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Love Your Furry Friends? Check Out These 15 Careers Working With Animals
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Heather K Adams
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Most of us like to play with a puppy or cuddle a purring kitten. But there are animal lovers and then there are animal lovers, the ones who want to spend every day, and in fact their entire career, working with, training or taking care of animals. While veterinarian is probably the first one that springs to mind, there are tons of careers with animals. Whether your interests veer more toward the hard sciences than direct hands-on diagnosis or interactions or if you want to be the leader of the pack, wrangling dogs on a movie set, there is a career out there perfect for you. 

Industries that work with animals.

Medicine.

The medical industry is all about seeing to the health and well being of our beloved pets, livestock or exotic zoo animals. From pet and farm vets to lab techs, there is quite an array of medical careers with animals available.

Science.

Animal scientists work to make the environment a better, healthier home for wild animals, study animal behavior to create safer habitats for zoos and sanctuaries and even study the diet and eating habits of animals both exotic and domestic. Medicine and science often overlap, especially in a laboratory study, where diagnosis and treatment of health issues can be a large area of concern.

Training and well-being.

Groomers, rehabilitation specialists and trainers all play their parts when it comes to the care and well being of our animal friends. These careers with animals require very patient and loving personalities. Trainers and others spend so much time interacting one on one with their clientele that to work in this field is often akin to answering a calling. Those who work with therapy dogs or other similar companions require even more of those "dog whisperer"- types of abilities.

Entertainment.

Animals have jobs and compete, just like we do. And so horse wranglers can find steady work on the sets of spaghetti westerns, and dog trainers can make a living prepping purebred pups for dog shows or actually breeding the show dogs. There are also animal safety representatives on movie sets and at shows or horse races, as well as working in association with zoos. Or you can explore the wild and woolly world of being an agent for animal actors, working with booking or casting agents for movies and shows.

15 careers with animals.

1. Veterinarian

Average salary: $96,000/year*

One of the best-known careers with animals, becoming a veterinarian means entering a surprisingly competitive field. Being a vet means having a career with a very positive employment outlook, and it's one a lot of animal lovers set their sites on. And all of them want to get into the best schools to attain their doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree. So, bulking up on related science courses, such as biology, is a good idea for undergrads considering entering this field. States have different licensing requirements, in addition to the degree you'll need, and there are state and national exams as well.

2. Veterinary tech

Average salary: $15/hour

If the hard sciences appeal to you as much as working with our four-legged friends, becoming a veterinary tech is definitely a career with animals worth exploring. This job involves lab and clinical work as well as assisting vets and interacting with animals. Veterinary technologist and technician are different titles, however. The first will require you undergo four years of education and training and the second only two. Starting out as a technician is a good way to begin exploring this career.

3. Veterinary assistant

Average salary: $12/hour

Being a veterinarian's assistant is a very hands-on job. Assistants are roughly the equivalent of a nurse at a doctor's office, conducting the initial patient exam and collecting basic data and information. They then assist with clinical work, as well as see to the care of animals kenneled at the vet's office. The basic education requirement is a high school diploma.

4. Laboratory technician

Average salary: $18/hour

Scientists and biologists often conduct animal studies in their labs and have techs who care for and attend to the animals they keep there. An undergraduate degree may be required to get this job, especially if you're thinking of pursuing a further career as a scientist yourself. On-the-job training may be available, however, and then you can pursue certifications to further your career later on.

5. Kennel attendant/assistant

Average salary: $10/hour

This career with animals centers around the care and feeding of animals waiting for new homes, who were perhaps rescued and undergoing rehabilitation or who are boarded there while their owners travel. Grooming and exercising the animals, playing with and perhaps having a direct role in rehabilitating those animals who have been injured or abused is also part of a kennel assistant's daily routine. This job is all about gaining experience as you go, with no prior schooling required.

6. Animal wrangler

Average salary: $30,000/year (Recruiter.com)

Movies where animals play starring or co-starring roles will always rely on trainers and animal wranglers to direct and care for all those diva doggies and hero horses. Wranglers are also responsible for making sure the animal is safe and properly cared for. This career with animals involves a lot of learning as you go, and the more experienced you are, the more work you'll find, obviously. However, joining accredited organizations or obtaining certifications will add to both your resume and your reputation.

7. Therapy dog trainer

Average salary: $13/hour

From seeing eye dogs to emotional support companions, a therapy dog trainer is a very rewarding career for any animal lover but especially those who excel at becoming in tune with their furry friends. Attending conferences and workshops on training, theory or practical topics is an excellent way to introduce yourself to this particular career. You can then complete training courses to learn more and also serve an apprenticeship with an established trainer. Further certifications are then available, based on any sort of specialization you focus on.

8. Zoologist/zoo veterinarian

Average salary: $76,000/year

Zoologists mostly work with more exotic animals, either in the wild for wildlife conservation organizations or sanctuaries, in labs focusing on more clinical specializations or for zoos. While you can earn a bachelor's degree in zoology and then find a job in the field, such as an assistant, finding employment as an actual zoologist will require a more advanced degree.

