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You don’t need to spend four to eight years or more in school so you can work with animals. Instead, you might want to consider a trade program that gives you practical information you’ll be able to use almost immediately.
You’ll learn how to interact with others who are either in or planning to enter animal science. You’ll learn how to think critically. You’ll be able to work on coursework that will keep you interested. In the classroom, you’ll be interacting with your instructor and fellow students and working on in-depth research and analysis of animal science issues.
What kinds of careers can you move into? You might consider becoming a zookeeper, animal scientist, or even a breeding technician. You could work as a livestock auctioneer or manager, become a farmer and work with animals on someone’s farm or your own farm with a focus on agricultural science, or you might wish to become an educator in the field.
Or, if you have plans to go to college for a few more years, becoming an animal geneticist may be a good option. If you decide to really devote some time to your education, you could still go on to become a veterinarian.
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What Do Workers in Animal Science Do?
Once you complete your trade or training program, your career options are wide open. Depending on where your interests lie, you could end up in a variety of fields.
You may choose science and technology, where you’ll work on various areas. These include nutrition/health/disease control, animal behavior, training and care taking, research, genetics and animal breeding, or other specializations.
Or your interest may lie in veterinary medicine. With an animal sciences degree, you can focus on becoming a veterinary technician. While veterinarians must earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in pre-veterinary and veterinary medicine. As a veterinary tech, you’ll be able to get into the field with much less lead time and, once you get some experience, your options will grow even more. Do you want to work with large animals or small? Work in public health for animals? Do you want to focus on food safety, do research, inspections, or preventive medicine?
If you go into food safety, research, public health, or inspections, you could find work with local, state, or federal government agencies. These include the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Where Do Animal Science School Graduates Work?
- Conservation Officer:
In this position, you’ll work out in the wild to protect animals. By doing this, you also protect the environment as the two are inextricably linked. As a conservation officer, you’ll help to protect and improve areas that are environmentally important, which allows animals large and small to thrive.
- Food Industry:
Choosing to work in the food industry may mean earning secondary degrees after you complete your degree in animal sciences, but that all depends on your interest in moving up in the field. You may help identify and research animal health in this arena and make sure that farms are run with public health in mind. This work helps to improve the health and wellness of consumers and ensure compliance with local and federal rules. With your animal sciences background, you’ll able to offer more value in this field.
- Veterinary Technician:
Here, you’ll earn a degree that will allow you to assist full veterinarians. You may take courses that focus on animal anatomy, physiology, biology, zoology, chemistry, or microbiology. The human parents of pets you see will be grateful for your expertise when the time comes for them to visit the vet.
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Why Become an Animal Science Graduate?
As a student of animal science, you’ll focus on how the body systems of animals (captive and domestic) function. You’ll also learn how these creatures are utilized by people, such as livestock. Your education focuses on the most humane and modern way to take care of the animals we live with.
You may decide to continue your education so you can move on into animal husbandry or you may decide you want to wait to go back to school - you may find work in animal shelters, taking care of lost pets or animals that have been surrendered by their owners.
Completing either a training or trade program in animal science gives you a good foundation for earning a bachelor’s and master’s in animal science. Whether you decide to go into animal dentistry or focus more on laboratory animal science, your education and internships will give you an invaluable background no matter where you end up.
How to Become an Animal Services Worker
GED or High School Diploma
If you know early on that you’re interested in working with animals, you’ll want to fill your high school class schedule as much as possible with sciences, math classes, computer science, English, environmental earth science, calculus, trigonometry, and statistics. If you plan to keep going to school beyond your animal science trade school, this will help you to get into universities more easily.
Depending on where you are hoping to earn your trade or vocational education, you may only need a high school diploma or GED to attend. However, some schools are slightly more exclusive and require that you have maintained a certain GPA in high school or that you take and pass the ACT or SAT standardized tests. These programs will have their own requirements in terms of what constitutes a passing score, so you should find 1-3 programs you are interested in attending and find their requirements as soon as possible.
Animal Science Training and Other Certification
- Zoo & Aquarium Science:
If you plan to become an aquarist or zookeeper, this certificate will fit perfectly into your career plans. You’ll be able to begin working with primates, marine mammals, carnivores, and other exotic wildlife.
- Animal Care, Equine, and Land Based:
By opting for a course that covers animal care, equine, and land-based industries, you’ll be able to apply for hundreds of opportunities. You may plan to work as a park ranger or in a veterinary practice in the country.
