32 Fur-Tastic Jobs Working With Animals — And How to Land One
Do you get along better with your pets than other people? Are the zoo and the aquarium your happy places?
Was the best part of working from home during the pandemic the endless amounts of belly rubs and games of fetch between Zoom calls?
Working with animals might be your secret calling. And it doesn’t just have to be some unrealized dream you visit during a cat nap. Animal lovers can find an abundance of careers that allow them to work with animals, and you don’t always need any specialized education to land them.
32 Jobs for Working with Animals
We explored a range of jobs that let you work with animals: those that require a degree or certification, those that have no education requirements, and those that you can do from the comfort of your home.
- 9 Animal Jobs That Require at Least a Bachelor’s Degree
- 19 Jobs Working with Animals That Don’t Require Formal Education
- 4 Work with Animals Jobs That You Can Do From Home
Easily one of the most popular answers to “what do you want to be when you grow up.” Veterinarians have important jobs and help us make smart decisions to keep our dogs, cats, birds, lizards, rodents and even fish happy and healthy, and they treat them for their illnesses and injuries when tragedy strikes.
Like medical doctors, vets can range from general practitioners to highly specialized vets, like those who focus on cancer or heart disease.
Education required: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you will need a doctoral or professional degree to become a vet. In 2019, the Association of American Veterinary Colleges reported that the least expensive in-state degree cost $163,341; the most expensive out-of-state was $402,136 at the University of California, Davis.
Salary estimates: The BLS reports that the 2020 median pay for vets was $99,250 per year or $47.72 per hour.
2. Certified Veterinary Technician
A veterinarian is only as good as their certified vet tech (CVT), however. CVTs do it all.
“CVTs do a plethora of things for animals,” Michelle Selekman, a former CVT (now a stay-at-home mom to one human and, of course, three fur babies), says. “We take their vitals, take blood samples, provide anesthesia for surgical procedurals, sometimes assist in said procedures, administer medications, safely restrain for veterinarian’s examinations, provide nail trims, express anal sacs (not the most glamorous of duties!), and in some cases bathe and clip. The list goes on!”
Education required: The BLS reports that veterinary technicians need at least their associate degree, but Selekman reports that after getting her degree, she also had to pass the Veterinary Technician’s National Exam (VTNE) to become certified.
Salary estimates: The BLS reports that the 2020 median pay for vet technicians was $36,260, or $17.43 per hour.
Note: A vet tech differs from a veterinary assistant, which is described at No. 10.
Maybe you have always dreamed of feeding lions and bathing elephants. Maybe you just grew up playing Zoo Tycoon and want to see if it’s as easy as the videogame makes it seem (it’s probably not). Whatever your reason, the decision to become a zookeeper is an admirable one.
Zookeepers are responsible for feeding and watering the animals, observing and recording their behavior, cleaning their exhibits, providing enrichment and talking to guests about conservation and endangered species.
Education required: According to Study.com, a bachelor’s degree is recommended for a zookeeper, typically in biology, zoology or animal science.
Salary estimates: Study.com reports that the median annual salary for zookeepers in 2021 is $30,950.
4. National Park Ranger
The National Parks make for the perfect solo trip, friendship bonding experience and family vacation. But they require a lot of maintenance, conservation and preservation efforts, traffic control, research and more. That’s where National Park Rangers come in.
The kind of work rangers do is as varied as our own National Parks, from aquatic research at Biscayne National Park in South Florida to providing safe experiences in bear country in Glacier (Montana), Yellowstone (Wyoming), etc. Some rangers lead bird-watching expeditions while others restore butterfly habitats.
Education required: Typically, park rangers earn a four-year bachelor’s degree, though the major can vary from earth and environmental science to biology.
Salary estimates: Glassdoor reports that the average pay for a park ranger is $40,360 a year.
Note: State and local parks also employ rangers, as well as national forests, seashores, etc.
5. Animal Welfare Lawyer
Animals can’t speak for themselves in legal matters, and they are also grossly underserved by current laws in the U.S. It takes passionate animal welfare lawyers to fight for increased rights for animals, whether they are our pets, our coworkers or even our food.
Animal rights lawyers may focus on humane treatment of food sources (like cows and chickens) or instead advocate for declassification of pets as property. They may also help you set up a pet power of attorney or a pet trust.
Education required: Unsurprisingly, you will need to earn an undergraduate degree, go to law school, and pass the Bar exam in your state to become a lawyer. Beyond that, you will need to intern or take an entry-level role in your chosen area of focus to work your way up to practice animal law.
Salary estimates: The Animal Legal Defense Fund reports that the average lawyer in this field makes just $50,000 starting out. If you work for a larger firm and take on some animal rights cases, you can expect to make more.
