The 5 Best Jobs Working With Animals
- Many psychologists believe humans are innately drawn to nature and animals.
- While most animal-related jobs don't pay well, some, like veterinarian, boast high wages.
- Other potential career choices for animal lovers include vet technician, ecologist, and zoologist.
If your dream career involves working with animals, you're not alone. Ask any child around the world to show you their career bucket list, and you'll likely see veterinarian listed on it — right up there with superhero, ballerina, firefighter, and astronaut.
For most of us, our love of animals began with our first household pet, or the first time we watched a Disney animated classic featuring talking animals. From that moment on, we were hooked.
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Many psychologists think our tendency to engage with nature and other life forms has a genetic basis.
It's natural for humans to bond with animals, whether domesticated or wild. Many psychologists think our tendency to engage with nature and other life forms has a genetic basis. This hypothesis, known as biophilia, is based on the belief that in order to thrive, humans must forge a connection with nature.
Those who value working with animals can choose from a number of career paths, such as pet grooming; however, most animal-care jobs don't rank among the most lucrative professions. Below, we introduce some of the best-paying jobs involving animals.
5 Well-Paying Jobs for Animal Lovers
Zoologist / Wildlife Biologist
If you've got a passion for observing animals in their natural habitats, consider a career as a zoologist or wildlife biologist. This exciting field entails the behavioral study and research of various animal species and their relationships with their natural environments and ecosystems.
The goal of wildlife biology is to learn as much as possible about a particular animal species in order to help it thrive.
Wildlife biology work may involve tagging and tracking animals to study migration patterns, studying animal diets, collecting biological specimens, monitoring animal reproduction patterns, analyzing genetic traits, and identifying the impact of invasive species. This field's goal is to learn as much as possible about a particular animal species in order to help it thrive.
The key difference between a zoologist and a wildlife biologist is that a zoologist generally conducts research on a certain animal species, whereas a wildlife biologist is more concerned with the study, conservation, and management of entire ecosystems and animal populations.
There's no question that animals continue to be negatively affected by environmental changes, diminishing food resources, and habitat loss. The work of zoologists and wildlife biologists is more critical than ever in helping us to better understand these issues and propose solutions to protect animal species.
A career as a zoologist or wildlife biologist offers the opportunity to make a large impact on not just animals, but our entire planet as well.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists work with animals, either in the wild or in captivity. They are typically employed by universities, zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks, government agencies, wildlife management or conservation agencies, animal rehabilitation facilities, museums, and research laboratories. Work may be completed in the field, in a lab, or in an office.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), zoologist and wildlife biologist positions are projected to grow 4% -- about as fast as average -- between 2019 and 2029. Approximately 21,000 people are currently employed as zoologists and wildlife biologists in the U.S. Job growth depends on government funding, since most project funds for these positions come from government agencies.
Wildlife biologists and zoologists make a median annual income of $63,270.
Another great way to help animals through your work is to become an ecologist. Ecologists study the relationship between organisms and their natural environments, with the ultimate goal of protecting ecosystems and the species that live within them.
Ecologists study the relationship between organisms and their natural environments.
The unforgiving quality of nature makes it difficult to understand the connections between flora, fauna, and their environments. In the wild, it's a constant battle for survival, with plants and animals forced to continuously adapt while populations grow and decline. Ecologists study these adaptations, whether they're occurring underwater, in a forest or desert, or within city boundaries.
As an ecologist, you don't simply observe animals; you also study their food and water sources, dwellings, predators, invading species, mating patterns, and defense mechanisms. You must draw on your knowledge of biology, geology, chemistry, physiology, evolution, and physics to decode what's happening in these ecosystems and to make recommendations for how we can maintain and improve them.
Ecologists typically work for environmental agencies, environmental engineering firms, nonprofit organizations, conservation charities, and universities. Some ecologists are also employed as environmental scientists and field biologists.
The BLS projects that jobs for environmental scientists and specialists will grow 8% between 2019 and 2029. Government funding toward environmental issues and growing environmental awareness by the general public will likely contribute to the overall growth in environmental sciences.
A bachelor's degree in biology, ecology, natural resources management, conservation biology, zoology, or a related field is usually required to be an ecologist. A graduate degree in a natural science can boost your employment chances.
When people think about careers that entail working with animals, veterinarians are usually at the top of the list. The practice of veterinary medicine has existed for ages, but it wasn't until the establishment of the first college of veterinary medicine in Lyons, France, in 1762 that this unique medical branch really took off.
You might think of veterinarians as only caring for companion animals and domesticated pets, but the job can also involve tending to animals on farms and ranches, in zoos and conservation parks, at rehabilitation facilities, and in the wild.
