11 jobs working with animals — and how much money you can make

March 31, 2021

The day you realize you can’t make a living snuggling your pets in bed is a sad day indeed. But if you have a pile of bills to pay and a lifelong connection to animals, you can consider a career where you can be surrounded by fur full time.

A veterinarian may be the first thing you think of (followed by: “How many years of school will that require?”), but you should know that there are other opportunities out there, many of them offering a combination of crazy cute coworkers and schedules considerably more flexible than your typical 9 to 5.

Looking for colleagues with a penchant for leisurely walks (and who will never email you after hours)? Consider these 11 jobs working with animals. 

1. Dog walker/pet sitter

Animal owners can’t take vacations (or, in some cases, go to work) without the help of a dog walker or pet sitter to hold down the fort at home. Trustworthy and reliable workers are in demand and often find jobs by word of mouth. You’ll have to decide whether you want to start your own solo pet care business, taking in all your dog walking or pet sitting earnings alone, or work with a company, which often takes care of the scheduling and billing but also takes a cut.

Average annual salary: Hourly rate varies by experience, job duties and location. Find the going rate for pet care jobs in your area

2. Dog groomer

Must love dogs! Of course, that’s a given. Bathing, brushing and trimming will be the main parts of your job as a dog groomer, but customer service skills (with pups especially, but pet parents, also) are definitely preferred. Some dogs don’t like getting their haircut, so you’ll be tasked with making pets feel comfortable in a sometimes stressful environment, which takes the right kind of person.

Average annual salary: $24,990

3. Veterinary assistant

Vet assistants do just that: assist the veterinarian in a variety of areas, including exams, kennel work and clinical duties. That person who lends a hand during the veterinary nail clipping, cleans a cage when it has been soiled by a nervous patient or helps prepare an exam room before an examination — that would be you. So get ready to be hands-on!

Average annual salary: $29,690

4. Veterinary receptionist

If you’re a person who can pivot from one situation to the next — phone calls, patient walk-ins, paperwork and more — being a receptionist at a veterinary office or animal shelter may be the job for you. Organization skills will be key (Plus: Can you keep your chill in the presence of multiple barking dogs?), but the ultimate payoff will be working with animals every day. Depending on the establishment, there could also be room to grow.

Average annual salary: $31,250

5. Veterinary technologist/technician

Commonly known as vet techs, these jobs are found in animal shelters, veterinary offices or animal hospitals, where lab tests are being performed to diagnose diseases or injuries in animals. Vet techs also prepare vaccines, take blood samples, maintain laboratory equipment and much more. Proper training in veterinary technology is required.

Average annual salary: $35,320

6. Animal trainer

Naughty dogs, show dogs and service dogs alike need to learn how to “dog” somewhere. Animal trainers receive certifications — through organizations like the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers — and learn how to best teach canines, horses and other animals a plethora of skills (or just basic good manners!) based on their knowledge of animal behavior.

Average annual salary: $36,240

7. Animal control worker

Picking up stray animals and helping to return lost pets are just some of the ways you will assist your community as an animal control worker, the person who works to enforce animal welfare laws in your town or city. You should know that it’s not a role for the faint of heart: They can also deal with animal cruelty situations or animals that could be a threat to the safety of others.

Average annual salary: $39,710

8. Animal breeder

People who love particular breeds of dogs or cats will pay a pretty penny for them. Therefore, animal breeders can make a living raising animals to breed puppies and kittens. But you’re going to need to know what you’re doing, including characteristics of those breeds. It is also good practice to work with a veterinarian to properly care for pregnant animals and their offspring. The business side of things will be another responsibility.

Average annual salary: $46,420

9. Zoologist

One of the coolest jobs working with animals? A zoologist! As an expert of wildlife, you’ll be answering a lot of questions. Zoologists may study a particular species or group of species, either in the wild or in captivity at zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks and more. Entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree while research or faculty positions at a school require a Ph.D. So be prepared to hit the books.

Average annual salary: $67,200

10. Public relations specialist for a shelter or rescue

Your job as a public relations specialist will be getting the word out about your shelter or rescue, the pets who currently call the center home and any events happening inside or outside its walls. A passion for animals is important because your goal will be helping cats and dogs shine in press emails, social media posts and the like to ultimately help homeless animals find fur-ever homes. So brush up on those writing skills! Also, bear in mind that salaries in animal rescues will vary, and some positions may be volunteer-based (a good way to get your foot in the door).

Average annual salary: $70,190

11. Veterinarian 

Doesn’t every animal-loving child ponder a future saving the lives of beloved house pets? (Because pets should live forever!) Being an animal doctor definitely isn’t child’s play, but for the right person who has a great animal connection and who handles stress well, it’s one of the best jobs working with animals — as well as one of the most lucrative.

Average annual salary: $104,820

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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