Children who dearly love animals often dream of becoming a veterinarian when they grow up. It’s a logical choice, since it’s likely the one they’re most familiar with. But there are actually thousands of other animal-related occupations to choose from. It’s an interesting field in that it includes animal-related jobs that require no education and very little training, those that call for college degrees and years of experience, and many that fall somewhere in between. Here are just a few careers for animal lovers.
Groomers turn dirty dogs and scruffy cats into clean, well coifed pets, be it for creature comfort in everyday life, or high profile shows where appearance is everything. Pet groomers can learn the tricks of the trade by attending a licensed grooming school or by apprenticing with a professional. Groomers may work for a vet, pet store or specialty pet grooming “salon.”
Pet sitting and dog walking businesses are perfect for independent types who want to be their own boss. Pet sitters care for animals while their owners are away, which may include feeding, walking, playing, petting, giving medication and cleanup. You typically visit the pet a few times a day, but may also be asked to stay in the home. Busy people hire dog walkers to give their canine companions much-needed exercise. Although it is possible to make a decent income as a pet sitter or dog walker, it takes dedication and hard work to build a steady client base, and your schedule needs to be extremely flexible.
Doggie daycare workers supervise canine playtime, feed and clean up after them, and generally just make sure the dogs are kept safe during their stay. Training is often offered on-the-job, and with experience a dedicated worker could even become a manager or open their own doggie daycare center.
Trainers: this field includes a host of different jobs, working with all types of animals, from dogs and horses, to dolphins and sea lions. Jobs include obedience training for private clients, service dog training, working with canine and feline “actors” in show biz, training exotic animals to perform at amusement parks, and training horses for shows and competitions.
Animal control officers (think “Animal Cops”) investigate the mistreatment of dogs, cats, horses, roosters and other animals in their city, rescue strays and deal with wild animals that endanger humans. These jobs can be rewarding for those with a sincere desire to help animals, but can also be demanding, stressful and heartbreaking, and are not right for everyone.
Animal Educators work at wildlife parks, sanctuaries, zoos and aquariums to educate the public. These jobs require a high level of confidence, and you must be comfortable meeting people and speaking to large groups.
Zookeepers feed animals, clean enclosures, and observe animal behavior. Most have a college education and prior experience as an animal caretaker.
Zoologists are biological scientists who study the behavior, diseases, genetics and life processes of animals in their natural habitats as well as in laboratories. Zoologists may work for universities, museums, zoos, government agencies or private companies.
If you’d like to work with animals but have no idea which job you’re best suited for, your local library and/or the bookstore is a good place to start. Books are a valuable resource for information on animal related careers. They contain detailed descriptions of specific careers for animal lovers, along with the education and training needed, typical salaries and job outlook.
Here are some to look for: Careers for Animal Lovers, by Louise Miller; Careers With Animals, by Ellen Shenk; 105 Careers for Animal Lovers, by Paula Fitzsimmons; Careers With Animals (for grades 3 to 8), by Willow Ann Sirch. For the entrepreneur, Joseph Nigro’s 101 Best Businesses for Pet Lovers provides information on starting an animal-related enterprise – from popular choices like pet photographers and doggie daycares, to unusual careers like catnip farmers, doggie fashion designers, pet furniture makers and pet party planners.
If you’re already established in a non-animal-related field you love, you can still work with animals by becoming a volunteer. There are so many worthwhile animal charities and organizations that rely on volunteers in their quest to help pets and the people who love them. Consider volunteering at your local animal shelter, rescue group or wildlife rehabilitation center. Those who live in Oregon could volunteer at the Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank, a wonderful organization CANIDAE supports in its mission to provide meals for every hungry pet in Portland.
I’ve been an animal lover as far back as I can remember. I’ve felt profoundly connected to animals in a way that is often difficult for me to achieve with people. Had I not discovered an affinity for writing at a very young age, I might conceivably have chosen any one of these careers for animals lovers instead. As it is, writing about animals offers me the best of both worlds – I get paid to do something I dearly love, while immersing myself in a topic that I care deeply about.
Read more articles by Julia Williams
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