Animal Welfare and Protection Degree and Career Information

Sep 19, 2019

An animal welfare worker helps injured or abused animals by providing protection and care, commonly within a shelter setting. Depending on the specific role, the education needed to work in animal welfare and protection varies, with some positions requiring only a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Some employers prefer candidates who have completed a certificate or degree program in animal science or welfare, while others may require a certificate in law enforcement or training through the National Animal Control Association.

Essential Information

There are many different jobs available relating to animal welfare and protection, but in general these workers help abandoned and abused animals. Animal control officers and shelter workers are two examples of animal welfare and protection workers. Some animal welfare jobs require only a high school education, but others require a degree in animal science, law enforcement or animal welfare.

Career Titles Animal Care & Service Workers Animal Control Workers
Education Requirements Variable; a high school diploma and on-the-job training OR a certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree in animal welfare or animal science Variable; a high school diploma and on-the-job training OR completion of animal studies or law enforcement certificate or degree programs OR training through the National Animal Control Association
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 16% 6%
Median Annual Salary (May, 2018)* $23,760 (for all non-farm animal caretakers) $36,330 (for all animal control workers)

Sources: *The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Aspiring animal welfare workers could fill a variety of roles that benefit animals. Opportunities may exist for animal care and service workers as well as for animal control officers.

Animal Care & Service Workers

Animal welfare workers at shelters provide basic animal care by feeding, grooming and playing with abandoned animals. They may also be responsible for cleaning and training the animals. Many animal shelter workers only need to have a high school diploma or GED and receive their training while on the job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some employers prefer to hire animal shelters workers with a bachelor's degree and experience working with animals (

Certificate, associate degree and bachelor's degree programs in animal science or animal welfare are available from several schools. These programs often include coursework in animal management, zoology, grooming, biology, animal health and nutrition, animal behavior and kennel management. Additional training opportunities are available through organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States or the American Humane Association.

The BLS expected that employment for non-farm animal care workers, which includes animal shelter workers, would increase much faster than the average from 2018-2028. In May 2018, the BLS reported that non-farm animal caretakers in the 90th percentile or higher earned $37,250 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $18,160 or less per year.

Animal Control Officer

Some of the most common animal protection careers include an animal control officer and animal enforcement officer. Animal control officers may work for local government and handle barking dogs and stray animals. They also regulate leash, license and animal protection laws. Animal control officers may also work for shelters or the Human Society. A high school diploma is necessary to begin work as an animal control officer; however, certificate and degree programs are available, as well as training programs from the National Animal Control Association. An associate degree in law enforcement or animal studies may be required for advancement in the field.

Animal enforcement officers typically work for city and state governments or private agencies. They respond to reports of animal cruelty and pet abuse, as well as investigate wildlife, livestock and laboratory animal abuse. Officers typically acquire a law enforcement degree and then receive animal protection training.

In May 2018, the BLS reported that workers in the 90th percentile or higher earned $58,220 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $23,160 or less per year. Employment opportunities in the field are expected to grow as fast as the national average from 2018-2028.

The basic care and assistance that animal welfare workers provide generally include feeding, grooming, and training duties, as well as playing with animals. Organizations offering training programs for this career include the American Humane Association and the Humane Society of the United States. An animal control officer can also work at a shelter, or for local governments as well; these workers enforce regulations pertaining to animals, such as leash laws, and they also respond to calls regarding animal cruelty or abuse.

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