Veterinarians perform many of the same duties as physicians, such as the following:
Conduct physical examinations and health and wellness assessments
Take X-rays and MRIs
Like regular doctors, veterinarians can specialize in an area of medicine, such as emergency care, surgery, pathology, dentistry, anesthesia, nutrition, oncology, cardiology, or neurology. These medical professionals can also specialize in a specific animal species or type, like exotic animals, equine (horses), dairy animals, or avian (birds).
A veterinarian's job is both difficult and rewarding. The hours are often long, and work can be emotionally stressful when dealing with injured and/or abused animals. There's also the risk of being bitten, scratched, or kicked. For most vets, however, getting the opportunity to save an animal's life makes it all worthwhile.
Most veterinarians are employed by clinics or animal hospitals, or have their own private practice. Work may be performed in regular clinical settings or places like research laboratories, classrooms, zoos, farms, ranches, or rehabilitation facilities.
Veterinary medicine is one of the highest-paying fields that involves working with animals. The median annual pay for veterinarians is $95,460, though salaries can vary widely depending on your specialty.
Additionally, vets enjoy a strong employment outlook, with job growth projected at 16% through 2029. An increase in the number of pet owners, as well as advances in medical technology and available treatment options, is expected to fuel this growth.
Veterinary medicine is a competitive field. To become a vet, you need to have a state license and a doctor of veterinary medicine (D.V.M.) degree from an accredited veterinary college. In order to enter a vet program, you must possess a bachelor's degree in a science field, such as biology, zoology, chemistry, or animal science. Vet school applicants should also have some volunteer or paid work in an animal care setting.
If you're interested in veterinary medicine but don't want to commit to the challenging educational requirements of completing a D.V.M., a great alternative is to become a veterinary technician.
Veterinary technicians help veterinarians treat and care for animals.
Veterinary technicians help veterinarians treat and care for animals. Their duties include conducting physical examinations and health assessments, recording medical histories, educating pet owners, administering first-aid, taking biological samples, performing lab tests and X-rays, prepping animals for surgery, and supporting animals in recovery.
To excel as a veterinary technician, you must have a passion for animals and enjoy working in a fast-paced environment that can be physically and emotionally demanding. Ideal skills to have if you want to be a veterinary technician are as follows:
Excellent communication, collaboration, and organizational skills
Strong work ethic
Ability to multitask and follow established procedures
Comfortable using various software programs
Most veterinary technicians work under the supervision of veterinarians in animal hospitals and private veterinary clinics. Some technicians are also employed at universities, laboratories, and humane societies.
Veterinary medicine is a highly in-demand field. The BLS projects 16% job growth for veterinary technicians between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average for all jobs. There are currently about 113,000 vet technician jobs in the U.S. Despite the high job growth, pay isn't particularly high: Many vet technicians make around $35,320 per year.
To become a veterinary technician, you must earn an associate degree from an accredited vet tech program and pass a state-administered registration, licensing, or certification exam. Students who earn a bachelor's degree may go on to become a veterinary technologist.
Fish and Game Warden
An exciting career that combines law enforcement and the protection of wild animals is that of a fish and game warden, or conservation officer. These professionals are primarily responsible for the enforcement of law as it pertains to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor recreational activities.
A fish and game warden's specific job responsibilities include the following:
Patrolling fishing, hunting, and other recreational areas
Checking for licenses and issuing warnings and tickets to those who are hunting, fishing, or boating without a proper license
Conducting video and audio surveillance
Educating the public about outdoor recreation laws
Aiding in search and rescue, conservation, and wildlife relocation efforts
Conducting population studies and wildlife surveys
Investigating crimes, accidents, and reports of property damage caused by wildlife
Offering assistance during natural disasters
Communicating with the media and giving interviews
In order to be effective in this role, conservation officers need to have a great appreciation for the outdoors and be knowledgeable about fishing, hunting, boating, camping, and other outdoor recreational pursuits. You should also possess an interest in environmental and conservation issues.
Fish and game wardens typically work for state and local governments. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also employs federal wildlife officers.
According to the BLS, around 6,800 people are currently employed as fish and game wardens. Due to the limited number of federal and state positions, competition can be especially fierce when a position becomes available. It's important for candidates to fully understand and exceed the requirements for this role.
The median annual wage for fish and game wardens is $57,500.
In most states, to become a fish and game warden, you must have a bachelor's degree in biological sciences, criminal justice, natural resources conservation, ecology, fish and wildlife management, or a related field. Many states also require a written exam, oral interview, and fitness test.
Additionally, you may need to pass a medical and psychological examination, background investigation, and drug test. Check with your state department of fish and game to learn more about potential career opportunities.
Feature Image: kali9 / E+ / Getty Images
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