About Us

Working with Animals

Animal Careers

Can I get a job at the ASPCA? What are some careers with animals?

In NYC

The ASPCA is a national organization located in New York City, and is not affiliated with any other animal agency in the United States. To search for current available positions at the ASPCA or to apply for a position, view our job listings.

Outside NYC

Outside the New York area, check with local animal welfare and humane organizations that are located throughout the United States. Careers in the animal welfare world cover a broad range-from veterinarian, lawyer, marketing associate, writer, animal control officer, etc.

Click here to search for a humane organization near you to inquire about available positions in your area.

The following titles offer further information on learning about careers working with animals:

  • Career Success with Pets, by Kim Barber; Howell Book House, A Simon & Schuster/Macmillan Company; New York, NY, 1996.
  • 105 Careers for Animal Lovers, by Paula Fitzsimmons; PJ Publications; Madison, WI, 2002.
  • The World of Work: Choosing a Career in Animal Care, by Jane Hurwitz; The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc; New York, NY, 1997
  • Careers for Animal Lovers & Other Zoological Types by Louise Miller; VGM Career Horizons, a division NTC Publishing; Lincoln, IL, 1991.
  • Careers for Animal Lovers by Russell Shorto; Choices: The Millbrook Press; Brookfield, CT, 1992.
  • Careers with Animals, The Humane Society of the United States by Willow Ann Sirch; Fulcrum Publishing; Golden, CO, 2000.

Here is an overview of potential careers working with or for animals:

Veterinarian

Being a veterinarian can be a very rewarding career. To become a veterinarian, you'll need to:

  • Go through four years of college, taking pre-med courses like biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics. You'll also need to take some animal-related courses like animal biology, animal nutrition, zoology, etc.
  • Go through four years of veterinary school. Competition for entry is very tough. Schools will look for animal-related experience such as working with a vet in clinics or research or working at a farm, stable, or animal shelter; good grades are essential.

For certain types of veterinary medicine a one-year internship is required, for others an additional 2-3 year residency is required.

Just as there are medical specialties in human medicine, there are medical specialties in veterinary medicine.

For more information, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association at http://www.avma.org/.

Veterinary Technician

A Veterinary Technician is very much like a nurse. A vet tech helps a veterinarian take care of animal patients. To become a vet tech you'll need to graduate from a vet tech program, usually an Associate’s Degree (AA), and pass a state certification exam. Vet techs can work wherever veterinarians work—in animal hospitals, shelters, farms, etc. For more information, contact the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website at http://www.avma.org/. In New York City, contact LaGuardia Community College/CUNY at (718) 482-7206 or http://www.cuny.edu/.

Wildlife Rehabilitator

Another career that involves helping animals heal and recuperate is wildlife rehabilitator. A wildlife rehabilitator takes in wild animals who are injured, sick or orphaned and provides medical and supportive care. If the animal is capable of fending for herself after recovery, the animal is released back into the wild. If the animal cannot care for or feed herself, the animal would be taken to a wildlife refuge. To become a wildlife rehabilitator, you will need to:

  • Take courses and seminars to learn how to care for injured, sick and orphaned wildlife.
  • Complete appropriate coursework established by wildlife rehabilitation associations for certification.
  • Obtain state and federal permits to handle wildlife.

Wildlife rehabilitators can work independently or at animal shelters and wildlife refuges.

Animal Attendant/Kennel Worker

Animal Attendants feed, water, groom, bathe and exercise animals and clean, disinfect and repair their cages. They also socialize animals, provide companionship and observe behavioral changes that could indicate illness or injury. Animal attendants can work at kennels, shelters, hospitals, stables, aquariums and zoological parks. Most of the training for animal attendants is "on-the-job.” In zoos and aquariums, a college degree in biology, animal sciences or a related field is usually required.

Groomer

Like animal attendants, much of a groomer's training is on the job while serving as an apprentice. There are also trade schools that teach grooming skills. Groomers can work in grooming businesses, pet supply stores, animal shelters, stables, etc., wherever animals are. There are no educational standards for groomers and no licensing procedures for groomers. There is a national organization for groomers that offers voluntary certification. For more information, contact the Dog Groomers Association of America at (746) 962-2711 or email ndga@nauticom.net. You may also go to an informational grooming site such as http://www.petgroomer.com/

Dog Walker/Pet Sitter

Today, many people are away from their homes for nine or more hours a day for work. Dogs don't always like to be left alone for such long periods of time, and they need to go out for walks several times a day. Some dog walkers will take out one dog at a time for 15 minutes to an hour. Others will take out many dogs at the same time, sometimes taking them to dog runs and keeping the dogs out, playing for hours.

