Want to work with animals? 11 jobs that offer fur full-time
The day you realize you can’t make a living snuggling your pets in bed is a sad day indeed. But with a pile of bills to pay and a life-long 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.
"I became a dog walker for flexibility,” says Josephine Bentivegna, who created a client overflow in just three years. “It allows me time to pursue my art career.”
Ian Burgess, a professional dog walker in Brooklyn, New York, can relate.
"I spent 17 years on Wall Street. Now, I'm my own boss, getting fresh air instead of sitting behind a desk," he says.
Bear in mind that where you live will be a factor in how much you make as a dog walker or any other line of work listed here, with wages sourced by the Department of Labor Statistics. If fur flying everywhere is your kind of office party, check out these gigs that are great for animal lovers.
Doesn’t every animal-loving child ponder a future saving the lives of beloved house pets? Because, well, 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 plus handles stress well, it could be a dream come true. And it’s a job on the rise, as the BLS projects the employment of veterinarians to grow 19% from 2016 to 2026.
Average annual salary: $93,830
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?), and the ultimate payoff will be working around animals every day. Depending on the establishment, there could also be room to grow.
Average annual salary: $29,140
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 people, also) are definitely preferred. Some dogs don’t like getting their hair cut, 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: $23,950
Public relations specialist 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 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 the homeless find furever 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: $68,440
Commonly known as vet techs, these jobs are found in animal shelters, veterinary offices or animals 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: $34,420
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: $28,690
As an expert of wildlife, you’ll be answering a lot of questions. Why do animals behave like they do, being really high on the list. According to EnvironmentalScience.org, 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: $67,760
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 more a plethora of skills (or just basic good manners!) based on their knowledge of animal behavior.
Average annual salary: $35,260
Animal control worker
Picking up stray animals and helping to return lost ones are just some of the ways an animal control worker, the person who works to enforce animal welfare laws in your town or city, will assist their community. 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: $38,490
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: $43,080
Dog walker/pet sitter
Animal owners can’t take vacations without the help of a dog walker or pet sitter to hold down the fort at home (or simply let the pets out to pee during the work day). Trustworthy and reliable workers are in demand and often find jobs by word of mouth. You’ll have to decide whether you want to go it solo, 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: Varies by your location and amount charged per hour. To read about all the factors to consider, click here.
Read next: 10 ways to become a successful dog walker