal careers available, the education that is needed to get a job, and the types of animals professionals work with. In addition, this guide includes information on internships and scholarship opportunities.

Animal Careers Website

Published by Cornell University, this site includes information on different careers, what is entailed in these jobs, and what education is required to land them.

Animal Care Internships

Allows students to search for animal internships by location. Includes listings from around the country.

Animal Jobs Digest

This site includes information on animal jobs, as well as internships, scholarships, and training opportunities.

Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation

Includes information on how animals are rescued and rehabilitated and the equipment used to do this work.

Animal Science Jobs

This site allows users to search by job title, company, and location.

Animal Training

This site has information on animal training education, how to train a pet, and the philosophies behind animal training.

Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

The AAVMC coordinates the affairs of veterinary medical colleges, colleges of veterinary medicine, U.S. departments of veterinary science and comparative medicine, international veterinary schools, veterinary medical education organizations, and affiliate international veterinary schools.

Careers in Poultry

Provides information for those interested in poultry science careers. Includes internship listings, scholarship opportunities, and college and industry contracts.

National Animal Care and Control Association

A professional association designed to support those in animal control jobs. Offers training, conferences, and news about the industry.

National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association

The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, or NWRA, promotes wildlife rehabilitation and preserving the ecosystems that animals live in. Provides publications, scholarships, and education to help advance the field.

Pig Careers

Has information for those who want to work with pigs, including different types of jobs.

Working with animals: Career Outlook

Published by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this guide provides information on the salaries and job outlooks for different animal careers.

Zoo Careers

Provides information about the types of zoo careers available, the animals that these professionals work with, and research related to the field.