6. Animal-Assisted Therapist
Increasingly, mental health professionals are turning to animals as part of their therapy practices. Animal-assisted therapy helps patients prone to depression or anxiety and is increasingly popular at nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and hospitals with long-term patients.
Education required: As a therapist, you would need the traditional schooling required in the field. That typically means a bachelor’s and a master’s and maybe a Ph.D. During your studies, you can focus on animal-assisted therapy to carve out your role.
Salary estimates: Indeed estimates that animal-assisted therapists make an average salary of roughly $49,826 per year.
7. Pet Massage Therapist
What’s more rewarding than hearing your dog groan or cat purr in delight as you get that hard-to-reach spot behind their ears? You can have that feeling all day long as a pet massage therapist with the sole purpose of improving your four-legged patients’ well-being.
Education required: The legal requirements are a little fuzzy, as we discussed in our article on becoming a pet massage therapist. But there are official training programs out there to get certified.
Salary estimates: The Northwest School of Animal Massage says pet massage therapists can charge anywhere from $50 to $120 an hour.
8. Animal Behaviorist
Training your dog to behave the way you want all the time won’t always work out like you plan. But some dogs, especially shelter dogs with murky pasts that could include neglect or physical abuse, might need more help.
That’s where professional animal behaviorists come in. Whether you need help curbing a dog’s aggressive play, getting them to walk better on leash or just to stop jumping on your guests, a behaviorist may have the skills to help. And it’s not just dogs; behaviorists can work with wild animals, as well as other domestic animals, like horses.
Education required: While anyone can call themselves an animal behaviorist, legitimate behaviorists will have at least a bachelor’s degree or maybe even a specialized master’s degree in animal behavior.
Salary estimates: The Balance Careers reported in 2019 that animal behaviorists earn up to $69,751 a year.
9. Marine Biologist
Shark Week, Free Willy, Finding Nemo … somewhere along the way, something in pop culture likely caught your interest and made you consider a career in marine biology. And you’d be surprised by how many places that career can take you. From training dolphins in Key Largo, Florida, to exploring the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, marine biologists seem to have the coolest day job.
Education required: Marine biologists require a bachelor’s degree. Many go on to get their master’s or even a Ph.D.
Salary estimates: PayScale reports that the average marine biologist base salary is $52,810 a year.
10. Veterinary Assistant
Veterinary assistants don’t perform the same wide range of functions as vet techs, which are described at No. 2. Instead, vet assistants are responsible for sanitizing examination rooms, caring for animals left at the office and cleaning cages.
Education requirements typically include just a high school diploma or GED.
Salary estimates: Salary.com reports that the median salary in 2021 for vet assistants is $31,416. This is not significantly lower than a vet tech, which requires formal education.
11. Veterinary Receptionist
If cleaning cages isn’t your thing but answering phones doesn’t stress you out, you could also work the front desk at a vet’s office. There, you’ll greet pets and their humans, make them feel comfortable while they wait and schedule appointments.
Salary estimates: Glassdoor estimates a vet receptionist average base pay of $30,411.
12. Barista at a Cat Cafe
Cat cafes are growing in popularity and usually follow one of two structures: Shelter cats roam freely (away from the part where the coffee is made, of course) until a customer falls in love and formally adopts them, or cat lovers can bring their own felines in to socialize.
If you like making coffee and cuddling with cats all day, getting a job at a catfe might be a good fit.
Salary estimates: Baristas usually make around minimum wage, plus tips.
13. Pet Store Employee
Working at a pet store can be rewarding because you will meet so many fun animals throughout the day, and you can also help pet guardians pick out nutritious food options and fun, engaging toys. Just be sure to work at a pet store that encourages shelter adoptions; steer clear of any stores that sell puppies from puppy mills.
Salary estimates: Most pet stores pay entry-level workers minimum wage.
14. Pet Shelter Employee
Perhaps even more rewarding is working at a pet shelter. The only problem? Shelters run on volunteers. While there are certainly paid positions, these will be harder to find. You’ll spend your days cleaning cages, caring for animals and helping to place them into loving homes.
Salary estimates: If it’s not a volunteer position, expect a low wage, if not minimum.
15. Horseback Riding Instructor or Guide
If you love the great outdoors, consider a job as a horseback riding guide. Horseback riding companies often operate in heavily touristed areas, like Yellowstone, the Olympics and the Smokies.
If you would rather help beginners learn the ropes (or should we say reins?) of riding a horse, you can work instead at a camp or farm with horseback riding lessons.
Salary estimates: According to Glassdoor, a horseback riding instructor can expect to make roughly $57,170 a year.
