I had a dream. When I was a kid my life goal was to become a veterinarian, until I realized blood was involved. So, that dream was left in the dust. In my day there was no internet (GASP!) to be able to find jobs with animals – and of course it was never talked about by school counselors either.
But now, there are options! There might even be more options for jobs with animals than you might even realize. I did exclude a few jobs that I felt would not be great for animal lovers like breeders, animal scientists or animal testing careers. I wanted to only profile careers that a true animal lover would want to do – which includes protecting and caring for animals!
So, if you love animals – and I am guessing you do, because you are here – then check out all the options you have to spend your working life with animals!
- Animal-Assisted Therapist
- Animal Control Officer
- Animal Trainer
- Animal Transporter
- Kennel Attendant
- Lab Animal Caretaker
- Pet Adoption Counselor
- Pet Detective
- Pet Groomer
- Pet Massage Therapist
- Pet Photographer
- Pet Sitter/Dog Walker
- Pet Store Manager
- Shelter Manager
- Veterinary Assistant
- Veterinary Rehabilitation Assistant
- Veterinary Technician
- Wildlife Rehabilitator
- Zoologist/ Wildlife Biologist
Jobs With Animals For You Animal Lovers!
I did my best to try and source all the best paying careers working with animals. Working with animals is a small overall career option, there are less jobs available than many other industry like skilled trade careers.
So, it is important to really consider your future if you are looking for a career that has a lot of opportunity for growth and compensation. You should also realize that many of these jobs can be physical demanding and some can be hard to handle emotionally as well.
Animals bring so much joy and comfort to our lives – and because of that, mental health professionals are using them more often in therapy. In one study done it was shown that animal assisted therapies can offer significant reduction in depression symptoms.
Animals are also used in hospitals and nursing homes to bring a bit of joy to those that are ill. This career choice requires a love for not only pets, but people. A formal education is required to become a therapist. This career path is showing a solid outlook for careers in the coming years making it a good career option.
Salary: According to CareerBuilder, the average annual salary is $69,000
Education: A Bachelor’s degree is required, Master’s and Ph.D are recommended
Animal Control Officer
An animal control officer (or worker) works in local communities to keep animal safe. A common service they provide the community is the trapping of wild animals that may be in places they do not belong. They also investigate cases of animal cruelty, abandoned animals and rescue injured wildlife.
In some cases they may be required to deal with the police and even testify in court if it is an abuse case. Animal control workers will need to be good with people and of course love animals. Some animal may be scared or abused and you will need to understand their fears to be able to save or protect them.
Salary: The median annual salary is $40,680
Education: In most areas a high school diploma or GED are all that are required
There are a variety of opportunities to work as an animal trainer. You can choose to work with dogs as a dog trainer or with horses for riding or with all animals to be a part of TV or movies.
You can also be a special needs animal trainer which works with dogs that are used by the disabled. Trained service animals can help with day to day tasks and can often take a year or more to be fully trained.
The salary range for careers as animal trainers are based on the speciality you go into. Those that work with animals for TV or movies will make much more than a local dog trainer for example.
Salary: The median annual salary is $37,950
Education: No formal education is required
Imagine enjoying a wonderful road trip with a furry friend by your side! As an animal transporter you can either work with rescues to help transport animals to new locations or work with pet owners.
In the rescue world we need transporters to move animals from shelters to foster homes and from foster homes to veterinarian visits and more.
For pet owners, the fear of flying a pet is real. So, instead they may turn to ground transportation to get their pet from point A to point B.
The opportunity to create your own business is a good one in this career. Or if you prefer you can be a part of an existing business looking to grow to new areas.
Salary: Salary is dependent on how many hours you work and where you work estimated hourly average based on current job listings is $16-$20.
Education: No formal education is required but APHIS certification is recommended and pet care certification is recommended
This one is just for the horse lovers! If spending your days fitting horses for shoes sounds fun, then a job as a farrier might be a good pick. Farriers inspect the hooves of a horse and looks for issues with health or sickness.
