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Careers (paid time) Working With Animals
(for the benefit of animals)

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Many people want a job where they can work with animals, to help animals, or where their employing organization is focused on animals and their well-being in some way. What kinds of jobs are available?

The range of jobs is huge! Here they are broken into four categories:

  1. There are low-skilled jobs that don't require specialized education, but where you also won't get to work directly with animals, such as:
    • Menial jobs, such as cleaning up after animals or preparing their living spaces
    • Low-skilled administrative jobs, such as answering the phone
  2. There are administrative and program jobs that do require at least some experience and training that are in support of the organization, but where you may also not work directly with animals, such as:
    • marketing
    • public relations
    • interpretive naturalist
    • program director
    • educator
  3. There are jobs that allow you to work with animals and don't require a four-year degree (but they require a certificate or two-year degree), such as:
    • pet sitter/dog walker
    • dog trainer
    • veterinary technician
    • wildlife rehabilitator
  4. There are jobs where you work some of the time or all of the time with animals and do require a university education (often an advanced degree), such as:
    • biologist
    • forest ranger / park ranger
    • veterinarian (small animal vets, large animal vets, exotic animal vets for zoos, research veterinarians, etc.)
    • therapy for humans that uses animals
    • animal psychology
    • habitat specialist
    • conservation officer
Working environments for some or all of the aforementioned professions include:
  • animal shelters (run by the SPCA, local Humane Society, a local city or county government, or a local non-profit)
  • zoos
  • veterinary offices
  • universities
  • secondary schools
  • farms
  • nature centers
  • parks
  • wildlife rehabilitation centers
  • human rehabilitation centers
  • prisons (where there are a growing number of programs where prisoners care for and train animals)
What fields of study are appropriate to be in a position to work with animals?
  • ecology
  • biology (including specialist areas, such as marine biology)
  • veterinary medicine
  • zoology
  • shelter management
  • animal psychology
  • environmental management
  • environmental science
  • conservation
  • natural resources management
  • fisheries and wildlife sciences
These fields of study are good guidance not only for choosing courses to take, but also for volunteering you should pursue. Volunteering in animal shelters, with dog breed rescue groups, with organizations trying to spay and neuter feral cats, at state parks, with city park offices, in national parks, zoos, or with agencies that manage wetlands are just some of the ways you could build your skills for working in a job that benefits animals or wildlife habitat. Here's more about volunteering with organizations that help animals and wildlife.

Remember: it is never too late to pursue any of those degrees or to pursue a career working with animals. You are never too old to do certain types of jobs, or to pursue the education you need for certain types of jobs.  

Another helpful resource: Careers for creature lovers, a guide to animal-related careers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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2010-17 by Jayne Cravens, all rights reserved. No part of this material can be reproduced in print or in electronic form without express written permission by Jayne Cravens.

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