Jobs and Degrees to Help Abused Animals: Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to have a career helping abused animals. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and prospects to find out if this is the career for you.

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A degree in animal science, training as a laboratory animal technician, or a doctorate in veterinary medicine can lead to a career working with abused animals. Animal welfare workers, laboratory animal technicians and veterinarians are ideally trained to recognize the signs of animal abuse. Some positions may also require a license.

Essential Information

Although it is illegal to abuse and neglect animals, people still commit this crime. Multiple career paths focus on helping abused animals. Some professionals offer medical care, while others educate the public on how to report animal cruelty. Volunteer positions also allow people to help animals in need.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in animal science common
Other Requirements Doctorate for veterinarian positions
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% for nonfarm animal caretakers
Median Salary (2015)* $21,010 annually for nonfarm animal caretakers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Options to Help Abused Animals

Animal Welfare Worker

Several non-profit organizations make it their mission to provide animal welfare services to abused animals. For example, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) teams up with law enforcement agencies to prosecute people who abuse and neglect animals. Some animal welfare workers also teach pet owners about proper pet maintenance, while others rehabilitate abused animals and find them safer homes. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of nonfarm animal caretakers would increase by 11% during the 2014-2024 decade. These workers earned a median annual salary of $21,010 as of May 2015.

Laboratory Animal Technician

According to the BLS, laboratory animal technicians observe animal behavior, obtain fluid samples and run diagnostic tests. Although scientists and technicians conduct tests on animals, they must treat all animals humanely. Technicians are often responsible for making sure that each animal receives proper care. If a technician witnesses animal cruelty, he or she must report the situation to a supervisor or government agency. Laboratory animal caretakers and veterinary assistants made a median annual wage of $24,360 as of May 2015, according to the BLS. The BLS projected that employment of these workers would increase by 9% from 2014 to 2024.


Veterinarians are responsible for treating injured and sick animals. Duties of a veterinarian include diagnosing diseases, performing surgical procedures, vaccinating animals and advising owners about animal care. If a veterinarian comes across any instances of abuse, they can contact local law enforcement agencies or non-profit organizations. The BLS projected that employment for veterinarians would increase at a much-faster-than average rate of 9% during the 2014-2024 decade. Veterinarians earned a median annual salary of $88,490 as of May 2015.

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Degree Options to Help Abused Animals

Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine

Most abused animals require immediate medical care provided by an experienced veterinarian. Before earning a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), applicants must fulfill prerequisite undergraduate coursework requirements. Most students meet these requirements by earning a bachelor's degree in a pre-veterinary field. D.V.M. programs usually take four years to complete and include coursework in anatomy, nutrition and disease pathology.

Bachelor's Degree in Animal Science

Earning a bachelor's degree in animal science provides a broad knowledge base that can be applied to several careers related to helping abused animals. Most degree programs offer several concentrations and electives that allow students to choose courses related to animal rescue and rehabilitation. Core courses include animal husbandry, animal behaviorisms, domestic animal studies, large animal studies and genetics.

Requirements to Help Abused Animals


Most organizations and universities recommend that individuals obtain experience working with animals. For instance, workers may gain experience through volunteering or interning at local animal shelters, rescue units or veterinary clinics to become comfortable handling animals and to learn the basics about animal care and maintenance. Additionally, several employers tend to prefer applicants who have direct experience working with animals.


According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Animal Welfare Act defines which animal related careers and facilities require licenses. Not all positions require a license, so individuals should check with state or federal guidelines. For example, while a veterinarian needs a license to practice, a veterinary technician usually only needs a credential.

Recognizing signs of abuse and neglect, and reporting owners who are mistreating their pets are among the responsibilities of animal welfare workers, laboratory animal technicians and veterinarians. While education requirements vary by position, most of these careers require experience with animals. Job growth for all these careers is expected to be faster than the national average during the next decade.

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