7 Fun Careers That an Animal College Can Help Train You For
Working with animals can be deeply fulfilling and enjoyable. After all, it provides the opportunity to have a daily connection with non-human creatures that accept you as you are. And in many animal-related occupations, you get to help generate greater well-being for those creatures while also working alongside other smart, caring, and dedicated people.
Plus, the need for animal care professionals continues to remain strong. Not only is pet ownership growing in popularity, but also wildlife is increasingly threatened by the results of human actions. And the management of both domestic and wild animals continues to pose distinctive challenges and opportunities. Just consider the following facts:
- Collectively, Americans own as many as 96 million cats and 80 million dogs.1
- Each year in the U.S., animal shelters receive more than 7.5 million companion animals.1
- As of January 2016, more than 690 animal species in America were listed as either endangered or threatened.2
So as you think about your own future in an animal-related vocation, remember that a large variety of meaningful career paths may be open to you. And you'll likely improve your odds of success by getting training from an animal career college or from one of the many colleges with animal science majors.
For starters, take a look at these seven inspiring vocational options:
1. Veterinary Technologist or Technician
No animal-related occupation is growing as quickly as this one. In fact, the employment of veterinary techs in America is expected to grow by 19 percent between 2014 and 2024. That equals about 17,900 new jobs over that period.3
What does this vocation involve? Essentially, being a veterinary tech means getting to help licensed veterinarians with some of the complex work of diagnosing and treating animals that are sick or injured. That means you could be a nurse for animals and get to do things like:
- Take x-rays
- Carry out diagnostic laboratory tests
- Provide first aid
- Give vaccines, medications, and prescribed treatments
- Prepare operating rooms and animals for surgeries
- Provide dental care and post-surgical care
With only two years of training in veterinary technology, you can qualify to become a veterinary technician. Or if you want the chance to work in a more advanced role, then a four-year bachelor's degree in this field will help you qualify to become a veterinary technologist. Either way, you'll likely need to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) in order to earn the proper license to practice in your state.
In 2015, the average annual salary for American veterinary techs was $33,280. But it's possible to earn more than $47,410 per year with enough experience.4 And you may be able to improve your income potential by specializing in a particular area of care such as anesthesia, animal dentistry, or emergency aid.
2. Veterinary Assistant or Office Manager
In this role, your work might involve being the first person that companion animals and their owners see upon arriving at an animal hospital or veterinary clinic. During any given day, you may get to perform relatively routine tasks such as:
- Greeting clients and scheduling appointments
- Feeding, exercising, and bathing animals
- Cleaning kennels, clinical areas, and equipment
- Counting and ordering various supplies
- Holding pets still during procedures or exams
- Monitoring the conditions of animals
- Assisting with other basic veterinary procedures
Many animal colleges offer short certificate programs in veterinary assisting or veterinary office management that are helpful to people who want to enter this field quickly. And you don't have to earn any further licenses or certifications before you can start working.
From 2014 to 2024, about 6,600 new jobs could be created in this occupation.3 And the average pay for veterinary assistants in 2015 was $25,940. Yet, many of them made over $36,690.4
As an animal doctor, you could make a truly meaningful difference in all kinds of lives. Veterinarians get to be the professionals in charge when it comes to diagnosing and treating pets and other animals. And in today's veterinary field, they are increasingly getting to perform the kinds of medical procedures that were once only reserved for humans.
That's why most veterinarians also earn high salaries. For instance, in 2015, the average veterinarian salary was $99,000, and the highest earners made over $158,260.4 In addition, this occupation is growing faster than average. It's projected that as many as 6,900 new veterinarian jobs could be created in America between 2014 and 2024.3
In order to become a veterinarian, you'll likely need to earn a couple of degrees. Working with animals at this level requires that you have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, which usually takes a total of at least eight years of college education. That's because most applicants to four-year veterinary medicine programs have already earned four-year bachelor's degrees.
Once you have the necessary degree, you can then pursue your state license to practice, which usually requires passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE).
4. Dog Trainer, Groomer, or Other Animal Care Worker
Beyond veterinary professionals, other types of animal care workers are also in demand. For example, dog trainers, animal groomers, kennel attendants, pet sitters, and dog walkers are all part of an occupational category that is expanding faster than average in the U.S. About 25,700 additional jobs could become available for such workers between 2014 and 2024.3 And that number doesn't necessarily include all of the self-employment opportunities that may be generated by people starting their own businesses.
After all, a huge percentage of Americans love owning pets. But we all know that life gets complicated. And we don't always have the time or ability to look after our pets full-time or to train or care for them at the level we would like. That's why so many pet owners turn to caring and knowledgeable workers in this category. Professional dog training, pet grooming, and pet sitting, in particular, are becoming increasingly popular.
And it's possible to make more than just a few bucks in these occupations, even if you work part-time. For example, some of the highest-earning animal trainers made over $57,170 in 2015.3
5. Wildlife Biologist
Have you ever imagined studying wild animals in their natural environments? That's what a lot of wildlife biologists get to do on a regular basis. And their work often plays a big role in discovering ways to protect animals and their habitats from the harmful impacts of human activities. It's all about using science on behalf of animal species that reside on land or in water. The more we understand them, the better we can protect both them and ourselves.
A lot of colleges with animal science programs offer the coursework needed to get started along this path. But the more education you get, the better your opportunities are likely to be. In general, working in the field of wildlife biology requires at least a bachelor's degree. And for positions involving high-level research or investigative work, you generally need at least a master's degree or Ph.D.
The average salary of wildlife biologists in the U.S. was $64,230 in 2015. But some of them earned more than $97,390.4
6. Wildlife Rehabilitator
Ever year, thousands upon thousands of wild animals in America are injured, become sick, or are orphaned. And in many cases, those problems are directly or indirectly caused by human activity. That's why many animal lovers have chosen to dedicate their lives to treating needy wildlife until it can be safely and effectively released back into the wild.
In the U.S., more than 75 percent of the animals that are treated by wildlife rehabilitators have been impacted by things like car or window collisions, tree destruction, poisonings, attacks from unrestrained pets, and other human-related events.5
Wildlife rehabilitators come from a variety of backgrounds such as biology, ecology, education, and veterinary technology and medicine. However, in order to treat and release wild birds, mammals, reptiles, or amphibians, you almost always need the proper permits from your state and/or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Most often, that requires getting some structured training. But you can also get an idea of what this line of work is like by volunteering for a wildlife rehabilitation center in your region.
7. Animal-Assisted Therapist
Think about how you feel in the presence of a lovable animal. Now imagine using that kind of positive energy to help other people overcome their mental, emotional, social, or physical challenges. By letting patients or clients interact with small creatures, animal-assisted therapists often open new pathways to well-being.
This field is still relatively new, but most practitioners come from backgrounds in psychology, counseling, or physical or occupational therapy. With training in animal welfare, they are then able to provide even greater value and service to the people they are trying to help.
Move Toward an Uplifting Future
Take advantage of your strong interest in animal care. Explore your options for attending an animal college right now by putting your zip code into the convenient school finder below!
1 American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), website last accessed on January 19, 2016.
2 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, website last accessed on January 19, 2016.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, website last accessed on January 19, 2016.
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last accessed on May 19, 2016.
5 National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, website last accessed on January 19, 2016.