A similar career would be in doggie day care—working in or running a facility where people drop off their dogs before work and pick them up on their way home. Pet sitters are people who take care of pets when their owners are away on vacation or on business trips. There are no educational or training requirements for any of these positions, but they do require liability insurance and bonding. For more information, contact Pet Sitters International at http://www.petsit.com/ or The Pet Center at http://www.thepetcenter.com/.

Animal Behaviorist/Animal Trainer

An animal trainer is someone who either trains animals or teaches people how to train their own pets. An animal trainer can work in a variety of settings—at animal shows, in animal shelters, training animals for movies and television and training service dogs.

There are no educational standards or licensing requirements for animal trainers. There are training programs, internships and apprenticeships. There are also voluntary certification programs. Animal behaviorists often hold advanced degrees in animal sciences and behavioral principles. Most have Ph.Ds. An animal behaviorist will often deal with behavior problems in animals (separation anxiety, compulsive behaviors, etc.). For more information, contact the following organizations:

Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (212) 356-0682

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (800) PET-DOGS

Animal Behavior Society (812) 856-5541

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Humane Educator

Humane Educators vary greatly in terms of their educational backgrounds and experience. A background in education is certainly helpful, but not necessary. Public-speaking skills, the ability to teach others, and a love for children and animals are also helpful. Many humane educators are volunteers or employees of humane organizations, such as the ASPCA. Humane Educators teach others about animals, their needs, their abilities, and aim to instill a respect and reverence for all life.

Therapist

"Therapists" for animals are usually animal behaviorists. They observe an animal's behavior and environmental situation, and if necessary, develop a plan to change the animal's problematic behavior—helping the animal develop "normal" behavior patterns. Animals can also serve as therapists. Many animals are brought into hospitals and nursing homes, and animals can be used to help psychologists reach patients who are socially withdrawn. Interaction with an animal is sometimes offered as a reward for speaking in speech therapy or walking in physical therapy. Brushing an animal can be a physical therapy exercise. The educational requirements for different types of therapists vary. Many volunteers will go through training with their animals to be certified as animal-assisted therapy teams. They will then visit hospitals and nursing homes with their animals. This may be the only "therapeutic" training the person has.

Lobbyist/Lawyer

A lobbyist is someone who tries to influence legislators to pass bills in an area of special interest. Most lobbyists are lawyers. To become a lawyer, one must go through four years of college and earn a bachelor’s degree, then complete three years of law school and earn a law degree (J.D., or jurist doctor).

To practice law in any state, an individual needs to be admitted to the bar, or licensed, in that state. This will require passing a written "bar examination" and, in many states, a written ethics examination. Many lawyers work in more traditional ways for animals, too. Lawyers can work for humane organizations, for individual people, for individual animals. For more information, visit the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Humane Law Enforcement/Animal Control Officer

Another career that involves both the law and animals is Humane Law Enforcement Officer/Animal Control Officer. HLE/AC officers inspect kennels, pet shops, stables and other places where animals are kept to make sure that animal welfare regulations are being followed. HLE/AC officers respond to and investigate reports of animal cruelty. HLE/AC officers also enforce licensing laws and rescue trapped animals.

Requirements for becoming a HLE/AC officer may include a high school diploma, courses in criminology and animal science and on-the-job training (may be similar to police training).

Some states require certification. Contact your local animal agency for information on humane law enforcement and animal control officer positions.

Zoologist

Becoming a zoologist involves a strong interest in animals and a lot of schooling. A graduate degree (Masters or Doctorate) will be required. Zoologists can work in zoos, but can also work in state and federal agriculture departments and animal welfare organizations.

Marine Biologist

Becoming a marine biologist is also a graduate school endeavor. Job competition can be fierce. Marine biologists can work in a variety of settings. International, federal, state and local government agencies hire marine scientists for positions in research, education, management, and legal and policy development.

Fisheries and oil and gas companies hire marine biologists. Environmental advocacy and animal welfare organizations may also hire marine biologists, as may aquariums, zoos and museums.

Publications

There are numerous books and magazines devoted to animals. These publications may employ writers, editors, photographers, illustrators and art directors. Most jobs require a college degree in the liberal arts, with degrees in Communications, Journalism, and English preferred.

Photographer

Working as a photographer requires a good technical understanding of photography and creativity. Entry-level positions in photojournalism may require a college degree in photography. Basic courses in photography cover equipment, processes and techniques. Because these careers seem so glamorous and exciting, there are more artists than jobs for the positions, so training and talent are key to success.