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Jobs That Deal With Studying Animals

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What Is the Study of Animals Called?

Zoology (pronounced zoh-ology) is the name of the branch of science that studies animals. Within the broad field of zoology, there are many sub-fields. Zoology includes the study of specific animals, including microscopic organisms, as well as animal anatomy and physiology, behavior, population studies, environmental science and scores of others specialty areas.

What Careers Work With Animals?

If you want to work with animals, you have lots of potential careers to choose from. Not all of these require a scientific background or formal education. Trainers, groomers and pet sitters, for example, do not need to have a degree to get steady work. Assistants in kennels, stables, pet shops, research laboratories and environments such as zoos and nature centers may be able to get on-the-job training in place of an academic education. It depends on your employer and on the requirements of the position.

What Degree Do You Need to With Animals?

Again, it depends on what you want to do. How much time and money will you invest in your education? Consider these options, all of which require some type of degree:

Veterinarian: A veterinarian is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and care of animals. The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) degree is awarded after successful completion of veterinary college, which is four years of rigorous study after the bachelor's degree. Admissions to veterinary school are competitive since there are only 30 accredited institutions in the country. Although there are no formal requirements for a major, successful candidates who have gained admission to vet school have a strong background in life sciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics and communications. Grade point average and letters of recommendation are taken into consideration, along with any relevant experience such as 4-H or work in a veterinarian's office or research lab. Most schools require applicants to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and may also require the specialty test in biology. Some schools will accept scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Be sure to check specific requirements for the school where you'll be applying. The cost of veterinary school depends on the institution. In-state tuition and fees can range from $16,000 to $50,000 a year. Costs for private schools can run much higher. Veterinarians must be licensed in the state where they practice. Median pay for a veterinarian is $90,420. A median salary means that half the people in a profession earn more while half earn less.

Veterinary Technician: A vet tech, or an animal care tech, works under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Techs perform medical tests, administer vaccinations and assist veterinarians in the treatment of their patients. As with veterinarians, a vet tech needs to be able to work with animals, as well as with their owners. An owner may be nervous about a pet's visit or may need a more detailed explanation of a specific procedure. When a pet's prognosis is poor, the vet tech is often the one who offers words of compassion and talks the pet owner through next steps. Typically, a vet tech earns a two-year associate's degree offered by a technical or community college. Although most techs work in private veterinary practices, there are opportunities that exist in other areas, such as research, animal control, military service, food safety inspection and animal feed and pharmaceutical companies. A veterinary technologist usually has a four-year degree and, with more education, she can be eligible for positions with greater responsibilities and supervisory duties. On average, a vet tech earns $33,400 per year, or $16.06 per hour. Despite relatively low pay, vet techs report a high level of job satisfaction.


Although scientists and researchers exist for nearly every species in the world, the term "animal scientist" refers to those who study the genetics, reproduction, growth and development of domestic farm animals. Animal scientists can study general agriculture or can further specialize in poultry, range management or dairy science. With a bachelor's degree in animal science or a related field, you may be employed by a research laboratory, a feed or animal pharmaceutical manufacturer, a food processing plant or a large farm or ranch. With an advanced degree, you may be qualified for a position in management or as head of a research project. The average salary for an animal scientist ranges between $44,751 and $56,296, though is dependent upon education and experience, employer and geographic location.

How Do You Become a Wildlife Biologist?

Whereas an animal scientist is an expert in domestic farm animals, a wildlife biologist, as the name suggests, is an expert in the habitats and behaviors of one or more animals that lives in the wild. The animal population is vast, so most wildlife biologists specialize in an area defined by species or ecosystem. One biologist might study wolves, for example, while another specializes in insects of the rain forest. Wildlife biologists can work as members of a team in an office or laboratory, or they may find themselves isolated in remote areas in order to conduct their research.