16. Pooper Scooper
Everybody poops, and somebody’s gotta clean it up. It might sound like a crappy job, but dog parents who are unwilling or unable to clean up their lawns after their pets go potty will typically shell out big bucks for a company that specializes in scooping poop.
Salary estimates: Are you ready for this? SimplyHired estimates that the average professional pooper scooper is $55,542. That’s more than the pet therapist which requires an advanced degree.
17. Animal Trainer
If you adopted a new dog but aren’t quite sure how to teach the basics like sit, stay, and come, you should consider a trainer. Conversely, if you’re great at training your own four-legged friends and love spending time with dogs, you should consider a career as a trainer. No formal schooling or even certification required.
Salary estimates: Animal trainers earn about $35,153 a year, according to Glassdoor. Of course, if you specialize in training wild animals, like for film and TV, you can expect much more money (but you will need more formalized training).
18. Service Animal Trainer
In addition to training people’s pets, you could become a service animal trainer and work with dogs from puppyhood. These dogs help those with differing levels of ability; some help their seeing-impaired owners while others can detect seizures. Trained service animals also help veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Some even become rescue dogs and help when tragedy strikes.
Salary estimates: ZipRecruiter reports an average salary of $35,360 a year, or $17 an hour.
19. Animal Control Officer
While many picture the dog catcher from Annie or the less-than-competent animal control officers from Parks and Rec when thinking about this career, actual animal control officers perform important work in their communities. They investigate animal cruelty, deal with wildlife menaces, rescue trapped or injured wildlife and testify in court, to name a few duties.
No education required beyond a high school diploma or GED. Just a love of animals, an interest in treating them humanely and working with the public.
Salary estimates: According to the BLS, the median annual wage is $40,680.
20. Pet Sitter
Figuring out how to ensure our pets get the proper care is rapidly becoming a top consideration for those who like to travel. While some opt to leave their dogs and cats with family and friends, many now seek professional care from pet sitters. Apps like Rover have turned this into a sustainable side hustle. Many who work long hours may even employ a pet sitter to keep a dog with separation anxiety company all day.
If the thought of feeding, walking and playing with pets all day sounds like your idea of the perfect job, pet sitting may be right for you. Just don’t expect to make much or have consistent work, unless you lock down the right client(s).
Salary estimates: Indeed reports that the average hourly wage for a dog sitter is $12.15 an hour.
21. Dog Walker
Many pet sitters also work as dog walkers. Some work through apps like Rover while others may have launched their own small businesses. Demand for dog walkers likely dropped during the pandemic, but as Americans return to office, many who adopted dogs during quarantine will be looking for someone to walk the pooch once or twice a day.
Salary estimates: Stick with this job full-time, and Salary.com estimates a median salary of $38,033 in New York City.
22. Doggy Day Care Attendant
Long before becoming a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, Catherine Hiles spent her days watching other people’s dogs at a doggy day care. “It was such a fun and rewarding job,” she remembers. “I learned a lot about dog behavior and interactions, which helped me be a better dog owner as well.”
And the best part? “To top it all off, I got to take my own dogs to work with me, where they could interact with their canine friends.”
Salary estimates: Indeed estimates that working at a doggy daycare will earn you about $12 an hour. A perk not included in that payment, as Hiles points out, is that you never have to be away from your own dogs while working.
23. Pet Groomer
Most pet groomers learn their skills through an apprenticeship or on-the-job training, which makes it more attainable than becoming a human hairstylist, which does require certification. If you have the patience to handle clients who are less than happy to have you grooming then, a job in pet grooming may be right for you.
Salary estimates: According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for a pet groomer is $30,174. This is a job role that often earns tips as well.
24. Pet Detective
Move over, Ace Ventura. There’s a new pet detective in town — that is, if you’re up for the task. Pet detectives do important work, helping families find missing dogs and cats. Strategies vary but include checking with shelters, using scent-sniffing dogs and interviewing neighbors.
Salary estimates: Glassdoor reports the average base pay for a pet detective is $53,894. Not bad for a job that requires no specialized college degree, though when just beginning, you may have high startup costs if launching your own business. Keep in mind that if you’re on your own, part of the money will go to taxes, health insurance and, hopefully, savings and retirement funds.
25. Wildlife Rehabilitator
Talk about a career with an admirable mission. Wildlife rehabilitators spend their days caring for sick and injured wild animals; the ultimate goal is to nurse them back to health and release them back into the wild.
Rehabilitators work closely with veterinarians and wildlife biologists, but typically, they will learn the role on the job. While there is no school required, many may have a degree in biology or zoology.
Salary estimates: Glassdoor reports that the average base pay for a wildlife rehabilitator is $50,773.
