Anyone hoping to start a career with animals has so many possibilities that it can be hard to know where to start. Just a quick online search of jobs involving animals yields dozens of possibilities, from the dangerous (snake venom milker) to the unusual (animal colorist) and everything in between.
With so many varied opportunities, a little help in choosing the right career might be in order!
10 tips to consider when narrowing down your animal career choices.
- Do a search to see what types of animal careers are out there. You’ll find a lot of jobs you never may have dreamed existed, like becoming a canine sports massage therapist or a pet adoption counselor or an aquarist. Some careers put you in close touch with animals, if that’s your goal. Other careers, such as research facility administration or jobs in the animal pet insurance business, benefit animals but do not involve actually working with them.
- Pinpoint your passion. Just saying “I love animals and want a career working with them” is way too broad. Do you want to work with pets? Do you prefer large animals like livestock or horses? Are you interested in aquatic life? Is your passion for one specific species of animal? Do you love the idea of rehabilitating wildlife or participating in animal conservation work? Does the plight of abused or abandoned animals move you?
- Make a list of the careers you think sound most interesting. At this point, the sky’s the limit. Love wolves and want to be a wolf biologist? Put that job on the list, even if it turns out to be a career that takes years of college. You may decide that the required time and money are worth it, or if not, there may be a position working alongside a wolf biologist that requires less education. Earning your zookeeper assistant certification, for instance, might help land a job in a wildlife rehabilitation facility that frequently cares for wolves.
- Take a realistic look at where you live. If you live in Miami Beach then studying wolf biology is not very practical unless you are willing to pick up and move to where the wolves roam. Urban and rural areas offer very different options for animal careers. Farriers, for instance, need to live where horses are common; they are not heavily employed in urban areas beyond racetracks and police stables.
- Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Are you a people person? Dog trainers work very closely with owners and need a dump truck load of people skills along with their knowledge of canine behavior. Are you creative? Maybe pet grooming would be a good fit for you. Are you caring and compassionate? Veterinary assistants and technicians have to be. Do you have a “Type A” personality? Maybe the aforementioned snake venom career would offer enough of an adrenaline rush!
- More of a cat person? If big cats, lions, tigers, leopards are your thing, the zookeeper assistant certification we mentioned earlier is something for you to consider. If you are passionate about helping domestic kitties, did you know they are highly trainable? What’s more, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), over 25% of households in the United States have a cat. That means over 90 million of them are kept as pets in the U.S. and it also means there are real opportunities for people passionate about working with cats and the people who love them.
- Think about how much flexibility you need in a career. Do you want regular full-time hours or a “gig” to earn supplemental income? Do you need to work odd hours or want to set your own schedule? Careers like dog obedience training and pet grooming provide excellent opportunities to set your own schedule or even to start your own business.
- To further trim down your list of job possibilities, learn how much different careers pay. Do your homework in regard to job opportunities in the animal careers you are considering. Careers in the pet industry are good bets right now because the amount of money people spend on their pets just keeps growing and growing. Job prospects for people in animal careers are strong. No matter whether you live in a city or in a rural area, groomers and dog trainers are in demand.
- Research the education and licensing requirements for the careers that interest you. If college is out of the question, it may be possible to work in a field that requires a great deal of education but in a capacity that has less requirements. For example, both a veterinarian and a veterinary assistant work in the same sorts of facilities taking care of animals, but becoming a veterinarian requires about eight years of higher education while becoming a veterinary assistant technically has no education requirements. Completing a vet assistant certification course, however, can take just 12 months and may significantly increase your chances of landing a job.
- Try to get some experience in the career that most interests you, if only to see if you really might like it. Completing an internship or doing volunteer work can provide a great deal of experience and would look impressive on your resume. To simply find out more about the kind of work involved in a particular career, you might ask to shadow someone as they go about their workday.
- Consider online learning when choosing an animal career. There are great programs that allow you to take courses online–particularly helpful if you don’t live near a brick-and-mortar school. These programs combine the flexibility and affordability of online learning with hands-on experience alongside a professional mentor in your area because let’s face it, it would be pretty hard to earn a dog trainer certification without working with real dogs.
Contemplating your options before embarking on a dream career is exhilarating–weighing the possibilities, discovering how many fulfilling choices exist, imagining yourself surrounded with animals every day–all fun things. Enjoy the excitement but go into it with your eyes wide open. Do your homework, determine the best career fit for you, and then refuse to let anything stand in your way! Start your career with animals by making the best choice for you.