Hands-On Animal Careers

Many people enjoy animals and may wish for a career that provides close contact with various species. Find out about the different career options for hands-on experiences with animals, along with salaries, job growth rates and education requirements.

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Career Options for Hands-on Animal Careers

There are several different hands-on animal career options across various job fields for those who enjoy working with animals. These jobs handle animals in a variety of ways, including trapping, providing medical care and more. Explore a few of the hands-on animal career options here.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Veterinarians $88,770 9%
Animal Trainers $27,690 11%
Fishing and Hunting Workers $29,280 -1% (Decline)
Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers $25,250 9%
Animal Scientists $60,330 7%
Animal Care and Service Workers $22,230 11%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Hands-On Animal Careers


Veterinarians handle pets, livestock and other exotic animals and provide animals with necessary medical care. Veterinarians are like physicians for animals as they diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses, prescribe medications and administer vaccinations. These professionals also perform surgeries on animals or euthanize the animals if necessary. Veterinarians must earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and state license after their undergraduate studies.

Animal Trainers

Animal trainers interact and handle animals as they train them to respond to and obey a variety of commands. Animal trainers may work with dogs, horses, marine mammals and other animals to prepare them for performances in movies or competitions, or to perform a specific task or job such as assisting people with disabilities. These professionals use voice commands and/or hand signals to prompt a particular response from an animal. Animal trainers need a high school diploma, but some may need to have a bachelor's degree as well.

Fishing and Hunting Workers

Fishing and hunting workers handle a variety of wild animals as they trap and/or kill these animals for food or other purposes. Fishers specialize in locating fish and catching them for human consumption or bait, while hunters and trappers track, capture, and kill or sell animals for food or other products. Both positions must obey current fishing and hunting laws and regulations for the area where they are working. Fishing and hunting workers do not need a formal education and learn while on the job.

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle animals as they feed, bathe and exercise them in veterinary clinics and/or laboratories. These workers also help restrain animals during exams, clean animal cages as needed and monitor animals after surgeries. Some may be qualified to administer medications or vaccines to animals as well. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers need a high school diploma and prior experience working with animals.

Animal Scientists

Animal scientists work hands-on with domestic farm animals as they study them and work to improve food production from the animals. This research typically involves figuring out ways to increase an animal's efficiency through nutrition, living conditions and other factors. Animal scientists may also advise farmers about which animals to crossbreed in order to produce the most valuable offspring. Some animal scientists hold a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine, but need to at least hold a bachelor's degree.

Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers provide hands-on care for pets and nonfarm animals. This group of workers includes groomers, pet sitters, keepers, kennel attendants and more, who feed, bathe and exercise animals. These workers also observe animals for illnesses, injuries or other abnormal behavior and provide safe and clean spaces for the animals. Most animal care and service workers learn on the job and have experience working with animals. They typically have also earned a high school diploma.

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