Become an Animal Welfare Specialist: Career Guide

Mar 09, 2020

Watch this video to learn about the job description and requirements to become an animal welfare specialist, and see the step-by-step process to start a career in animal welfare.

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  • 0:03 Animal Welfare Specialists
  • 1:10 Obtain an Education
  • 2:20 Gain Licensure
  • 2:46 Gain Experience
  • 3:20 Secure a Specialist Job
  • 3:45 Earn Certification

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Animal Welfare Specialist

Animal welfare specialists offer in-depth knowledge on animal welfare issues and practices. Your time will be spent consulting with veterinary practices, zoos, farms and other animal care facilities on matters of animal health and safety. Working in the veterinary field, you'll have to watch out for bites, scratches and kicks from the animals you're working with.

Degree Level Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
Degree Fields Animal science or a related major
Licensure and Certification Veterinarians need to be licensed by their state; optional certifications are available for veterinarians
Experience Several years of experience with animal welfare
Key Skills Excellent communication skills, people-oriented personality, strong critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, solid scientific knowledge, familiarity with database software and analytical/scientific software
Salary (2018) $93,830 per year (Median salary for all veterinarians)

Sources: Ohio State University, O*Net Online, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Obtain an Education

The first step to becoming an animal welfare specialist is to earn a bachelor's degree. Students can prepare for this career with a bachelor's degree program in animal science. These programs often include animal science courses in animal nutrition, animal disease, reproduction, animal anatomy and physiology, cattle and dairy production, agricultural business and agricultural research. Some courses may include laboratory work.

Obtain a Doctoral Degree

The second step to becoming an animal welfare specialist is to obtain a doctoral degree. Graduates of a bachelor's degree program can pursue a PhD in animal science or a related major. Such programs typically offer concentration options, such as animal physiology, genetics, reproduction, pathology or nutrition. Students may take courses in biochemistry, ruminology (study of cud-chewing in cloven-hoofed animals, such as cattle, buffalo and deer), animal investigations, cell culture and immunobiology. A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree may also be acceptable for specialist positions.

Gain Licensure

The third step to becoming an animal welfare specialist by way of veterinary medicine is to gain licensure. Veterinarians are required to hold a license in order to practice. After completing an approved program, one must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. States may have additional requirements, including an exam that focuses on veterinary practices and legalities specific to the state.

Gain Experience

The fourth step in becoming an animal welfare specialist is to gain experience. Aspiring animal welfare specialists can develop their knowledge in a variety of positions. They might work directly with animals, such as in a veterinary role, or conduct research on animal behavior and management. Researchers may focus on improving nutrition, housing, sanitation and disease control protocols in animal care facilities or processing plants. Specialists should work with several species of animals and become familiar with their particular welfare concerns.

Secure a Specialist Job

The fifth step to becoming an animal welfare specialist is to secure a specialist position. Candidates can market themselves as specialists by participating in teaching, research and extension programs. They may give presentations and produce educational materials on the subject of animal welfare. These projects can also help specialists to develop a brand and make connections for future consulting work.

Earn Certification

The sixth step to becoming an animal welfare specialist is to earn certification to gain more employers. Certification demonstrates expertise, and potential employers may find this a desirable quality. Licensed veterinarians with years of experience or professional training past the DVM, like a residency program, may be eligible for various certifications offered through the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In order to become a successful animal welfare specialist, prospective caretakers must earn a bachelor's degree, obtain a doctoral degree, gain licensure if you are planning on becoming a veterinarian, gain experience, secure a specialist position and earn certification to gain more employment opportunities.

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