The Official Houston SPCA Humane Education Blog

Teaching us about our animal friends

So You Want a Career in Animal Welfare – PART 2

In the last edition of “So You Want a Career in Animal Welfare” we discussed how to get a position working in the animal welfare field after you graduate from high school.

Today we are going to talk about what to do if you decide to go to a community college, get a certificate from a technical school, or attend a 4-year college or university.

Let’s start with the community college scene –


source: ‘Community’

Everyone loves the show ‘Community’ and yes community college can be a great place to meet an incredibly diverse group of people. Many of these people will have the same interest as you do – getting a career working with or for animals. You can go to community college to study a variety of topics and earn your A.A.S. degree or Associate’s in Applied Science in whichever field you choose.

Some of those fields include: Animal Care and Management, Aquarium Science, Zoo and Aquarium Science, Animal Health Management, Exotic Animal Management, Exotic Animal Training.

An associate’s degree is going to be at least a two year program but you will have to work hard. In the animal welfare field there is a lot of competition for very few open positions. You will want to work hard in school as well as get amazing (and tough!) internships in the field you are attempting to get a position in.

Spending only two years in school does have its advantages as you get to start working quickly and will have statistically less debt than those who attend 4-year schools.  There are also some disadvantages, however, as some people who only attend 2 year schools earn less income over time.

But wait, what is a technical school? 

There are many schools available to you that are called ‘technical schools’ in which you can earn a certificate that shows you have earned the required knowledge and skills to perform a specific job. For example, you can earn a certificate in Humane Law Enforcement which shows that you are fully knowledgeable in animal care and law enforcement as it pertains to animal control and investigation.

Certificate programs are great for those who have attended a community college and would like to be certified in a specific course for a position they are interested in. You want to make sure that you put full effort into all the certificate work you are doing as those courses can be completed over a few days or weeks compared to a few years.


What are some animal welfare careers that require an associate’s degree or certificate?

  • Veterinary Technician
  • Animal Cruelty Investigator
  • Animal Control Officer
  • Human Resources Assistant
  • Computer Technician
  • Accounting bookkeeper
  • Vet Clinic Assistant

Well, I want to go to a 4-year school – what steps can I take to help me get a career in animal welfare?

Rice Univ

source: Rice University

Many (if not most) of those who want to enter the field of animal welfare will attend a 4-year college or university after graduating high school.

There are so many options to choose from that it can be pretty overwhelming to think about which school you want to go to. It is best to narrow down your options first.

  • Do you want a public or private school?
  • Do you want to stay in-state or go out-of-state?
  • How much are you willing to pay per year?
  • Do you want a large school or small school?

All of these questions will help you figure out which colleges or universities you want to apply to. Be sure to RESEARCH the available majors at each school you apply to. You wouldn’t want to apply to a school and decide to attend only to find out that they do not have a major that will help you land a career working with animals. Majors you want to look for include: Zoology, Biological Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Science, Aquatic and Fisheries Science, and so many more!

OK – you have applied to college and you have gotten into one of your top ten schools! And yes, I said ten, you need lots of options open because you are not the only one applying to college – you and a million of your closest friends are all applying at the same time! You finish all necessary paperwork and you are headed off to school in the fall.

You are attending a school that has a major you know will help you get into a career working with animals. Now you need to STUDY hard and put as much effort into your school work as possible.

Also, start looking for unpaid internships during the summers as well as during your school year if you can afford the time. These internships are CRUCIAL to getting a position after college. Talk to vet clinics, the local zoo, animal shelters, dog day care centers, etc. about internships or volunteering positions. Dedicate yourself to your internship when you obtain one (keep up with your school work, too) and the experience you get will put you leaps and bounds ahead of those people who chose not to get an internship or volunteer their time.

Be active while attending your school. Join an inter-mural sports team, student government, animal rights groups, social clubs, fraternity/sorority, or other active club that will show you enjoy being a part of the community. It is always good to have lots of items to put on your resume.

Wait… resume… should I have one already?

Calm down, a resume is nothing to be afraid of. If you have applied to jobs previously you may already have a resume which is great! If not, there are many templates online you can use to create one. You are still keeping track of all of your activities, right? You started doing that in high school! Excellent! Use that list to create a ‘best of’ for yourself – your best experience, your work experience, the amazing things that you have done while in school. This is what you will be showing to future employers so they can see how well you fit in to their establishment.

Make sure your resume shows the best of yourself and has your three-four best references so your future employer has someone to talk to about your work ethic. Having references other than Mom and Dad are the best way to go – you need someone who won’t call you their little ‘sweetie’ to your future boss!

Cat in a Desk Captioned

Apply Apply Apply

During your last year of school you are going to start applying for jobs. You will probably want to do this starting in February – March of your last year of school. Some universities and colleges will have job fairs – that is great but most of them will not have any representation of animal welfare possibilities as it is a very small field. Get online and start researching places you want to work. Most applications will be online and you can apply right away! Have your resume prepped to send and a cover letter template you are able to customize based on the requirements of the position you are applying for.

Here are some animal welfare careers that recommend a 4-year degree:

  • Animal Care Manager
  • Client Care Manager
  • Volunteer Manager
  • Humane Education Manager
  • Public Relations Manager
  • Wildlife Rehabilitation
  • Game Warden
  • Park Ranger
  • Chief Cruelty Investigator
  • Zoo Keeper


You may apply to 50 different places and not hear back – do not let this discourage you! Keep applying! You have to be PATIENT. Do not call the place you applied to – let them contact you. It can be a very stressful process but I know that all of your hard work will pay off if you practice patience and keep applying to new positions.

But what if I want to be a veterinarian? Or a marine biologist? Or a lobbyist for animal rights?

Then Part 3 of this series is for you! We will discuss different types of graduate school and how they will help you get into the animal welfare career of your dreams.

See you back soon!


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