If you’ve ever fallen in love at first sight with a cuddly little fur-ball puppy or kitten, you have probably thought about growing up to have some kind of job where you could work with animals. Every little kid that ever cozied up to a purring feline or tossed a ball with their canine companion probably thought it would be great to become a vet someday. Children who are raised around horses dream of becoming famous rodeo riders or horse-race jockeys, and kids who grow up on cattle ranches or turkey farms probably plan to go into the family business when they grow up.
There are all kinds of interesting and fulfilling occupations that involving working with various types of animals on a daily basis, some that you’ve probably never even thought of before. Some careers with animals can command respectable annual salaries, and others merely earn minimum wage. Some animal careers involve caring for animals, while others involve utilizing the capabilities of animals for the benefit of humans in one way or another. If you’ve ever considered a career with animals, you will be interested to learn of all the different career options that are available that involve working with animals in some capacity.
Careers Caring for Pets
Our first category of careers with animals includes all the different types of jobs caring for pets. For many pet owners, their pet is a member of the family as well-loved and protected as any human child, and jobs involving taking care of pets are innumerable.
Veterinarian: Probably the very first job any thinks of when discussing careers with animals, a veterinarian is a doctor of animal medicine. In the U.S., after completing a four year college replete with science and math courses, one must gain entry to one of the country’s 27 veterinary schools for another four years in order to obtain a D.V.M or V.M.D. degree, and then most graduates undergo an internship for another year before going into practice as an independent veterinarian of either small animal or large animal specialty. Graduate school for veterinary science provides training for specialties including animal surgery, laboratory animal medicine, animal pathology, exotic animal medicine or aquatic animal medicine. Veterinarians earn between $70,000 and $150,000 annually according to the University of Arizona Animal Care division.
Veterinary Technicians: Many vet assistants learn the trade with on-the-job training or through volunteer work, but trade school also offer certificate programs for veterinary technology. Vet techs usually earn between $10-$15/hour.
Animal Care Technicians: This occupation includes different levels of training and expertise that range from a college degree in animal science and a specialty caring for laboratory research animals, earning a starting salary of $22,000 annually, (upwards of $30K for management level) or basic clean-up and grooming personnel with no formal training and minimum wage salaries. Animal care techs are also called groomers, or animal sanitation specialists.
Animal Trainer: (Dog trainer, horse trainer, service animal trainer, performing animal trainer)Teaching an animal to follow instructions is an occupation that requires enormous patience above all else. It also takes a special understanding of the way animals function. Learning to be an animal trainer is usually an apprentice-type education, and one with potentially outstanding financial rewards. For instance, a reputable horse trainer of show horses or race horses can command $500-$1000 (or higher) per month per horse, and most horse trainers will have several horses in training at once. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics report that jobs for animals trainers will increase twenty percent by 2018.
Pet Groomer: Also known as an animal beautician, pet groomers often make more than human beauticians, especially when grooming show dogs and horses. There are trade schools that teach pet grooming, large retail pet supply chain stores have their own grooming academies, and private pet groomers provide apprenticeship programs for grooming assistants. Dog groomers can make between $21,000 and $32,000 based on a 2010 PayScale report.
Pet Walker/Sitter: Lots of people want to own a dog but don’t have the time to take them for daily walks, just as many people don’t want to leave their animal home alone while they are away at work or need someone to pet-sit while they go on vacation. Official training isn’t usually necessary, just a good reputation for reliability and a love for animals.
Other jobs in the pet care field include the following:
Pet Acupuncturist, Horse Farrier, Pet Care Products Designer, Pet Nutritionist and Dietary Specialist, Pet Supplies Retailer, Animal Pharmaceutical Scientist, or Salesperson
Careers Working with Performing or Entertainment Animals
Zookeepers: Careers in Wildlife Management can start with degrees in Wildlife Management or with on-the-job training starting from the ground (keepers) up. Vets, groomers, technicians, animal science majors with specialties in bird and reptile science, all have opportunities to work in zoos and wildlife preserves. Aviculturists and ornitholigists work with birds, herpetologists work with reptiles and amphibians.
Circus Animal and other Show Performers: (Including Lion Tamers, Alligator Wrestlers, Equestrian Acts, Rodeo Riders and Dog and Horse Show Companions) How many kids ever said they wanted to run away and join the circus? Well, plenty of people actually do it, learning how to ride elephants, perform with dancing horses, do juggling acts with monkeys, show lions how to jump through flaming hoops, and even put on acts with performing poodles or trained bears. There are also a lot of “side-show” performers that wrestle alligators, or use disappearing tigers in their magic acts.
Horse Jockeys: Everybody loves a good horse race, and for a light-weight equestrian with a gift for coaxing speed out of a thoroughbred, the career of a jockey is a great choice. Earnings are based on winning races and a percentage of the purse, with average riders earning $20,000 and successful jockeys making a million dollars in one year. The world’s record for a jockey’s purse earnings was set by jockey, Jerry Bailey in 2003 when he garnered more than $23 million after winning more than 6000 races in his career.
Careers Studying and/or Protecting Animals
There are many careers that involve learning about the animal kingdom, and others that involve protecting it. Researchers study how animals exist in the wild, they learn about their physical makeup and how they survive, and others are committed to protecting both domesticated and wild animals from abuse. Some of these jobs require extensive education, while others involve spending time with animals and observing while following the lead of experienced animal caretakers.
Shelter workers, animal control and humane society volunteers
Wildlife or Marine Biologists
Park Rangers and Nature Preserve/Sanctuary Managers
Animal research scientist or pathologist
Animal Rights Activist
Careers Breeding, Raising or Procuring Animals for Food, Fur, or Sale
Some careers working with animals are definitely focused on their beneficial uses for humans, including animals raised for the purpose of providing food for human consumption. Although some animals that provide food do so on a continuing basis, like dairy cows and egg-laying chickens. And some animals who are raised for their textile properties are lucky enough to just get shaved every now and then, although the animals used for making leather have a “single use” existence. Other animal breeders raise them to sell (live) as pets, like dog and cat breeders, horse breeders, and exotic bird breeders.
Jobs included in this category are: Farmers, Ranchers, Dairy Owners, Fishermen, Aquaculturists, Hunters, Pet Store Owners, Aquarium Specialists
Careers with Service Animals
Our final category lists occupations that involve working with animals who provide a valuable service to their human companions. These are animals who help handicapped people live independent lives, animals that protect our nation from terrorists, animals who rescue lost children or assist law enforcement. Most service animals are those most faithful of companions and man’s best friend: dogs.
These careers involve working with service animals:
Animal-assisted therapists, Law Enforcement K-9 Officer, (Including Bomb, Drug or Cadaver Search Dog Officer, Disaster Rescue and Recovery Animal Worker