18 Awesome Careers With Animals

Awesome Careers With AnimalsMany people just like you choose to pursue careers with animals because they simply can't picture doing anything else. After all, animals can be incredibly fun, loving, loyal, and appreciative. Who wouldn't want to work with that every day? And even if some animals are a little wild and scary at times, you can still experience a great deal of pride and satisfaction in knowing that you are helping or caring for them.

Jobs working with animals, and pet ownership, can also come with health benefits, including lower blood pressure, decreased cholesterol levels, and fewer feelings of loneliness.1 Some of that may be due to the fact that pets, such as dogs, often encourage their owners and caretakers to get out and exercise and socialize. So it's easy to see why animals hold the hearts of so many Americans.

Americans love animals so much that it is estimated that 65 percent of the country's households own at least one pet, and dogs and cats top the list as the most popular. According to a 2015-2016 survey, more than 54 million households own a dog, and almost 43 million own a cat. So it makes sense that pet spending hit its highest level yet in the U.S. in 2015, ringing in at $60.28 billion.2

Almost 40 percent of that spending was on food, over 25 percent was on veterinary care, over 23 percent was for supplies and medications, and almost nine percent was spent on services like grooming and boarding. And the pet industry market is expected to grow by more than four percent in 2016, with spending reaching $62.75 billion.2 That growth is largely attributed to the fact that pets are becoming more humanized by their owners. And as pets, and animals in general, become more valued by society, it only makes sense that the opportunities to find jobs with animals will grow.

In fact, the field of veterinary medicine is expecting strong job growth. When many people think of careers with animals, they often picture working at a veterinary clinic. But keep in mind that there are many other career options out there. In addition to checking out the most common veterinary careers listed below, you may also want to explore 15 other jobs working with animals that you may not have considered until now.

Veterinary and Animal Health Careers

1. Veterinary Assistant

Awesome Careers With AnimalsFor those who are interested in jobs with animals in veterinary settings, veterinary assistant positions are appealing because short training programs make it relatively simple to get started in the field. Although post-secondary training is not always required, job candidates who have at least a certificate are often preferred over those who do not. And many certificate programs can be completed in as little as six months to one year, so it is a worthwhile investment.

By developing basic skills related to areas like office administration, clinical procedures, and surgical preparation, you can start pursuing veterinary assistant positions with animal clinics, hospitals, and shelters. You could spend your days taking care of tasks like feeding animals, providing pre- and post-surgical care, giving medication, assisting with collecting lab samples, and taking care of a variety of additional responsibilities that help keep the clinic running smoothly.

Veterinary assisting is also one of the animal careers that can offer good job prospects. It is estimated that jobs will grow in number by nine percent from 2014 to 2024.3 And, in that same period, total job openings could exceed 21,000.4 So with short training programs and good job prospects, becoming a veterinary assistant could be a great way for you to achieve your desire to work with animals.

  • Annual pay range—$18,060 to $36,690 or higher5
  • Education required—Post-secondary certificate or high school diploma
  • Experience needed—Minimal; on-the-job training typically provided

2. Veterinary Technician/Technologist

For those who want to pursue careers working with animals, veterinary technology is a popular choice. In fact, more than 95,000 people work in veterinary technology across the country.5 They have likely recognized the benefits of working in a field in which their love and compassion for creatures of all types and sizes is a valued trait. And it won't take you long to join their ranks.

Veterinary technology programs can be completed in approximately two to four years, depending on the type of degree program that you choose. Once you have earned your degree, you will likely need to become certified. Every state is different, but most people who want to practice veterinary technology must pass the national exam offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.

As a veterinary technician, you will assist veterinarians with important work related to diagnosing, treating, and caring for animals. You could be responsible for tasks like providing emergency first aid, bathing animals, administering anesthesia and medication, collecting lab samples and performing tests, and observing and recording animals' behaviors and conditions.

Not only do you get to enjoy working with other animal lovers and helping pets, creatures, and critters every day, you may also find good job opportunities. It is estimated that, from 2014 to 2024, veterinary technology jobs will grow in number by 19 percent and there will be more than 27,000 total job openings.3, 4 So right now is a good time to start preparing for careers involving animals, specifically those in the field of veterinary technology.

  • Annual pay range—$21,890 to $47,410 or higher5
  • Education required—Associate or bachelor's degree
  • Experience needed—Minimal, but more opportunities may be available to those with one year or more of experience

3. Veterinarian

When it comes to jobs that work with animals, veterinarian likely tops the list. After all, it is considered one of the best careers for animal lovers. You get to dedicate yourself to promoting the health and well-being of animals every day. As a veterinarian, you will have a respected role in your community, and you get to experience the gratitude that people give when you have cared for or healed their pets.

