Wildlife Rehabilitator: Job Duties, Salary and Outlook

Wildlife rehabilitators require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Wildlife rehabilitation is a career to consider if you enjoy working with wild animals of any type. Though these jobs are sometimes voluntary, wildlife rehabilitators may need to obtain a permit to work with rare or threatened species. No other formal education is required, but voluntary certification is available, and may be preferred by some employers.

Essential Information

Wildlife rehabilitators are responsible for nursing sick, abandoned and injured animals to prepare them for release back into the wild. Most positions are available at rehabilitation centers located in densely populated areas and may be voluntary or unpaid. There are typically no formal education requirements for this career, although some employers may prefer a high school diploma. These professionals are usually required to have state and federal permits; however, voluntary professional certification is also available.

Required Education Usually none, a high school diploma preferred
Other Requirements Voluntary certification available; permits may also need to be obtained through state or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% for all animal care and service workers
Median Salary (2015)* $21,010 for nonfarm animal caretakers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Wildlife Rehabilitator Job Duties

According to the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA), typical duties may include feeding, cleaning cages, record keeping, accounting, fundraising, answering phone calls about injured animals and educating the public (www.nwrawildlife.org). Wildlife rehabilitators may also catch and transport injured animals, arrange veterinary care and perform euthanasia. They may have to contact government officials if they identify wild animals that are on the threatened or endangered species list. Those in supervisory positions are typically responsible for managing staff and volunteers.

Permits and Certification

Because state or federal laws typically protect wild animals, most wildlife rehabilitators need to have the proper permits. Requirements vary by state and may include completion of a training or mentorship program followed by a written or oral exam. Wildlife rehabilitators who wish to work with federally protected birds must acquire a permit through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Voluntary certification is also available through the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (www.cwrexam.org). Candidates for the Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator (CWR) must successfully pass the CWR exam and do not need to meet any prerequisites. The CWR credential is good for two years and completion of continuing education coursework is required for recertification.

Salary for Wildlife Rehabilitators

In some states, wildlife rehabilitators work on a volunteer basis and do not get paid. Wildlife rehabilitators may even have to pay for their own supplies and equipment, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (www.dem.ri.gov). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual salary of $21,010 in May 2015 for nonfarm animal caretakers, which may include wildlife rehabilitators (www.bls.gov).

Job Outlook for Wildlife Rehabilitators

The BLS projected that employment of all animal care and service workers would increase 11% from 2014-2024. The majority of wildlife rehabilitator jobs are found in heavily populated areas, according to the NWRA. Large wildlife rehabilitation facilities tend to be located where human-wildlife interactions are the most common.

In summary, wildlife rehabilitators care for injured or abandoned wild animals, particularly in areas where human-wildlife interactions are common. They don't need formal education, but can seek certification, such as that offered by the Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. Some states require wildlife rehabilitators to hold a permit in order to practice.

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