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10 Careers for Animal-Lovers Who Want to Make a Difference

Vet and nurse with kitten and dog.

“What do you want to be when you’re older?”. This was the question that we all dreaded as kids. For some of us, we had it all figured out, and we had a perfectly formulated answer that we spat out on demand. For the rest of us, it wasn’t that simple. All we knew was that we had to figure it out, and there was a lot of pressure to become something great. If you’re an animal-lover who still hasn’t figured it out, you’re in the right place!

Careers involving animals can be practical and hands-on, or data and science focused. The most popular careers involving animals are veterinarian, veterinary nurse, animal groomer, zoology, conservationist, animal breeder, and animal behaviorist. Incomes vary, but all of these career options help and involve animals.

From veterinarians to animal behaviorists, many careers involve and help animals. While some of these aren’t conventional, they might be right for you. These jobs contribute positively towards the lives of many animals, and the income associated with these careers is just an added reward to the satisfaction you’ll get knowing that you’ve made a positive difference. If you’re passionate about animals, you should consider one of these careers.

Veterinarian

Veterinarian checking a cat.

Average annual income: $95,460

A veterinarian provides practices veterinary medicine by treating health conditions in a variety of non-human animals.

What Tasks are Veterinarians Expected to Perform?

The responsibilities of a vet justify their high-income salaries.

A vet is expected to:

  • Assess the health of animals
  • Treat and dress wounds
  • Perform complex surgeries on animals
  • Test and vaccinate animals for diseases or illness
  • Operate complex medical machinery like x-ray machines
  • Learn to use tools effectively, like Littman stethoscopes
  • Advise owners about their animal’s care, medical conditions, and treatment plans
  • Prescribe medication and calculate dosage sizes correctly
  • Euthanize animals that are too old, sick, or aggressive to lead full lives
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Types of Veterinarians

Companion Animal Veterinarians

These vets treat commonly kept pets, such as cats and dogs. Occasionally, they also treat birds, rabbits, and ferrets. They generally work in private clinics or hospitals, and with the correct knowledge and skills, they may eventually establish their own practice.

Food Animal Veterinarians

Food animal veterinarians practice medicine on livestock such as swine, cattle, chickens, and sheep, which are raised to be food sources. They spend their time traveling to farms and ranches to treat ill or injured animals and test for any signs of disease.

They do not often work in animal hospitals or clinics, as transporting large amounts of livestock can prove to be costly and time-consuming.

Exotic Veterinarians

Many people believe that vets can treat any animal or pet that comes through their doors. The truth is that certain animals require particular care that can only be provided by individuals who possess the correct knowledge and special training.

Vets who can practice medicine on unique or unusual animals are known as exotic vets. This can include pets like snakes, bearded dragons, and other reptiles. However, exotic vets also treat animals like sugar gliders, hedgehogs, and chinchillas.

Who should consider this career path?

The generous salary of a veterinarian may make this job seem like an easy career path to follow. This is far from the truth, as the income earned by a vet is well-deserved. Not only are their physical tasks extremely taxing, but they are also expected to deal with emotionally charged situations every single day.

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Breaking the news to an owner that their beloved pet is extremely ill or will pass soon has a devastating effect on these professionals.

Veterinary Nurse / Assistant

Vet and nurse examining a dog in surgery room.

Average yearly income: $33,267 

Veterinary nurses are caring professionals who assist veterinarians in their daily procedures and make important contributions to the physical and emotional wellbeing of both animals and their owners.

What does a Veterinary Nurse Do?

  • Prepares animals for examination
  • Assists the veterinarian with radiography and surgical procedures
  • Observes the physical and emotional state of animals
  • Performs blood transfusions
  • Dresses and disinfects wounds
  • Recommends diet plans for animals
  • Monitors animals with contagious diseases and prevents diseases from spreading in the clinic
  • Prepares animals for sedation before surgeries
  • Collects blood and stool samples for lab tests
  • Administers prescribed medication for the animals
  • Observes and cares for animals after surgery
  • Cleans cages and sterilize surgical equipment
  • Hands surgical instruments to veterinarians during surgical procedures

Are you Right for This Role?

You might be a good candidate for this career if you are caring, empathetic, and passionate about animals. You need to have good social skills and be confident in your ability to handle animals. Observant people who are able to perform well under intense emotional pressure while still being professional would perform well in this position.