They will use a variety of tools to trim excess material from the hoof and make sure it is kept a proper length.
Salary: According to salary.com the median annual salary is $24, 274
Education: Formal education is not required, but it is recommended to get a degree in farrier sciences. Farrier certification is also recommended.
A kennel attendant is responsible for the day to day care of animals. This job requires an attendant to clean kennels and other areas animals use as well as feed and play with animals. Depending on experience you may also provide animals medications and/or talk to potential adopters about adopting a pet.
As a kennel attendant you may work in a shelter or rescue, doggie daycare, zoo, animal hospitals, or other locations where pets may need care.
A kennel attendant can be the first step to becoming a veterinary assistant or even veterinarian if you are looking for jobs with more future growth.
Salary: The median annual salary is $26,730
Education: GED or high school diploma
Lab Animal Caretaker
A lab animal caretaker or lab animal technician as they are sometimes called, provide daily care for the animals that are used in labs. They do a range of tasks from feeding and cleaning their cages to sterilizing lab equipment and preparing samples for research and studies.
Earning potential: According to ZipRecruiter the average annual salary is approximately $33,416
Education: High school diploma and GED are required and an Associate’s degree in animal studies is recommended.
Pet Adoption Counselor
If matchmaking is something that sounds interesting, then becoming a pet adoption counselor might be a perfect fit. You will help families find the perfect pet at a shelter or rescue.
Your day may include looking at applications from families, educating owners on pet care, processing paperwork, and of course doing meet and greets. More basic tasks like answering phones, filing or other office duties may be required as well.
Salary: According to ZipRecruiter the average annual salary is approximately $28,000
Education: High school diploma or GED and animal behavior or psychology courses are recommended
You might not be aware of just how many dogs and cats get lost everyday in the United States! I cannot think of anything more fulfilling than returning that lost pet to a devastated family. As a pet detective you will be scouring the neighborhood using your natural skills and instincts to find lost pets.
Some pet detectives will use a dog to help locate the lost animals. If you choose this career you should expect to receive calls all hours of the day and night and be able to face all types of weather to help find lost animals.
You can work alongside a more experienced pet finder to learn the ropes, take a certification course, or if you are naturally gifted at finding pets – then start out on your own. Working as a volunteer for rescues is a great way to kick start a solo career.
Salary: According to ZipRecruiter the average annual salary is $30,571
Education: While there is no formal education required, there are certification programs which are recommended
Pet groomers are the people who make your pets smell and look good. From bathing your dog to cleaning a cat’s ears, they do everything needed to keep your pet clean and fresh. You will be dealing with people a lot so great customer services skills are required.
You might work for yourself, a mobile groomer or in a pet shop. It is recommended you do work under someone else for a few years before you go out on your own though.
Salary: There is no official data on pet groomer salaries, but on Indeed there are wide ranges of salaries.
Education: GED or high school diploma and an internship or on-the-job training
Pet Massage Therapist
Pet massage therapists offer your pet a sense of relief and well-being. Whether getting a massage for an injury or for mental stress, having a massage for your pet can be a way of making your pet happier – and healthier.
Different states have different laws for who can massage animals. It is important to know what the laws are in your state before you dive into this path.
Salary: According to Comparably.com the average annual salary is $56,024
Education: Varies by state but certification is recommended
I have worked as a pet photographer here in NJ for many years. I started before cell phones had such amazing cameras so I was able to make a decent income doing it. These days it may be a bit harder, but if you are good – and can market yourself well, there is still great potential.
As a pet photographer you can also donate your time to shelters and rescues to take pictures of homeless pets. This is a great way to get your name out there and give back to the community.
Salary: There is no formal salary range for this job, if you are self-employed you can charge what you feel is a fair rate. If you work for others you may get an hourly rate.