Becoming a veterinarian does require a lot of hard work and commitment. You will have to spend many years in school in order to earn a doctorate degree and obtain licensing. And you will have to be committed to a lifetime of learning because continuing education is a requirement for maintaining your license. But with all of that hard work can come a substantial payoff. You can engage in work that you are deeply passionate about, and, in doing so, you can be paid very well and enjoy great job opportunities.

From 2014 to 2024, veterinarian jobs are expected to grow in number by nine percent, and there could be more than 19,000 total job openings during that period.3, 4 You may be able to find jobs within existing clinics or hospitals, or you may decide to open your own practice. Veterinarians can also advance their careers further by focusing on specialty areas. Many choose to specialize in fields like alternative medicine, dentistry, emergency care, or surgery. You could come across many different and interesting possibilities when you choose a career in veterinary medicine.

  • Annual pay range—$53,210 to $158,260 or higher5
  • Education required—Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (D.V.M. or V.M.D.)
  • Experience needed—Extensive

15 Additional Great Jobs Working With Animals

Awesome Careers With AnimalsAlthough working in veterinary medicine is a common career choice for animal lovers, there are many other options when it comes to jobs involving animals. Some require little to no experience and could even be pursued as side jobs. Some of them have more extensive education and experience requirements. And others are a little unusual. (You may not have even heard of them until now.) So explore the 15 animal-related careers below and see if one of them appeals to you.

1. Dog Walker

For people who are interested in jobs with dogs, becoming a dog walker could be a great choice. You don't need any special training, and finding clients can be as simple as posting an online classifieds ad. You just need a love for dogs and the motivation to go out for walks every day (or multiple times a day).

The reality is that many pet owners have a limited amount of time to spend walking their dogs. Long working hours and other life and family commitments often result in not being able to get Fido out for a walk every day. But a lot of dogs need those daily excursions in order to burn off excessive amounts of energy. So their owners often hire dog walkers to help keep their dogs healthy and happy. You will need to decide how many dogs you will be able to handle at one time and how many walks you can go on each day. That will largely determine how much money you earn since most dog walkers charge per dog and per walk.

  • Annual pay range—$17,395 to $50,648 or higher5
  • Education required—None
  • Experience needed—Basic animal care experience

2. Pet Sitter

Pet sitting is a great option for jobs that involve animals because you can be paid to spend time with loveable pets without having to complete a lot of training. It can also be done on the side so that you can keep your current job. When pet owners go out of town, they don't always like the idea of having to kennel their animals. Or they may have pets that don't handle being kenneled well. So pet owners seek out the services of pet sitters instead.

There are websites that are dedicated to helping pet owners find pet sitters. So you could register with one of those sites, or you could advertise through local online and printed classifieds in order to connect with potential clients. Some owners may request that you stop in to their home for a certain number of times each day, whereas others may request that their pets stay with you or that you stay with them. Depending on the arrangements, you may choose to charge per visit, per hour, or per day.

  • Hourly pay range—$15.00 to $30.00 per hour (or per visit)6
  • Education required—None
  • Experience needed—Basic animal care experience

3. Animal Caretaker

If you are interested in animal shelter jobs, then becoming an animal caretaker could be an ideal option. You may also find positions at places like kennels, pet stores, and veterinary clinics. Along with having some experience with caring for animals, you could also benefit from taking a short animal care program. Although a lot of organizations do not require post-secondary training, many do prefer it and are more likely to offer positions to those who have obtained some animal training.

Animal caretakers often have responsibilities like observing, examining, feeding, bathing, and training animals. You could also be responsible for cleaning and sterilizing kennels, living and care spaces, and tools and equipment. Animal caretaking is one of the truly hands-on jobs dealing with animals, and the field offers you the opportunity to provide compassionate and loving care to animals every day.

  • Annual pay range—$17,160 to $34,780 or higher5
  • Education required—Post-secondary certificate or high school diploma
  • Experience needed—Basic animal care experience

4. Animal Cruelty Investigator

Harming animals is an unthinkable act for most people. But, unfortunately, animal cruelty does happen. When it does, animal cruelty investigators are needed in order to respond to and investigate complaints, as well as to collect evidence for trials and convictions. It is certainly one of the more emotionally trying jobs that deal with animals, but it is also one of the most important and meaningful.

