20 Fun Jobs and Side Gigs for Animal Lovers

A woman pets a dog.
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Every time you see a friend’s dog, do you rush over to pet it and play a round of fetch? Do you always carry pet treats in your pocket, just in case you make a new friend?

If so, consider ways to make a living working with animals. It’s a growing field; jobs are expected to grow 15% between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Whether you’re a fan of furry, scaly or feathered creatures, here are a few jobs where you’ll get paid to work with animals.

1. Veterinarian

Tending to the health care needs of people’s pets is serious business.

You’ll need to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from an accredited veterinary college, which costs an average of $46,352 a year for out-of-state students and $22,448 for in-state students, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

You can specialize in working with small or large animals, and your days could be filled with anything from performing complicated surgical procedures to simple checkups.

Potential earnings: $84,460 per year

2. Veterinary Assistant

If you’d love to work in a veterinary clinic or hospital but the idea of spending years in school and shelling out for a pricy graduate education deters you, consider working as a veterinary assistant.

In this role, you’ll care for animals and assist with procedures in animal clinics or hospital settings.

Potential earnings: $23,130 per year

3. Zookeeper

Working as a zookeeper is a common childhood goal. Why not make it a reality?

Kristen Farley-Rambo has this dream job. She works at the Philadelphia Zoo as a gorilla keeper, caring for five Western lowland gorillas. She prepares their food, gives them medication when necessary and helps train them.

Potential earnings: $107,000 per year

4. Pet Store Employee

Working in a pet store is a great way to interact with animals on a daily basis, both the ones in the store and the ones that come in with customers.

You’ll recommend products, stock shelves and work a cash register in addition to caring for thes store’s animals. You’ll need to be in good shape, since moving heavy bags of dog food will almost certainly be part of the gig.

Potential earnings: $23,000 to $49,000 per year

5. Doggie Daycare Staff Member

When pet owners head to work or leave town, many drop off their beloved pets at a doggie daycare to let them get some exercise, interact with other animals and have fun with caring staff members.

Working at a doggie daycare is an active job where you’ll run around with dozens of pets, play endless rounds of fetch, clean up after them, feed them and administer medication when necessary.

Potential earnings: $20,000 per year

6. Horseback Riding Teacher

Horseback riding is a great way for kids and adults to interact with horses. If you’re a skilled equestrian, why not teach others about your passion?

Teaching riding is a great way to earn some cash, share your skills and maybe even get a free or low-cost place to board horses, if you have any, or ride horses in your free time.

Potential earnings: $65,000 per year

7. Pooper Scooper

Not every dog owner has the time, patience or stomach to clean up after his beloved pooch.

That’s why some enterprising dog lovers cash in by running their own poop-scooping businesses. Typically, scoopers will set regular appointments with clients and come by a couple times a week to make their backyards pristine.

Potential earnings: $45 per hour

8. Animal Control Officer

Abandoned, sick and stray animals need compassionate individuals to work with them as animal control officers. It’s a great way to serve your community and help care for pets in tough situations.

Potential earnings: $34,370 per year

9. Animal Shelter Technician

When animals make their way to shelters, they’re often scared and sometimes sick. Shelter technicians care for, feed and clean them, and provide exercise and attention when they can.

If you love animals and want to help them feel as secure as possible during difficult times, this could be the job for you.

Potential earnings: $29,000 per year

10. Animal Trainer

If you have that Cesar Millan touch, consider becoming an animal trainer. While this isn’t a job you can just jump into, ask around to see if you can intern with a local trainer or find an animal training class.

You could even specialize in certain types of animals, like these cat behaviorists.

Potential earnings: $32,400 per year

11. Pet Sitter

Earn up to $100 per night caring for pets while their owners are out of town. Some pet owners will want you to spend the night with their animals, while others will be fine with check-ins a couple times a day.

Expect to earn the bulk of your cash during times when people typically travel out of town, such as during weekends, holidays and summer. Make sure you have proper insurance and bonding since you’ll be working in people’s homes.

Potential earnings: $100 per night or $35 per hour

12. Dog Walker

Get some exercise and spend time with dogs as a dog walker. Consider your experience and each dog’s personality before walking more than one animal at a time, and make sure to bring lots of poop-scooping bags!

Potential earnings: $8 to $20 per hour

13. Veterinary Receptionist

If you love animals but don’t like medical procedures, why not work as a receptionist in a veterinary clinic or hospital?

You’ll greet pets and owners, schedule appointments, and make sure everything’s running smoothly, and you probably won’t have to see much blood.

Potential earnings: $28,000 per year

14. Animal Rights Advocate

If you relish speaking out about your passions, consider working as an animal rights advocate. Organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) hire for a variety of positions involving standing up for the rights of animals.

Potential earnings: $35,000 per year

15. Zoologist or Wildlife Biologist

Wild animals are fascinating, and zoologists and wildlife biologists spend their days learning more about them. These jobs involve studying how wildlife interacts with its environment, as well as studying animals’ physical characteristics and behavior.

You’ll need a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field, like biology or zoology.

Potential earnings: $57,710 per year

16. Pet Groomer

Spend your days up close and personal with pets, making sure they look their best. Pet groomers typically earn an hourly salary, tips and a commission.

Potential earnings: $49,000 per year

17. Animal Welfare Lawyer

Animal rights nonprofits hire lawyers to file lawsuits against animal abusers, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. You’ll need a law degree to break into this career.

Potential earnings: $50,000 per year

18. Animal-Assisted Therapist

Interacting with animals can help people with health issues keep their spirits up and give them something to look forward to.

Hospitals, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities often work with individuals who specialize in animal-assisted therapy to help their residents have positive interactions with animals on a regular basis.

Potential earnings: $60,000 per year

19. Pet Massage Therapist

Who wouldn’t want to get paid to pet dogs and cats? If you’re a pet massage therapist, you can.

The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage provides resources and links to certification programs so you can become certified.

Potential earnings: $50 per hour

20. Pet Photographer

Get paid to take candids and portraits of people’s fur babies as a pet photographer.

You’ll need your own camera and lighting equipment if you’re planning indoor shoots, but you’ll get to spend your days interacting with animals and capturing picture-perfect moments of the utmost cuteness.

Potential earnings: $175 per photo shoot

Your Turn: Do you work with animals in another way? Share your job in the comments!

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.