Education: No formal education is required
Pet Sitter/Dog Walker
With more people than ever before owning pets, pet sitters are becoming an important part of the family. With busy families needing a little extra help caring for their pets, a pet sitter job can be a great option. Not everyone has families and friends that are willing to care for their pets – and that is where a pet sitter comes in.
Your responsibilities would include walking pets, feedings, changing litter boxes, and other basic care needs. If an emergency arises you may need to bring a pet to the clients’ veterinarian as well.
You can work for a local pet sitting agency or you any of the online services like DogVacay or Rover to list yourself as a pet sitter.
While working for a pet sitting service may not make a great long-term career, owning one can be lucrative. Owning a pet sitting service is a lot of work and requires exceptional customer service and management skills. But, if this is something you think you would love, it can be a great way to do what you love and make good money doing it.
Salary: Median hourly pay is about $12 for a pet sitter nationwide with some areas like NJ/NYC paying much more
Education: No formal education is required, but a GED or high school diploma is recommended.
Pet Store Manager
If retail is your thing, then a career as a pet store manager will meet your needs. As a pet store manager you will be responsible for everything from staffing to stock as well as service and managing the finances.
You can either choose to open your own pet store, work for a mom and pop pet store, or go for a bigger brand like PetSmart or Petco.
In this career you can expect to work nights and weekends. You will also need exceptional people skills as you will be responsible for hiring, firing, and dealing with customers every day. Experience working in pet stores as a cashier, stock-person, or any other capacity can help you tremendously as you grow your career into management.
Salary: Salaries range widely dependent on the size of the pet store and area you work in. ZipRecruiter shows an average annual salary of approximately $40,000
Education: Larger corporations typically require a Bachelor’s degree or prior corporate retail management experience
While this can be an amazing job, it can also be one of the more emotional ones. As an animal shelter manager you are responsible for the entire shelter you will be working for. You will need to ensure the shelter is clean, well-staffed, create fundraisers, build community support, give tours, and so much more.
Being responsible for the staff means hiring the best people who not only love animals, but people as well. If you have an indoor and outdoor section you would be responsible for all of it.
You will have to deal with a lot of politics as most shelters are supported by their local government. This means balancing a very tight budget and always looking for other funding methods is a top priority in this job.
Salary: Average annual salary from Payscale.com is $42,000
Education: Bachelor’s degree is highly recommend in an animal related field as well as experience in a shelter environment
Yep, this was my dream job – as it is for many kids, until the realities of the challenges of the job come into play. Being a veterinarian is a career that you definitely need a love of animals for because you will be seeing some horrific things. From injuries to abuse – it is a job that requires a strong stomach – and stronger heart.
You may work with just dogs and cats or might even specialize in other pets like reptiles or small animals. There is also the option to focus on specific issues like only doing emergency visits or dealing with cancer in pets.
Because of the increase in homes with animals, this career is growing fast with lots of openings for veterinarians in the coming years. You can even work as a virtual vet if working from home is your thing.
A virtual vet offers more basic health care advice to customers and may also consult on behavioral issues. This became popular during COVID, but the success of it may make it a long-term option for veterinarians.
Salary: The median annual wage is $99,250
Education: A doctor of veterinary medicine degree is required from an accredited veterinary college. State licensing is often required as well.
Veterinary assistants are a critical part of the veterinary team in an office. Your day may include working at the front desk or walking the dogs that are there getting treatments.
You may also do the feedings or help assist a veterinarian during an exam. Working with people is commonly part of the job so good people skills are required.
Salary: The median annual salary is $29,930
Education: No formal education is required, but a GED or High School diploma is recommended
Veterinary Rehabilitation Assistant
Definitely a niche job, but one that can give you all the good feels you need! A veterinary rehabilitation assistant uses several different methods for helping injured animals get stronger and improve physically.
Animal hydrotherapy is one that is often used on animals that have been severely injured and need rehabilitation to improve. The water helps them build back muscle and strength in a low-impact way. It can also be a safe way for obese dogs to lose weight with some gentle exercise.