When animals are abandoned, abused, diseased, injured, neglected, or otherwise left in unhealthy or dangerous conditions, it is you who comes to their rescue. When you conduct an animal cruelty investigation, you may need to carry out actions like obtaining search and seizure warrants, catching and removing animals from homes and properties, transporting animals, and working with law enforcement officials.

You could find jobs at animal shelters, with government agencies, or with humane societies like the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Most organizations prefer that job candidates have some knowledge of law enforcement or criminal justice processes, along with experience at working with animals. So, although it is not necessary, obtaining a post-secondary education can help you stand out from other job applicants and lead you to a fulfilling job that involves helping animals who need it the most.

  • Annual pay range—$20,830 to $53,190 or higher5
  • Education required—Post-secondary certificate or high school diploma
  • Experience needed—Basic animal care and law enforcement/criminal justice experience usually preferred

5. Animal Groomer

When it comes to animal care jobs, grooming is an important one. Although some animals like cats and horses require grooming, the field is most commonly associated with dogs. Certain breeds of dogs require ongoing maintenance that pet owners are not able to do themselves, or don't want to do. After all, it is a lot easier for people to take their dogs to professional groomers than to wrestle with their dogs in order to cut their nails or give them baths.

To become a professional groomer, it is ideal if you get some training related to animal care or grooming. You need to have a calm demeanor and be confident in your abilities to handle dogs and other animals of all sizes and temperaments. Not all animals like having their nails trimmed or hair washed and cut, and you need to be able to safely complete those tasks without hurting a pet. That is why most groomers will require you to work in an assisting capacity and gain experience prior to allowing you to groom on your own. But it likely won't take long before you can take on pet jobs that involve helping to keep dogs and other animals clean and healthy.

  • Annual pay range—$17,602 to $48,543 or higher7
  • Education required—Post-secondary certificate or high school diploma
  • Experience needed—6 months to 1 year

6. Animal Photographer

When you think of careers that involve animals, photography probably doesn't cross your mind. But there are actually two different kinds of animal photographers. The first are wildlife photographers who photograph wild animals in their natural habitats. Some photographers take pictures of whatever wildlife they happen to come across, while others focus on photographing only specific kinds of animals. Either way, you can expect to travel extensively and spend a lot of time outdoors—sometimes in extreme terrain or conditions—in order to get the best pictures of your subjects.

The other kinds of animal photographers are pet photographers. They usually work on a freelance basis and often take photos on the side (i.e., in addition to their regular jobs). Or they may be professional photographers who offer all types of services. Either way, they are providing a valued service since a growing number of pet owners want professional photos that capture their beloved pets.

Whether you want to work in wildlife or pet photography, it would be a good idea to obtain some professional photography training. By enhancing your skills, you can learn how to take better-quality pictures. And that could be beneficial since the best photographers are typically in the highest demand and earn the most money.

  • Annual pay range—$18,850 to $72,200 or higher5
  • Education required—Post-secondary certificate or high school diploma
  • Experience needed—Minimal; on-the-job training is typically required, and higher-paying jobs are often offered to those with more experience

7. Pet Detective

This may bring you visions of a slapstick comedy from 1994, but pet detective work is actually one of the jobs with animals that pay well. That's because losing a pet is a tragic and traumatic experience, and some pet owners are willing to pay large rewards to those who can safely find and return their lost pets. Although having private investigator training and experience can be quite helpful when getting started in the field, there are other important factors to consider.

You should have solid experience with tracking animals, not just humans. And the most successful pet detectives have well-trained tracking dogs that assist them with locating lost animals. Some people find that working in animal control prior to becoming pet detectives is really helpful. You may even consider gaining experience by working on a volunteer basis or assisting other pet detectives in your area. Before you set out on this rewarding career path, be sure to check your state's licensing requirements because some states may mandate that you have a private investigator license.

  • Annual pay range for all private detectives—$26,920 to $85,190 or higher5
  • Education required—Post-secondary certificate or high school diploma
  • Experience needed—1 to 2 years of investigative experience

8. K9 Police Officer

K9 police officers get to enjoy careers with dogs that are meaningful, fulfilling, and serve the greater good of society. K9 officers perform a lot of the same tasks as other police officers, but they have a trusted four-legged companion by their side. As a result, K9 officers are often assigned to cases that utilize the skills of their canine partners. Those could include searching for drugs, tracking suspects, or finding bombs.

Becoming a K9 police officer will require quite a bit of experience and education. You will need to become a police officer first and would likely need to spend one to two years on the force, at minimum, before being considered for a K9 position. Some departments may also require you to have an associate or bachelor's degree in a criminal justice discipline. Once you have met the basic requirements, you will likely have to complete a number of dog handling courses and specialized training programs in order to be prepared to conduct K9 police work.

