Everyone always asks me, “How did you get into working with animals?” or “What did you do to get your job?”
In this three-part series I am going to tell you the best ways to find a career in animal-welfare.
First you have to start by asking yourself if you want to work with animals or for animals. There is a pretty big difference between the two. Working with animals means you will be working physically with animals – your job will have direct contact with animals on a daily basis. Working for animals means you may not necessarily have direct contact with animals but your position advocates for animal care, rights, and welfare.
Which one do you prefer?
Let’s see where various animal welfare careers fall in the two categories:
|Animal Care Attendant/Technician/Manager||Humane Education Manager|
|Animal Cruelty Investigator||Non-Profit Accountant|
|Animal Behavior Specialist / Manager||Public Relations and Media Manager|
|Pet Sitter / Dog Walker||Animal Rights Lawyer / Lobbyist|
|Zoo Keeper||Client Care Manager / Adoptions Counselor|
|Veterinary Technician||President / CEO of a Non-Profit|
|Doctor of Veterinary Medicine||Computer Technician|
Some positions fall in-between the two categories as you can still work directly with animals however you will spend a lot of time working at a desk, for example a Wildlife Biologist, Marine Biologist, or Research Assistant.
Those are just some of your options for working in the animal welfare field. But how can you get one of those careers?
Start early! In High School you need to start showing that you are a responsible, mature young adult. Begin volunteering at your local animal shelters, vet clinics, and zoo. Also, if you have the opportunity, get a part-time job and start saving money!
Volunteering your time for an organization that cares for animals shows colleges and future employers that you are serious about your goals and will work hard to achieve them. Getting a part-time job will help you save money for college expenses or to start working right away after graduating from high school. Try to record any and all activities you participate in during high school to make sure you do not forget to put them on college applications and/or your resume for employment.
And volunteer or work somewhere that you have an interest – for example, those who want to work as an animal care attendant should volunteer for an animal shelter such as the Houston SPCA and if you are interested in working as a computer technician for an animal shelter, find a part-time job in an electronics shop. You will be much happier spending your time doing something you love, especially when stressed out from school work!
So you’ve graduated high school (or gotten your GED) – now what?
If you want to start your animal welfare career right away you have tons of career opportunities to choose from but you have to make sure you have the right skills – which is why you started volunteering in high school, right? Work with a counselor or teacher at your high school to draft a resume showing how much experience you have working around animals and what other important skills you have including opportunities you have shown leadership, the ability to work as a team, great communication skills, and organizational skills.
Your resume should show any volunteer experience you have, any work experience you have, what you focused on in high school (languages, arts, sciences, etc.), and what other skills you may possess. You might speak three languages, be a computer genius, or know CPR – those are amazing things and should be on your resume!
Almost all applications for employment are done online and they will ask for previous experience as well as references – this is where all that volunteering and part-time work comes in handy as you have made connections with other employers who can give you a good reference.
Consult with your counselor on how to write a proper cover letter for the positions you are applying for.
Wait…what is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a short introduction of yourself to the employer you are applying to. It should only be a few short paragraphs. In your cover letter make sure to include any skills you have that were listed as a requirement of the position you are applying to – you want to show future employers that you are capable of working in their field. Keep your list of high school activities nearby as they may ask for what you were involved in outside of school.
Some positions you can apply for right out of high school (as long as you have the necessary skills) include:
Animal Care Attendant
Client Care Team Member
Animal Behavior Specialist / Trainer
And many more!
While applying to these positions, keep a record of where you applied, when, and the contact information of the employer so you can reference it if needed.
Then, BE PATIENT – it can take a while for some employers to get back to you as competition for the positions listed can be incredibly high. Some positions may get hundreds of applicants which can take a lot of time to go through. If you do not hear back, keep finding more places to apply. Don’t give up! But try to avoid excessively contacting any employers you are trying to work for as it will not only frustrate you but the people looking at your application.
If you are finding that you are not qualified or need more education to attain the animal welfare career you desire, your next goal should be applying to and attending a community college or 4-year college/university.
In part 2 of this series we will discuss what careers are available for those who choose to attend higher education after graduating from high school as well as internships, work-study, and other things to do in college to help attain a career in animal welfare. Stay tuned!