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Jobs Working with Animals: Career Options and Requirements

Careers working with animals covers a broad spectrum of responsibilities and duties. Continue reading for an overview of the degree programs, certifications and training as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Individuals who love animals may choose to pursue a career as a pet groomer, zoologist or veterinary technician. Pet groomers typically learn their skills through an apprenticeship, while veterinary technicians need to have an associate's degree. Zoologists must have a bachelor's degree to enter the field.

Essential Information

Many careers allow animal lovers to work closely with the objects of their affection. Requirements for employment vary. Animal caretaker requires only a high school diploma whereas a veterinarian or zoologist, require a post graduate degree for independent research. Some jobs working with animals can be obtained after completing a certificate or an associate degree program.

Career Pet Groomer Zoologist Veterinary Technician
Education Requirements Apprenticeships Bachelor's Degree Associate's Degree
Other Requirements Workshops and certifications available Specialization of a specific species Pass state exam and obtain license
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% 4% 19%
Median Salary (2015)* $21,010 $59,680 $31,800

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

There are several careers available for animal lovers. From working with pets to wildlife or researching animals to helping care for sick ones there are numerous options to pursue. The education requirements for working with animals vary as well from a high school diploma through post graduate studies. Continue reading to discover a career working with animals.

Animal Caretaker or Service Worker

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that jobs in the animal caretaker category include pet groomer, kennel attendant, dog walker, pet store worker, horse trainer, pet sitter and zoo keeper (www.bls.gov). In addition to working directly with animals, people in these jobs often clean and maintain animal enclosures and prepare food for their charges. Groomers and pet store workers must also interact with pet owners and offer good customer service.

People who work as animal caretakers must have enough physical strength to restrain and lift animals and may risk getting scratched or bitten. They often need to bend, crawl or kneel and sometimes must lift heavy bags of feed or other supplies. Because animals need to be fed every day, caretakers often need to work in the evenings, or on weekends and holidays.

Requirements for Animal Caretaker Jobs

According to the BLS, most caretaker and animal service worker jobs can be acquired with a high school diploma or equivalent. Employers often prefer to hire workers who have some experience dealing with animals. Many positions, such as horse trainer or kennel attendant, can be learned during on-the-job training.

New pet groomers often work with an experienced person for several months, and some states require a license for this position. The National Dog Groomer's Association of America offers certification to people who attend their workshops and seminars and pass an examination. Such certificates may enhance a groomer's reputation and earning potential.

Many zoos and aquariums require that their animal workers have an associate or bachelor's degree in biology, animal science or a related field. People who have performed volunteer service at a zoo or similar establishment may have an advantage in landing this kind of job.

Career Outlook for Animal Caretakers

The BLS listed the median annual salary for caretakers of non-farm animals at $21,010 in 2015. The BLS projects that the job field for animal care and service workers will grow by 11% during the 2014 to 2024 decade.

Veterinary Technician

Veterinary technicians often work in vet clinics, but they may also find jobs in animal shelters, kennels, farms, and medical research facilities. Technicians usually work as part of a team to keep animals healthy and happy, and can be thought of as the nurses of the animal health care field.

Licensed veterinarians supervise technicians, but techs are often the first to examine an animal that is brought to a facility for care. They need to know how to evaluate an animal for disease or injury and how to assess its overall health. Some technicians assist in animal surgeries by monitoring vital signs or administering anesthesia. They may also perform lab tests and operate X-ray and scanning equipment.

Requirements for Veterinary Technician Jobs

Veterinary technicians are usually required to have an Associate of Science degree in animal health or veterinary technology. Employers may prefer applicants who have a degree from a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. These programs can be completed in about two years and many of them involve some sort of internship opportunity for hands-on learning. Most states require a license for vet techs, which may require an associate degree and passing a licensing exam.

Career Outlook for Veterinary Technicians

In 2015, veterinary technicians earned a median wage of $31,800 per year, the BLS indicates. Those working in the District of Columbia, Alaska, New York and Massachusetts saw the highest salaries that year, according to the BLS, and the federal executive branch and general medical and surgical hospitals were the profession's highest-paying employers. Veterinary technicians are expected to see a 19% job growth rate between 2014 and 2024, which is higher than the average for all U.S. occupations.

Zoologist or Wildlife Biologist

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animal health and behavior in a laboratory setting or a natural environment. Some may conduct experiments or collect data to determine how environmental conditions are affecting animal populations. Many workers in this field specialize in one particular type or species of animal. For example, ornithologists study birds and entomologists study insects.

Wildlife biologists and may find employment with federal, local or state government agencies, scientific research firms, or social advocacy groups. Zoos and aquariums need qualified workers, as do technical consulting services.

Requirements for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologist Jobs

Nearly all jobs in this sector require a bachelor's degree in animal science or a similar field. A master's or doctoral degree in an area such as biology or zoology is usually needed to undertake independent research.

Career Outlook for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a median yearly salary of $59,680 in 2014, reports the BLS, with the top-paid 10% of earners in the field making more than $97,390 per year. Slower-than-average job growth is predicted for these occupations in the coming years, with the BLS projecting only a 4% employment increase from 2014 to 2024.

Many careers that involve working with animals include providing direct care to the animals, such as pet groomers and veterinary technicians, or may involve cleaning their habitat or preparing their food. Zoologists conduct research. Other careers that involve working with animals include wildlife biologists, pet store workers and pet sitters.

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