Are you an animal lover? Does the idea of spending your days working with pets or exotic animals make you want to instantly change careers to something a little bit furrier and friendlier? Maybe you think that you have to have an advanced degree in veterinary medicine or years of experience as a zookeeper to work with animals, but that's simply not the case.
The realm of animal-related jobs runs the gamut, covering everything from wildlife rehabilitators and pet store owners to more obscure occupations like pet psychics and pet massage therapists. And you don't necessarily need a ton of training to get some of those positions—many of which pay surprisingly well—although the number of hours you have to work could be similarly high.
Stacker compiled a list of jobs that will allow you to work with animals of different shapes and sizes. They require zero experience to extensive experience and could require as little as a high school diploma up to a doctorate degree. For each job, we've outlined what professionals are expected to do on a daily basis (spoiler alert: pet detectives probably don't do exactly what you think, but pet photographers do exactly what you think), and how much you could get paid (ranging from minimum wage to salaries in the six figures). We cover what the job competition is like, and how quickly or slowly that particular field is growing—meaning you'll be able to tell if more jobs will be available in the future, or if it's a dying field. Information was compiled from various career sources, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job search sites, and other workplace aggregators.
Read on to discover 25 jobs that will allow you to spend your working week with animals.
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Veterinarians are responsible for the continued good health of non-human creatures, whether it's animals in the home like dogs and cats or more exotic ones like elephants and giraffes. You'll need a four-year degree from an accredited veterinary college and you'll have to compete for about 80,000 jobs nationwide—but you can expect to make more than $93,000 yearly.
Many animal breeders get an animal science degree of some sort, but really, no college degree is necessary for this job. And it's a big one—they are responsible for breeding their chosen animal to bring out the best traits the further the line extends. They also help with artificial insemination and births, provide light medical treatment; and maintain both a proper living space and detailed records for the animals. The average salary is about 43,000, and the quantity of jobs is rising as more people decide to create their own breeding businesses.
Education to become a zoologist is pretty intense: A bachelor's degree for entry-level jobs, a master's degree for investigation or scientific work, and a doctorate for independent research projects or to work with a university. Zoologists study specific species and how they function, including behavior, population counts, and how humans impact the population. Expect to earn about $54,000 with 4% job growth over time.
Before guide dogs are trained to do their job, the puppies need to grow up in a loving home. Guide dog puppy trainers are volunteers, taking in dogs as they're available, and caring for the pups until they're about a year and a half old. They're required to socialize the dogs and teach them basic obedience.
Animal shelter managers can have days ranging from rewarding—saving and helping abandoned and injured animals—to depressing—euthanizing animals. Ideally, you'll have a bachelor's degree, but it's not always necessary; although, most animal shelter managers have an animal sciences degree. Salaries range between $30,000 and $60,000.
No degrees are necessary to be a riding instructor, though it's important to have extensive riding experience; and professionals can choose to earn certificates that may help them further their careers, such as one from the American Riding Instructors Association. Instructors can run lessons privately or in a group and are responsible for teaching form, discipline, troubleshooting, and horse care. The average salary, based on location and amount of students (which also dictates the availability of jobs), is about $37,000.
All you need for this job is a love of animals and the desire to give them a better life. It's generally not paid, but you can choose from tens of thousands of organizations to work with that look out for animal welfare. Activists protest, run campaigns to create change, create petitions, and generally do what they can to solve a problem on a grassroots level.
If finding a loving home for animals is important to you, a pet adoption counselor might be a great job for you. Their role is to learn about the animals and make sure the prospective owners are a good fit. The salary is just over $23,600, no experience is required, and the job is growing by about 11% every year.
Technically, anyone can be a beekeeper—though the education requirements get steeper depending on the type of beekeeper you want to be, and whether you want to work in conservation or breeding. An industry survey by Bee Culture Magazine estimates that between 115,000 and 125,000 beekeepers work in the U.S., with a salary nearing $45,000.
