Animal Careers

Young people looking for a career path and adults returning to the workforce or looking for a life change may find their passion in a job or profession dealing with animals.

Often inspired by family members or others who work with animals, by a teacher who lit the spark with classroom animals and zoo field trips, or by a bond with a beloved pet, young people may head for a life as a veterinarian, a researcher, or other medical professional; join mom and dad on the family farm or ranch; or study wildlife biology and behavior for work in a zoo, a nature center, or a state or federal wildlife agency. Adults returning to the workforce or changing careers might attend a two-year school to become a veterinary technician, open a dog or horse boarding facility or pet grooming shop, start a dog or horse training business, or become an animal chiropractor, massage, or acupuncture specialist.

Jobs for animal lovers include ranch or farm hand, dog groomer, zoo keeper, horse shoer (farrier), dog handler, rodeo rider, breeder, receptionist in a veterinary clinic, research technician, stable hand, or pet store clerk.

High school and college students can gain valuable experience in animal jobs, and some make satisfying weekend employment for people who love animals but spend their weekdays in an office or other business setting. There are volunteer opportunities, too; nature centers, historical farms, zoos, animal shelters and other animal organizations need help both behind the scenes and in their public education programs. And last but not least, some stables and kennels offer reduced rates for services to boarders who help take care of their charges.

Part-time and volunteer jobs with animals not only provide hands-on experience, they give young people a chance to learn from experienced owners and handlers. These opportunities are priceless for those who plan an animal career or profession and at least provide a foundation for a lifelong association with animals.

NAIA encourages young people to take advantage of any opening to learn about animal handling and care for personal satisfaction and to help advance public and individual understanding of the value of animals in all aspects of life. Take horseback riding lessons, train a dog, teach a bird to talk, participate in a pet therapy program with your dog or cat, join a 4-H club, become a junior member of a dog club, or volunteer at a nature center to get started on a career path or begin a lifelong connection with the animals that stir your heart.