Animal Groomer

Groomer trimming a poodle.

Average yearly income: $34,280

Animal groomers provide cosmetic services for household pets, most often cats and dogs. Most groomers work at pet salons; however, some are employed by rescue shelters or vet clinics.

What are the Responsibilities of an Animal Groomer?

Grooming pets can be physically demanding, often requiring employees to stand for several hours at a time, lift heavy animals, and handling reactive or anxious animals.

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The daily responsibilities of an animal groomer include:

  • Wash, shampoo, and condition the pet’s coat
  • Shave or trim pet hair according to the owner’s preferences, and the breed of the animal
  • Maintain the hygiene of the pet – clip their nails, brush their teeth, and clean their ears
  • Advise owners on how to maintain the health and hygiene of their pets
  • Express a dog’s anal gland

Is this Career the Right One for You?

This role will suit someone who is:

  • Able to work with animals who are aggressive, anxious, or excitable
  • Physically capable of working on their feet for extended periods of time
  • Able to lift heavy animals
  • Willing to learn new skills and shared knowledge from other groomers
  • Good at communicating with people
  • Attentive and able to follow specific instructions

Zoologist

Zoologist feeding a koala bear.

Average yearly income: $75,185

Zoologists study animals and their behavioral patterns. This includes an animal’s evolution, anatomy, physiology, and population patterns. These professionals can work either indoors, in a lab, or outdoors, in the field. They work with animals in the field or captivity, as well as in a laboratory.

Zoology is a broad subject with many vast fields to study, and some choose to specialize in one area of study. They may choose to work with:

  • Reptiles and amphibians (herpetologists)
  • Mammals (mammologists)
  • Birds (ornithologist)
  • Fossil remains (paleozoologist)
  • Parasites (parasitologist)

Not only are there different areas to specialize in, but there are also many different job titles, such as:

  • Field assistant
  • Field biologist
  • Wildlife biologist
  • Conservation biologist

What are the Responsibilities of a Zoologist?

As a zoologist, you’ll need to:

  • study animals either in captivity or in their natural habitat
  • conduct lab research and write scientific reports
  • collect and prepare specimens for analysis
  • identify, record, and monitor different animal species
  • use modeling software to predict changes in habitats or population numbers
  • manage the care, movement, and enclosures of animals
  • rehabilitate and return animals to their habitats
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Should You Enter this Line of Work?

If you want to work with and help animals, but you still want to work in a science and data-fuelled environment, then this might be the career for you.

The ideal personality traits and skills for a zoologist are:

  • Dedication
  • Patience
  • Strong communication skills
  • Comprehensive computer experience
  • Analytical thinking
  • Excellent teamwork skills

Conservationist

Conservationist holding a hedgehog.

Average annual income: $64,020

Animal conservation is the act of preserving ecosystems to protect the animals that inhabit those environments. Animal conservationists dedicate themselves to this task and set up conservation projects as well as animal conservation societies.

Conservationists are commonly employed by the state.

What Does an Animal Conservationist do?

Their typical duties include:

  • Studying animal and plant life
  • Striving to prevent the degradation of the environment caused by commercial or industrial activities or natural events like bushfires.
  • Ensuring that an environment is safe for the plants and animal species that live
  • Ensuring wildlife is free from diseases and parasitic alien species.

Personal Skills Needed to Work as an Animal Conservationist

There are five personal skills that will help you land a job in the Wildlife Conservation industry:

  • Engaged, passionate, and committed
  • A willingness to learn, develop and undertake training
  • Knowledge of safety and health when working with tools or performing practical work
  • An optimistic and friendly approach
  • Knowledge of using tools relevant to the field

There are many positive aspects of working as an animal conservationist. You have the ability to find work in a wide range of geographical locations while getting the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are actively improving the environment.

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If you enjoy being outdoors and do well with hands-on work, this is definitely a good career to consider.

While there are many pros to working in this industry, it is a physically taxing role. It can also be a highly competitive industry. These may have an effect on your decision to become an animal conservationist and should be considered carefully.

Animal Breeder

Animal breeder with vet checking on cattles.

Average annual income: $35,490

Animal breeders devote their time and energy to breeding a specific animal species, ensuring that the animals they breed are up to breed standard. They are crucial to maintaining the population of a species.

When people hear “breeder,” they almost immediately think of dogs, cats, or even reptiles. While there are breeders who devote their time to these species, the most common animals that breeders work with are livestock such as cattle, chickens, and goats.