Pet owners often need someone to watch their animals when they spend an extended amount of time away from home, be it a single workday or a vacation. In order for it to be a legitimate job, you'll want to make sure you're trained in animal CPR and have past references. Though some pet sitters report making up to $55,000, hobbyists should expect closer to minimum wage on a per hour basis.
People who notice their pets' inexplainable behavior, such as excessive barking or anxiety, may turn to a pet psychic, who set their own rates and pick their own clients. Some existing pet psychics offer courses on becoming one, so look for training before striking out on your own.
Conservation officers work in forests, parks, and other natural areas to manage the land, the natural resources, and the animals on the land; you'll need a bachelor's degree related to forestry. In 2016, about 34,600 conservation officers were working, making an average salary of $61,340.
Zookeepers earn surprisingly less than you might expect—about $30,000 annually. An associate's or bachelor's degree is required, as well as previous experience or professional references. Zookeepers are responsible for all the operations of a zoo, including caring for the animals, cleaning their enclosures, training them, creating enrichment programs, and teaching visitors about the animals.
Animal control workers are who you call when you find a bat loose in the house, a cat in a tree, or a dangerous animal on the prowl. You'll need to be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma and some experience with animals. The job is expected to grow about 22% in the next few years; currently, the average salary is about $36,000.
Anyone who gets on with dogs and has a high school diploma can become a dog groomer, but there's a voluntary certification program. The salary is a bit low at just over $26,500, but the job is expected to grow by 11% in the next five years. You can either work in a pet store or kennel, run your own business, or make house calls to clean and style customers' pets.
Marine biologists are responsible for studying life in the ocean, ranging from massive whales to tiny sea plankton. The average salary is about $62,610, and you need a college degree. Competition is stiff for the job, and it's growing slower than most other positions in the wildlife scientist realm.
Making an average of nearly $80,000 per year, animal nutritionists need to have thorough knowledge on the nutrition requirements for a whole slew of animals in order to create a proper diet for those in their care. A bachelor's degree is needed at minimum, but higher-level degree holders can land teaching gigs at universities. The employment rate is about 9%.
Pet photography can be a lucrative business on its own or as a side business for any existing photographer. An average session costs between $150 and $180. A degree isn't required, but photography experience and a good portfolio are integral; it would also help to bone up on unique ways to take photos of animals as a way to differentiate yourself.
Wildlife rehabilitators work with veterinarians to care for sick, injured, and orphaned animals with the eventual goal of releasing them back into the wild. A degree in wildlife biology is recommended, and permits are required from the Fish and Wildlife Service, or local fish and wildlife departments. The average salary ranges from $20,000 to $40,000.
It's possible for animal trainers to work with almost any type of animal that needs to learn manners or special skills, with clients ranging from aquariums to private pet owners to movie studios. They earn nearly $30,000 annually, with about 14,300 people in the position as of 2017. Depending on the client, the education required can range from a high school diploma to a college degree.
More a business-focused job than anything else, pet store owners are responsible for running the day-to-day of a store that sells anything from animal food and equipment to pets themselves. Though anyone can open a store, pet store owners would be best served with a business administration degree and extensive knowledge of animal health and welfare. The job is expected to grow 7% in the next five years, with a current salary nearing $100,000.
Working or otherwise busy pet owners often drop their animals at a pet daycare, where associates are needed to entertain the animals, care for them, and sometimes board or groom them. Generally, employees learn on the job and earn minimum wage per hour.
Pet detectives generally don't solve major animal-based mysteries like the name would suggest—they're mostly used for finding lost animals. Many are self-employed, setting rates as they see fit. There are optional training programs, but some states require a private investigator's license to run a pet detective business.
Pet massage therapists help animals suffering pain or anxiety. It requires training through a certified program and thorough knowledge of how the bodies of different animals function; you can expect to earn about $21,000 annually.
The first step in becoming a K9 officer—a law enforcement officer that partners with a dog—is to become a police officer. Then, you can apply to be a K9 officer, and upon approval, you'll be trained by the department you work for. Generally, the salary is about $56,000.