You will need to commit a lot of hard work and patience to becoming a K9 police officer because, even if you meet all of the requirements for the position, you may have to wait until a job actually becomes available within your department. But, once that happens, you will likely find it worth the wait and the work. K9 police officers often develop a special bond with their dogs, and they take a lot of pride in conducting important work that helps keep their communities safe.

  • Annual pay range for all police officers—$33,430 to $96,110 or higher5
  • Education required—Typically optional, but some departments may require an associate or bachelor's degree
  • Experience needed—Minimal; completion of police academy training and extensive on-the-job training is required

9. Animal Trainer

Animal training is often considered one of the more important animal-related jobs because trainers can help owners feel more connected, and even protected, by their pets or animals. The most common types of trainers are dog trainers. They work with both owners and their dogs to help them develop positive behaviors, such as following commands and not pulling on leashes or chasing other dogs and animals. A short dog training program and some direct experience is all that you will likely need in order to get started.

Other types of animal trainers include guide dog trainers and horse trainers. Since guide dogs are service animals and play an important role in helping to keep their owners safe, extensive education and experience is typically required in order to become a guide dog trainer. Along with earning a bachelor's degree, you may also need to complete an apprenticeship and obtain a license, depending on the state where you work.

If you are more interested in jobs with horses, then you might want to consider becoming a horse trainer. Doing so requires a lot of direct experience and on-the-job training. You need to be comfortable with horses of all different sizes and demeanors, and you need to develop a variety of training techniques. Every owner and horse will have different needs, and you have to be prepared to handle anything from working with a horse that has suffered trauma or abuse to helping a horse adapt to having a rider.

  • Annual pay range—$18,160 to $57,170 or higher5
  • Education required—Ranges from high school diploma to bachelor's degree
  • Experience needed—Ranges from minimal to extensive, depending on the type of animal

10. Wildlife Rehabilitator

Sometimes wild animals get sick, injured, orphaned, or illegally captured. It is the job of a wildlife rehabilitator to help those animals get back to their natural habitats. If you are interested in animal health careers, then wildlife rehabilitation could be what you are looking for. You could play an important role in preserving wildlife while helping to keep the public safe.

Wildlife rehabilitators typically work in unison with veterinarians and handle the daily care needs of the animals. You will need to have extensive knowledge of different species, nutrition requirements, and safe handling and restraint techniques. You could be responsible for feeding and cleaning the animals as well as providing medicinal and therapeutic treatments that help them recover.

In addition to wildlife rehabilitation centers, you may be able to find job opportunities with government agencies, humane societies, and other non-profit organizations. The education requirements can vary based on the position, but some organizations may require you to have a college degree in a field related to biology, ecology, or veterinary medicine. So if you want to pursue one of the wildlife rehabilitation jobs that help animals, then you may want to do some research in advance and make sure that you are taking the right educational path.

  • Annual pay range—$25,200 to $54,000 or higher8
  • Education required—Post-secondary certificate or higher (requirements vary substantially based on the work setting)
  • Experience needed—Extensive; state or federal permits or licenses may also be required

11. Conservation Officer

Conservation officers often enjoy satisfying careers with animals that pay well. They are law enforcement officers who help protect animals and their habitats. They spend a lot of their time patrolling wildlife areas—like parks, forests, and lakes—to ensure that the people who are accessing those areas are following regulations and laws. As a conservation officer, you could also be responsible for conducting wildlife research, relocating animals that have entered populated areas, and investigating criminal activity.

Unfortunately, some people engage in illegal hunting and fishing activities. It is a conservation officer's responsibility to investigate those situations as well as any other illegal acts that are carried out in his or her jurisdiction. There may be times when you will have to work with other law enforcement professionals, and you can also expect to spend some time in an office setting in order to complete paperwork.

The requirements to become a conservation officer vary between states, so it is important to check your state's specific regulations. You may need to have post-secondary training in areas like conservation, wildlife biology, or wildlife or resource management. Criminal justice training can also be beneficial. And experience in the outdoors is essential for this field. The most successful candidates usually have a solid combination of education and experience, which is often achieved through internships or volunteer opportunities.

  • Annual pay range—$34,620 to $76,510 or higher5
  • Education required—Associate or bachelor's degree
  • Experience needed—Minimal; a state training program is often required

12. Zoologist

If you are interested in engaging and interesting high-paying jobs with animals, then becoming a zoologist may be a good path for you. Zoology is a large field of study that includes many specialty areas. For people who are interested in jobs working with animals, marine biology and wildlife biology are some of the most common fields to enter.