You would work with each pet to ensure they use the hydrotherapy sessions in a way that will help them and be safe. An animal will usually be referred to you by a veterinarian.
A hydrotherapy specialist will typically also have experience as a rehabilitation professional and have experience in a range of therapies. This can include therapeutic, acupuncture, and more.
Salary: Average salary from ZipRecruiter is $43, 153
Education: Licensed veterinary technicians can become certified as a CCRVN or CCRA
As a veterinarian technician you will work under a licensed veterinarian. Some daily duties may include helping the vet run diagnostic exams, do urinalysis, restrain animals during assessments, administer anesthesia, and so much more.
Vet technicians often work in veterinarian offices and will work with pet owners to explain any medical issues and help them understand medication requirements. So, those people skills are a must for this job.
There are also opportunities in colleges for this career which can offer better pay in many cases. This is a growing career with lots of opportunities in the coming years.
Salary: The median annual salary is $36,260.
Education: Minimum of an Associate’s degree is required but Bachelor’s is recommended. Most states require passing of Veterinary Technician National Examination
The ultimate career for animal lovers that does so much good for the world. As a wildlife rehabilitator you will be responsible for caring for wild animals that have been injured or sick. Nursing them back to health is your ultimate goal with the final finale being the releasing of the animal back to their natural habitat.
You will work with veterinarians and sometimes wildlife biologists so good people skills are needed.
Working with local schools as an educator may also be part of the job. Helping kids learn about the animals you care for and how they can help them is critical to our future wildlife!
Salary: According to ZipRecruiter the average annual salary is $47,716
Education: State licensing may be required. While a college degree is not required, it is highly recommended.
Lions and tigers and bears oh my! If dogs and cats are great, but you are looking for more exotic critters to spend your time with, then a career as a zookeeper might be just your thing.
As a zookeeper you will be feeding and watering animals, analyzing their daily habits and behaviors and ensure they are being properly cared for. You may also lead talks for zoo visitors or do local community events to help bring awareness to the animals you care for.
Salary: According to Talent.com the average salary is $42,315
Education: Bachelor’s degree in life science or animal science recommended
Zoologist/ Wildlife Biologist
A zoologist and wildlife biologist are very closely related in terms of job duties. They both study physical characteristics of animals as well as the animal behaviors and how they interact with the ecosystem.
Working in these fields means you will doing a lot of testing and analysis as well as experiments to better understand the animals you will be working with. Their ultimate goal is to help us understand various wildlife species.
What is the difference between a zoologist and wildlife biologist?
A zoologist will most commonly study a particular type of animal like birds or amphibians while a biologist will study ecosystems and animal populations.
In both positions you might find yourself working with a team so good people skills will be needed.
Salary: The median annual salary is $66,350
Education: Bachelor’s degree is required but a Master’s degree and Ph.D. is recommended for better opportunities
Animal Career Salaries
It is important to note that without a college degree most jobs working with animals do not pay incredibly well. Your education and experience can bring more opportunity and we always recommend furthering your education. With online degrees being so flexible – it is worth it to be able to have some growth opportunities.
If you are right out of high school or in retirement phase, many of these jobs are a great fit!
The salaries that are listed are averages from a variety of websites and the Bureau of labor Statistics. Job sites get their averages from actual job listings in different areas. So while these are all guides, actual salaries may vary for a variety of reasons.
So, ready to start your new career?
As you can see there are so many great options for you to work with animals! While some may require more education – some may pay a bit less – there are options for everyone.
You need to think about this path though to ensure you are making the right choice. Can you deal with blood? Do you enjoy working with people? Do you mind getting dirty?
These are just some things you need to think about.
Do you work in any of the jobs above – or even another not listed here? Let us know what you love or hate about your animal career!
Source: All salary data is from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics unless otherwise noted