26. Pet Photographer
While many photographers do have formal training (and some, like pet photographer Grace Chon, have art degrees), many photographers are self-taught. And forget weddings and pretty landscapes; the best photo subjects are obviously animals.
“I started taking headshots of homeless dogs to help them get adopted,” Chon explained in a 2018 interview with The Penny Hoarder. “Nine months later, I quit my day job to focus on being an animal photographer. People thought I was crazy! Half of the ad industry had been laid off due to the recession, and there I was quitting my job to photograph dogs and cats for a living.”
Salary estimates: In 2019, The Balance Careers estimated median hourly wages to be in the low $16 range, but that’s based solely on generic photographer data from BLS. While Chon did not share her salary, she did say, “(W)ith my income (and my husband’s combined), we’ve been able to purchase a home in Los Angeles and renovate it.”
27. Tour Guide
Can you imagine spending your day spotting wildlife on the white water rapids of the Snake River in Idaho? Or perhaps watching for whales out on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the boundary water between Canada and Washington state? You might even take eager families snorkeling at Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys to spot tropical fish or get behind the wheel of a safari vehicle at a wildlife sanctuary. Tour guide jobs run the gamut and can allow you to dedicate your career to animals you deeply respect. You’ve just got to be willing to relocate to where those animals live.
Salary estimates: Salaries vary widely depending on the kind of tours you are employed to lead. A vessel captain in the San Juan Islands area of Washington state can expect up to $25 an hour, plus good tips, while river rafting guides earn roughly $26,000 per year.
28. Dog Food and Treat Baker
Combine your love of baking and animals as a baker focused on healthy dog food and treats. As more pet guardians shy away from low-quality kibble sold in grocery and pet stores, they are instead looking for more holistic options and will pay good money for high-quality dog food and treats. This is an opportunity to launch your own business or join the staff of an existing bakery (which tend to be in urban areas).
Salary estimates: According to the BLS, the median salary for bakers is $29,400 per year. Mint Notion estimates that, as small business owners, pet bakers can bring in revenue between $5,000 and $8,000 a month.
COVID-19 exposed how easily so many jobs can be done from home — and for many of us, there was no going back. If you found that you work better from home (perhaps with your own cat claiming a spot right on top of your keyboard or a dozing dog at your feet), try working with animals at one of these remote animal jobs.
29. Pet Product Sales Rep
If you like a challenge and have an outgoing personality, you can sell pet food and medicine over the phone and online. (You can also become a field sales rep, but that loses the luxury of working from home.)
Your day-to-day will involve researching the products you represent, connecting with current clients and contacting new clients. You won’t sell directly to consumers; instead, you will sell to pet stores that you want to carry your specific products.
Salary estimates: The Balance Careers reports that a pet product sales rep can expect to make $61,660 (median salary).
30. Adoption Website Employee
Sites like PetFinder, Petango, and Adopt a Pet do important work, helping eager guardians find dogs in need of a good home, rather than paying for breeders or puppy mill pets. But it takes a lot to make these sites run. Like any other website, they need folks in marketing, content creation, web development, HR and even payroll.
If you’ve got corporate experience in any of those areas but no passion for your current company’s mission, consider making the switch to an adoption website.
Salary estimates: The salary for workers at an adoption website entirely depends on the job role they fill. Both roles typically require a bachelor’s degree likely in marketing, communication, journalism or maybe internet technology.
31. Telehealth Veterinarian
Much like humans started doing telehealth appointments by phone or videoconferencing during COVID-19, veterinarians started to assess their patients online as well. If you’d rather stay at home and wear sweatpants but still want to provide animal care, this may be the role for you.
Of course, you won’t be able to offer the full scope of medical care. The focus is more on advising on certain conditions, like skin rashes or a kennel cough. Many telehealth veterinarians are hybrid roles; they work some days in an office and some days from home.
Education requirements for telehealth vets are the same as in-person vets.
Salary estimates: The BLS reports that the 2020 median pay for vets was $99,250 per year or $47.72 per hour.
32. Freelance Writer
Freelance writers spend their days pitching to different outlets (print and digital) and writing content to meet the requirements of that pitch. Some writers (like me!) even get to write for animal-related sites.
To get started, you may need to write some free posts for smaller animal blogs to build your portfolio. Eventually, you can start charging per word or per hour for articles for various websites such as Zoobooks, Catster or Dogster.
Salary estimates: Freelance writers vary in what they charge based on experience and type of writing. Starting out, some writers may charge 5 cents per word while writers at the peak of their careers may charge $1 per word. If you do launch a freelancing career, you’ll want to understand how to set your rates.
Timothy Moore is a managing editor for WDW Magazine, and a freelance writer and editor covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like The Penny Hoarder, Debt.com, Ladders, Glassdoor, Aol and The News Wheel.