Surprisingly, bees and rabbits are also among the most commonly bred animals.

Types of animal breeders

  • Artificial breeders make use of artificial insemination to produce offspring and ensure that offspring possess desirable characteristics.
  • Natural breeders choose male and female individuals of a species to pair and encourage natural sexual reproduction.

Breeders may work for an employer where this is part of or the sole purpose of their job, or they may choose to work privately.

Responsibilities of Animal Breeders

These professionals are required to perform tasks and demonstrate their theoretical knowledge in practical situations. It can be physically taxing, and this should be taken into consideration.

Breeders should:

  • Possess in-depth knowledge about the species that they intend to work with
  • Care for the animals under their supervision to ensure that the animals stay healthy before breeding, during pregnancy, and after birth
  • Provide comprehensive care for animal parents and their offspring
  • Understand the ways that animals function and mate in their natural habitats
  • Have the ability to effectively market and sell their services
  • Have the capacity to do a great deal of research
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Who Should Consider this Career Path?

The ideal qualities of animal breeders are:

  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Methodical thinking
  • Reliability
  • Attentive and able to plan in advance

Animal Behaviorist

Animal behaviorist training two dogs.

Animal behavior consultants assist with the correction of behavioral problems in animals, usually companion animals. They dedicate their time to studying the behavioral patterns of a specific animal or group of animals and then using this knowledge to correct undesirable behaviors effectively.

The nature of the work environment in this career differs according to the employer and the degree of specialization; for example, laboratory settings, universities, zoos, farms, and habitats for natural wildlife are just a few of the possible work environments.

Animal behaviorists who work with companion animals, like cats and dogs, usually resort to private employment to put their skills to use.

Responsibilities of an Animal Behaviorist

  • Studying animals’ and organisms’ dietary needs
  • Studying mating rituals and adaptive processes in animals’ habitats
  • Observing natural survival mechanisms and nurturing mannerisms
  • Observe symbiosis and determine why certain species thrive or become extinct
  • Investigate hormonal or genetic causes of specific behavioral patterns

Who Should Consider Becoming an Animal Behaviorist?

  • Animal behaviorists should be individuals who tend to think realistically and enjoy practical, hands-on projects. They tend to enjoy working outdoors.
  • Inquisitive or curious people who enjoy being alone with their thoughts may enjoy this career.

Working with animals in this capacity is extremely rewarding. The benefits of working in this field are not things you can quantify, but the opportunity to work with animals and improve their lives is a true privilege. You also have the chance to improve the public’s understanding of animals and their instinctual habits.

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Careers Involving Animals that don’t Require a Degree

Dog trainer training a search and rescue dog.

Most of the careers mentioned so far have been ones that require some level of tertiary education. There are many jobs that involve animals that don’t require a degree, and require more practical, on-the-job skills training. The most popular of these jobs have lower earnings than the other jobs that were mentioned in this article; however, the reward and satisfaction are just as gratifying.

  1. Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Average annual income: $29,930

  1. Dog Trainers

Average annual income: $31,520

  1. Animal Care and Service Workers

Average annual income: $26,370

  1. Nonfarm Animal Caretakers

Average annual income: $26,080

  1. First-line Supervisors of Animal Husbandry

Average annual income: $50,080

Conclusion

There is no shortage of careers that involve animals and positively contribute to their health and wellbeing. These jobs are gratifying, both financially and emotionally. However, some of these positions include taxing manual labor, long hours, and emotionally charged workplaces.

In order to work with animals, you need to be fueled by your passion and love for the animals themselves rather than by the financial benefits of these positions. If you aren’t truly passionate about this line of work, you may find yourself feeling dissatisfied and overworked.

For those of you who’re committed to helping animals and preserving their habitats, this article has provided you with all the comprehensive knowledge you need to choose a job that will fulfill your financial and emotional needs. Remember, when you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.

References:

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Best Accredited Colleges: Non-Degree Careers Working With Animals

Vet to be: The pros and cons of animal breeding

Best Accredited Colleges: Animal Behavior Specialist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

MyPlan.com: Animal Breeders

Adzuna: How to Get a Job in Wildlife Conservation

USA TODAY: 12 jobs working with animals (that actually pay pretty well)

CVM: WHAT IS A VETERINARY NURSE?