Animal Centered Careers in America

Animal Centered Careers in America

Many individuals are interested in working with animals and hope to enter a profession that allows them to do so on a regular basis.

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of professions in America that focus on some aspect of animal care, ranging from professional veterinary careers to animal management and research based careers.

This allows most individuals to find an animal centered career that suits both their professional and personal needs.

The Field of Veterinary Medicine

Perhaps the most common field involving animals, veterinary medicine is focused on providing high quality care to pets, livestock and other types of animals.

Due to the rising importance of excellent animal care, the veterinary profession is experiencing a sustained and robust period of growth. Veterinary professionals can serve a wide range of clients, ranging from private pet owners to zoos and commercial ranches.

A veterinarian and his patient.

A veterinarian and his patient.


Veterinarians are highly trained individuals who provide a wide range of treatments to animals under their care. Veterinarians must be licensed by the state in order to legally practice.

The educational requirements for vets include completing a veterinary program and obtaining a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) degree. In addition, most veterinarians complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field before entering a veterinary college.

In addition to their basic services, many veterinarians specialize in various subfields, including oncology and dental medicine. These specialists often take referrals from other veterinary clinics rather than directly accepting animals for treatment. Veterinarians may work as part of a larger organization, or choose to open their own rural or urban clinic.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), vets receive a median annual wage of over $82,000. In addition, between 2010 and 2020 the number of veterinarians is expected to increase by 36 percent, providing excellent employment opportunities for newly graduated veterinarians.

Veterinary Technicians

Veterinary technicians assist veterinarians and other professionals, providing the same type of assistance that a registered nurse does in a doctor’s office. The type of license a vet tech needs is dependent on the state where they are practicing. In some cases, the vet tech may not be required to have a license, but may obtain a voluntary certification from a veterinary technician’s association in order to demonstrate his or her skill.

Becoming a licensed vet tech generally involves completing a two-year veterinary technician program. Upon graduation, the individual receives an associate’s degree in veterinary technology. In some states, the candidate must then take the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) in order to obtain a license.

Vet techs can serve in a wide variety of roles in a number of establishments. In addition to working in a veterinary clinic, many vet techs work in humane societies, zoos, research establishments and wildlife management programs. In many cases, a vet tech may choose to specialize in one or more fields in order to enhance his or her earning potential.

The BLS has determined that the annual median wage for vet techs is over $29,000 dollars. In addition, the employment prospects for veterinary technicians are extremely promising as the number of available jobs is expected to increase by 52 percent between 2010 and 2020.

Veterinary Assistants

Finally, veterinary assistants provide a variety of services in the veterinary care sector. This career does not require a post-secondary education, although optional programs exist for students desiring to enhance their job opportunities. In many cases, veterinary assistants are directly trained by their employers.

Unlike other veterinary professions, veterinary assistants are usually barred from providing any type of veterinary care except when under the direct supervision of a veterinarian or vet tech. In most cases, their duties involve ensuring that the animals are properly housed, fed and watered.

In addition, veterinary assistants ensure that the office, animal enclosures and equipment are maintained in a clean and sterile condition. Finally, some veterinary assistants work in research fields, ensuring that test animals are kept in a comfortable and healthy environment.

Veterinary assistants currently earn a median annual wage of about $22,000. In addition, veterinary assistant jobs are expanding at a robust rate, with the total number of openings expected to increase by 14 percent by 2020. These factors make this an excellent profession for individuals who wish to enter the veterinary care field without an extensive post-secondary education.

Other Animal Related Fields

In addition to the veterinary field, there are a wide range of animal related professions that are available to interested individuals. In many cases, these fields can overlap, allowing individuals with a variety of skills to enter them. In addition, many of these fields are dependent on hands-on experience and may require an extensive education or internship.

Wildlife Management

The field of wildlife management is an increasingly important one, due to the growing encroachment of cities and suburban regions on formerly uninhabited regions. Because of the varied nature of this field, many different types of professionals can find employment in the wildlife management sector.

Common examples are zoologists, biologists, wildlife range managers, and wildlife refuge managers.

Federal, state and local governments often fund wildlife management programs, and individuals entering a wildlife management career may in fact become part of the civil service. This can provide extremely stable employment prospects, although civil service examinations and advancement can be very competitive. In addition, some private foundations and businesses may employ wildlife management professionals for a variety of reasons, allowing qualified individuals to find employment in the private sector.

Because of the wide variety of qualifications found among wildlife management professionals, it is impossible to establish any single salary level. However, wildlife management professionals usually receive competitive wages when compared to other fields with similar educational requirements. In addition, many wildlife management programs are personally rewarding, especially for individuals who enjoy working in the outdoors alongside the animals they are studying.

Zoos and Wildlife Parks

Many individuals are employed by zoos and wildlife parks, ranging from biologists to veterinarians who specialize in the treatment of wild animals. This field, like wildlife management can involve employees of every level of education. In addition to ensuring that the animals remain comfortable and healthy, many zoos also conduct research into a variety of issues.

A wild pig under the temporary care of a zoologist.

A wild pig under the temporary care of a zoologist.

Zoologists often work with other zoos and governments in order to help breed endangered species in captivity. In other cases, zoos and wildlife parks may prepare animals for release back into their natural environment. Finally many zoologists work as educators, informing the public about various types of wild animals and their importance to the world’s ecology.

Zoologists require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but many zoologists choose to obtain a master’s degree or a Ph.D. In addition, most zoologists specialize in a single area, especially at the higher levels of education.

According to the BLS, the median annual pay for zoologists and wildlife biologists was just over $57,000 in 2010.

Although this field is not growing rapidly, it is experiencing steady growth. The growing importance of environmental management programs makes it likely that zoology will see greater growth in the future.

There are a vast number of animal related fields in the United States. From veterinary medicine to zoology, interested individuals can find a rewarding career in nearly every pay range and educational level. With today’s growing emphasis on the importance of high quality animal care for domestic and wild animals alike, coupled with an increasing desire to protect endangered species, it is likely that animal related fields will continue to increase in importance, leading to a growing demand for individuals to fill those professions.