9. Animal control officer

Average salary: $15/hour

Animal control officers enforce local safety and welfare laws in their local communities. They may deal with the bear cub that wanders into the downtown shopping area and also address reports of abuse and neglect. They are considered specialized law enforcement officers but are still a part of the local police force. A high school diploma and experience working or interacting with animals in some capacity (from growing up with pets to volunteering at a kennel) are the minimum requirements. However, a degree in a field relevant to either animals or criminology makes for an even better employment outlook.

10. Dog walker/pet sitter

Average salary: $15/hour

These gigs aren't just for when people go out of town on vacation. Pet walkers and sitters can also serve as daytime companions for lonely animals with busy owners. These daily visits will involve walks for dogs but are just as likely to require ear scratches for kitties, cage cleaning for birds and tank maintenance for fish and reptiles. No formal education is required, but there are a few different courses and certifications you can take and attain that will help you market yourself to potential clientele.

11. Animal trainer.

Average salary: $12/hour

Dog training springs to mind when it comes to this career with animals and with good reason. Every pooch owner needs to know the proper way to raise their puppy, for both their own sake and the well-being of their animal. But horse training is also a viable direction to explore, if you're the horse-whispering cowboy sort. Circuses also employ trainers, along with companies that work in the movie industry, as mentioned above. Some specialized training fields, such as working with marine animals, may require an advanced degree. Most training careers, however, rely on job-related experience and then subsequent certifications.

12. Animal nutritionist

Average salary: $17/hour

This is another one of those lab-oriented careers with animals. Nutritionists study and advise on the needs of animals in zoos and other facilities or work with pet food companies to create better foods and supplements. Animal nutritionist falls under the umbrella of animal scientist, and becoming one requires an undergraduate degree just to break into the field. Postgraduate degrees are necessary to advance any further than the very early entry-level positions.

13. Wildlife biologist

Average salary: $63,000/year

Be it field work or lab work, this career with animals embraces everything from entomology to ichthyology. Wildlife biologists study or work in all types of animals or environmental areas, so fish, insects, rain forests and urban areas are all areas of potential study and specialization. Again, this is a hard science field to go into, so it definitely requires more advanced degrees for higher-level positions. 

14. Groomer

Average salary: $35,000/year

Groomers see to the skin, coat, claws and paws needs of everyday pets and those that compete in shows. A high school diploma and a willingness to be covered in dog fur are the basic requirements. Apprenticeships or training programs may be required by some employers, and both are a good idea if you have any intention of going into business for yourself. Having your own grooming business, whether you run it from your home, in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting or out of a truck as salon wheels, is a great way to make a career out of giving animals plenty of love and attention. After all, most pets like to feel pretty, just like their owners.

15. Farmer/farm manager

Average salary: $51,000/year

Dairy cows, dairy goats, chickens, sheep and even bees: the farmer or farm manager can surround herself with an absolute menagerie of animals — and then get to spend her whole day tending to them or creating salable goods from what they produce. But while anyone with a bit of land and that ever-necessary gumption can start her own farm, the more serious-minded businesswoman may want to invest in her education first — and ditto anyone who wants to manage someone else's farm. Bachelors degrees in farm management or other particular areas of the agricultural businesses are a solid bet and an investment toward any future farming endeavor.

*Salaries are according to Indeed.com unless otherwise specified.

How do I break into a career with animals?

When starting out exploring any career path or industry, the first thing you always need to do is a bit of research to narrow in on your specific interests, talents and inclinations. Sure, you love animals, but does that mean becoming a veterinarian is the right choice for you? That job involves seeing animals when they're hurt, sick or dying, and those aren't easy situations to face, especially if you have a more sensitive nature. Luckily, since there are tons of careers with animals out there, you don't have to feel bad if you just don't think you have what it takes to be a vet. Instead, be happy that you can rule something out and move on.

Once you've zoomed in on an area of interest that feels right for you, learn all you can about it. Further research is always a good idea, of course, but having actual conversations about a field that interests you is invaluable. So, look for someone nearby that you can talk to. Experts and professionals are wonderful resources. Also, see if there are local classes you can take or volunteer opportunities for you to get your feet wet. After all, the very quickest way to know if something is for you is to just give it a go.

While some of the higher-level careers with animals, such as veterinary science or biology, do require more advanced degrees to break into the fields, many jobs rely more on your personality than education. If you have the patience and persistence to turn rowdy puppies into well-behaved dogs then, by all means, start looking for volunteer or employment opportunities with a trainer or training facility. Never rule out volunteering as a way to learn and network. On-the-job experience is the best way to make it in any number of careers with animals, and then you can pursue certifications and licenses as needed.

Final thought.

Whether you choose to go into medicine, training and rehabilitation, science or breeding and raising, careers with animals offer endless ways to make a living doing what you love. And with so many low barriers to entry and opportunities to volunteer, a career in nearly any field you find interesting is something you can begin exploring today.

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