In becoming a wildlife biologist, you have a variety of majors to choose from as a college undergraduate. Environmental science, forestry and conservation, ecology, zoology and general biology are all majors that can help prepare you for the field. Because work in the field is competitive, a master's degree in one of these fields is desirable. For work as a researcher or college professor, you'll need a Ph.D., which is five to seven years of study beyond the bachelor's degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for wildlife biologists is not strong, with growth projected at 5 percent slower than other occupations, through 2026. Pay for wildlife biologists varies by employer, education and geographic location. Median salaries range from $43,000 to $97,000 nationwide.

Zookeeper: The term "zookeeper" is a broad-based term, describing an individual who cares for animals in zoological parks or aquariums, but also encompassing other career titles, including biologist, aviculturists, herpetologists, mammalogists and trainers, just to mention a few. Zookeeping is a very competitive profession. There are relatively few positions available for those qualified to take them. Most zoos are locally funded, so money for professional positions can be tight. A degree in biology, zoology, animal science or a closely related field is required for most jobs. Volunteer work, especially with the type of animals and in the type of environment where you hope to work, may help you land the job you want. The average salary for a zookeeper is $30,996 a year.

What Are Some Jobs That Have to do With Animals?

There are a number of jobs working with animals that don't necessarily require a degree, although you may need to complete some type of training program. If you want the freedom and, yes, the responsibilities, of self-employment, there are options here, as well.

Alpaca Farmer: Sweet-faced alpacas are becoming increasingly popular for farmers who want to raise the animals for their fiber. Unlike sheep's wool, alpaca fleece is lanolin-free and hypoallergenic, not to mention soft, warm and practically water-repellent. To raise alpaca, you need an acre of pasture for every three to five animals. Alpacas are social creatures, so getting just one won't do. The average animal eats less per month than a Labrador retriever and won't kick or bite.

Groomer: Groomers usually work with dogs, but they may work with cats as well. They bathe animals, comb long-haired pets and trim hair and nails. Some technical and community colleges offer certification programs to help you become familiar with different kinds of grooming and styles associated with particular breeds. Though not required, certification can help you get hired by a veterinary clinic, pet store or grooming franchise.

Trainer: If you want to be a marine trainer, working with dolphins or seals, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in marine biology or closely related field. However, it you want to assist owners in getting Fido and Lucky to sit, stay and come, no formal education is required. Certification is not required either, by law, although it is possible to earn credentials through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. As in any field, a credential from a reputable organization attests to your commitment to and level of achievement within the profession. Trainers make an average of $36,808 a year, with salaries typically ranging from $16,500 to $77,000.

Pet Store Worker: Assist customers with the purchase and selection of items for their household pets. Most employers require a high school diploma and may prefer someone with retail experience. In the large chain pet stores, advancement to management is possible.

Dog Walker or Pet Sitter: Although there are companies that help match clients with providers, many dog walkers and pet sitters are self-employed. Occasionally, some may work with a client or two, while others can make a full-time living. Zip Recruiter lists the average salary for a pet sitter as $33,282 per year, with a range from $11,000 to $71,500, depending on the clientele and geographic location.

Pet Photographer: If you love animals and have a talent for photography, you may be able to combine the two into a profitable business. Although it's not necessary to have a degree in photography, professional study could help you land a spot on the fast track so that you can earn a living, or at least earn a profitable side income. Similarly, fine artists may be able to market their skills drawing or painting pet portraits.

If you want to work with animals as a career, you have a broad range of occupations to choose from. Opportunities and pay vary, according to a number of factors, including your education, experience, job title, employer and geographic location. As you can see from the salary surveys, people who work with animals aren't among the highest paid workers. Frequently, those who want to work with animals find themselves competing for jobs with others, who also want to work with animals, in some way. The trade-off for lower salaries seems to be a higher level of job satisfaction. Professional programs in animal studies have no shortage of applicants. Programs training veterinary technicians, groomers and other animal workers typically attract people from all walks of life, who are looking to start a career, or perhaps to change careers and work with animals.


Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.

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