Careers Working with Domestic Animals: Options and Requirements

Domestic animal care is generally learned through on-the-job training. Continue reading for an overview of the training, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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There are many career options for those interested in working with domestic animals. With on-the-job training or workshops it's possible to become a groomer, trainer, or breeder. With a high school diploma and clean background check a career as a shelter worker is possible, while veterinarians must earn their doctoral degree and be licensed.

Essential Information

Many households in the United States have a domestic animal in their care, and the rescue, healthcare, grooming and distribution of these animals makes career options plentiful for individuals looking to work with domestic animals. The requirements to work with animals vary greatly, depending on the position desired, but may range from having prior work experience to earning a formal degree.

Career Veterinarian Shelter Worker Groomer or Trainer Breeder
Education Requirements Doctoral degree High school diploma Training Training
Other Requirements Licensure Clean background Certification None
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% 11% (all animal care workers) 11% (all animal care workers) 11% (all animal care workers)
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $88,490 $21,010 (all non-farm animal care workers) $26,610 $39,380

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options Working With Domestic Animals

Many professions center on the care, protection, rescue and sales of the many types of domestic animals in the United States. Some jobs, like veterinarian, require extensive schooling and experience to perform complex procedures while other jobs, like shelter workers, require only a clean background and a love of animals.

Veterinarian

Veterinarians perform surgeries, give vaccinations and help rehabilitate animals that are injured or sick. They work for universities, zoos, research laboratories, federal or state governments and pharmaceutical companies to help make animals healthier. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2014, about 74% work in the veterinary services industry (www.bls.gov). Veterinary technicians, specialists and kennel assistants work alongside veterinarians in clinics helping with the animals.

The BLS predicts employment opportunities for veterinarians will go up by 9% between 2014 and 2024. This matches the average growth rate for all jobs and may be attributable to the country's rising pet population and advances in available veterinary care. In 2014, U.S. veterinarians earned a median annual salary of $88,490 per year, according to the BLS.

Requirements

Becoming a veterinarian requires earning a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as biology or animal behavior, followed by completing a 4-year program to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). Potential veterinarians must then obtain licensure with the state that they wish to practice in. To become a veterinary technician also requires a college degree, usually an associate's degree in veterinary technology and passing an exam to earn licensure.

Shelter Worker

Rescue shelters that are found throughout the United States house and rehabilitate animals that have been neglected or abandoned. Workers are needed to help walk, feed, spend time with and clean up after the many animals at these facilities.

The BLS includes shelter workers in its animal care and service workers category. These employees are expected to experience a 11% job growth from 2014 to 2024. The median annual salary for non-farm animal caretakers, such as those working in shelters, in 2015 was $21,010, the BLS reports.

Requirements

Most animal caretaking positions require an applicant to have only a clean background, a high school diploma, a love of animals and possibly some prior work experience.

Pet Groomer and Animal Trainer

Another career option is a professional pet groomer. Groomers bathe the animals, clean their teeth, clip their nails and trim their fur to an owner's specification. Dog walkers work for either a private practice or an animal care company and are in charge of taking dogs on walks to keep them active and healthy.

Some owners have pets with behavioral problems. They may hire a pet trainer to help them. Animal trainers may teach obedience classes, train a dog how to sniff for bombs or conduct pet therapy sessions.

Both groomers and trainers are also considered animal care and service workers by the BLS. Job growth for trainers may be slower than the overall 11% projected rate from 2014 to 2024, however, since fewer positions tend to become available than in other areas of animal care. In addition, competition is expected to be strong for jobs training larger or marine animals. BLS statistics from 2015 show an average yearly wage of $26,610 for animal trainers at that time.

Requirements

Positions as an animal trainer or groomer may require job-specific training that can be completed in seminars, private classes or workshops. For many animal service professions there are organizations that provide certification for each specific job. The National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA) gives groomers a National Certified Master Groomer title after they attend classes and pass an exam. Several different organizations offer certification for animal trainers depending on the setting and duties of the individual trainer.

Animal Breeder

In addition to the many job options involving caring for animals, there are also occupations that help facilitate the sales and distribution of domestic animals. Animal breeders selectively breed their pets to create strong and desirable offspring to sell. Another job option is to work in a pet store or for a private sales agency to help distribute animals to responsible and caring owners. According to the BLS, animal breeders made a median annual salary of $39,380 per year in 2015.

Requirements

According to the BLS, breeders may be trained as veterinarians or veterinarian technicians or technologists. Individuals working in a pet store are generally trained on-the-job.

Job prospects for careers with domestic animals are good, due to the number of homes that have pets. Those interested in working with domestic animals can pursue a career as a veterinarian after several years of postsecondary study to earn a doctoral degree, or they can consider a career as a breeder, trainer, groomer or shelter worker with a high school diploma, on-the-job training, or workshops. It's also an option for groomers to be professionally certified.

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