Zoologist is a broad term that refers to people who study animals. (Despite what the name suggests, it doesn't only refer to those scientists who take on zoo jobs.) And, because there are so many different species and habitats, zoologists usually pick a specific focus. For example, marine biologists study ocean and sea creatures. They may even specialize in a certain area of marine biology, such as studying a specific species or type of habitat. Like marine biologists, wildlife biologists study animals and habitats as well, but their focus is on the land rather than in the water.

Regardless of your area of expertise in zoology, you could expect to spend time researching issues like genetics, nutrition, and pollution. And you may even research concerns like how climate change and human development impact an animal population. The field certainly offers no shortage of options.

  • Annual pay range—$39,180 to $97,390 or higher5
  • Education required—Bachelor's degree
  • Experience needed—1 to 2 years of related experience; may need outdoor skills as well

13. Veterinary Acupuncturist

Although veterinarians enjoy some of the best high-paying animal jobs, you can advance your career even further in the field by specializing in an area like acupuncture. Animal acupuncture is a newer field of study, but it is growing as more people are searching for ways to treat their pets and animals more naturally. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment, and it probably comes as no surprise that animal acupuncture has been practiced for just as long.

The process involves carefully inserting needles into specific points on the animal's body in order to promote healing. Things that can be treated include gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, respiratory, and skin problems. In order to offer those treatments, you must be a licensed veterinarian and have completed a postdoctoral program in animal acupuncture. Since acupuncture is a relatively new development in the field of veterinary medicine, you will likely need to be prepared to travel and learn away from your home. But doing so can help you take your career in animal health to the next level.

  • Annual pay range for veterinarians working in special services—$53,070 to $159,550 or higher5
  • Education required—Postdoctoral certificate
  • Experience needed—Extensive

14. Veterinary Pathologist

Once you have become a licensed veterinarian, you can elevate your career even further by specializing in the field of pathology. Although veterinary pathologists do not work directly with animals, they take on vital jobs helping animals by researching and diagnosing diseases. They work in lab settings where they analyze samples and inform veterinarians of their findings so that the animals that have been tested can be treated accordingly. Veterinary pathologists may also conduct important research related to preventing and treating animal diseases.

In order to work in the field of veterinary pathology, you will need to earn a related postdoctoral degree. Once you have successfully completed your program, you will also need to become certified with the American College of Veterinary Pathology. So it is certainly not the easiest path, but those who have the motivation to follow it often enjoy excellent pay, good job prospects, and strong feelings of personal fulfillment knowing that they are helping to detect, diagnose, and even prevent animal diseases.

  • Annual pay range for veterinarians working in scientific research—$55,830 to $187,200 or higher5
  • Education required—Postdoctoral degree
  • Experience needed—Extensive

15. Animal-Assisted Therapist

If you enjoy helping people as much as you love animals, then you may want to consider pursuing a career in animal-assisted therapy. Therapists who are treating patients for just about any kind of cognitive, emotional, or social condition can use animals as part of their patients' treatment. Animals can help patients feel more inspired and motivated, and it can help promote a stronger bond between patients and their therapists.

To become an animal-assisted therapist, you would typically start out by choosing a specific field of study like counselling, nursing, psychology, or social work. Once you have completed your training, you would then develop the additional skills that are needed for including animal therapy in your practice.

Your education and experience requirements—as well as your salary expectations—are largely dependent on the type of position that you hold. You will want to be sure to research your chosen career field in order to ensure that you are selecting the right training program.

Start Working Toward a Career That You Will Love

When someone loves animals as much as you do, it only makes sense to start preparing for one of the careers with animals that can lead you toward being able to enjoy fulfilling and gratifying work. And, depending on the career that you have in mind, you may need to take a certificate, diploma, or degree program in order to begin achieving your dreams. Well, did you know that finding schools near you is as simple as entering your zip code below? That's all you need to do right now in order to take your first step toward the career that you deserve!

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Benefits of Pets, website last visited on September 22, 2016.

2 American Pet Products Association (APPA), Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics, website last visited on September 22, 2016.

3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, website last visited on September 22, 2016.

4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Projections, website last visited on September 22, 2016.

5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on September 22, 2016.

6 Care.com, Pet Sitters, website last visited on September 22, 2016.

7 PayScale, website last visited on September 22, 2016.

8 Salary Genius, website last visited on September 22, 2016.