- Equine Science:
These professional development programs offer you both instruction and practical experience in the nutrition, management, physiology, and care of horses.
- Animal Assisted Therapy:
Earning this certificate means you’ll be able to share your love of animals with others and show them how the relationships between humans and animals can enrich their lives. It can also help those who need interactions with animals who won’t judge. This certificate teaches you about animal-assisted therapy, education, and activities.
- HNC Animal Management:
This Higher National Certificate gives you a good basis for working with animals. You’ll be prepared for employment in a supervisory-level position if you earn this along with your animal sciences degree.
- Animal Science Fundamentals:
In this type of certificate program, you’ll learn basic knowledge in the fundamentals of animal science. This may allow you to obtain entry-level employment in agricultural sales and services, on ranges, and on farms. This is one of the first steps toward a career as an educator in agricultural science as well.
- Animal Care & Management:
Earning this certificate means you’ll be able to enter a career path in the veterinary care of domesticated animals (pets). You’ll spend time interning at veterinary clinics or animal hospitals. A part of your internship prepares you to work in a vet clinic, using and caring for the instruments, learning how to sterilize them, and how to analyze both blood and urine samples.
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Continuing Education for Animal Science Graduates
Because you may have additional career plans, such as working as an animal behaviorist or a veterinarian, you need to give yourself more pathways toward that goal. This means returning to school to earn a full four-year degree if you haven’t and then earning higher degrees (master’s, doctorate in veterinary medicine).
A good option is to earn a bachelor’s degree that will allow you to work with domestic animals, such as cats and dogs. Animals farmed as food sources are also domestic animals: turkeys, cows, pigs, and sheep. Draft animals also fall into this category: camels, horses, and donkeys – though you’re unlikely to deal with many camels in the U.S. unless you work at a petting zoo.
You may also consider earning a certificate in applied animal behavior. This program helps you to learn and understand the behaviors that some animals display so you can care for them and help to improve their quality of life and even their health. Consider cats - we know they hide when they are hurt or feeling sick. This is an instinctive behavior that helps them to protect themselves from predators and may help you explain to a worried pet owner why they might be acting strange and what they can do to help their pet.
Salary and Job Outlook
If you decide to begin your career as a pet groomer, your median annual salary may sit around $20,000 in your early career. This position has an average mid-career salary of $33,000 and a late-career salary of $62,000.
A veterinary technician’s early-career salary begins at around $25,000. Their mid-career salary average’s $35,000 and their late-career salary is closer to $51,000.
Dog trainers earn $25,000 in their early careers. Their mid-career salaries are $39,000 and their late-career salaries average closer to $101,000. If you enjoy working and spending a lot of time with dogs, this may be a position for you to consider. Dog walkers also often work in the grooming business and offer multiple services at one location.
Animal Care and Service workers earn $25,000 annually ($12.02/hour). If you are interested in this type of position, you can expect to receive on-the-job training once you’re hired. You’re likely to work in one of a variety of places where animals are housed or cared for such as zoos, kennels, veterinary clinics, animal shelters, stables, pet stores, and aquariums.
You must be ready to work hard physically. The work an animal care service worker does can be demanding. And, if you get attached to one or more of the animals, you may find the work can be emotionally demanding, especially if they get sick, go into an adoptive placement, or die. This job role was projected to grow by 22% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average.
Animal Trainers work with and train various breeds of animals. The work they do may teach horses how to accept a harness and carry riders. Or you may train animals for obedience, security, and performance. This position holds a mean annual wage of $36,000, but that may be higher if you work with large aquatic animals (dolphins or orcas) or if you find yourself working on movie sets with trained animals.
As a veterinary technologist or technician, your median pay can be expected to be around $35,000. You may work in an animal hospital or private clinic, running medical tests so the vet can get a diagnosis for injuries and illnesses. As a technologist, you need a four-year degree, but technicians only need a two-year degree.
While you are still in high school, you should make sure you take and understand your chemistry and biology courses. Physics will also help you out, especially if you think you might advance to a graduate degree.
If you take and do well in these classes while you are still a high school student, you’ll likely do well when they appear at a higher level in a trade or training program. Your instructors will be happy to see that you know more than the basics of all three sciences.
Vocational training may also help you to determine just what kind of work you want to do with animals. By completing this level of education, you’ll develop your knowledge of the various fields available and may even get a chance to intern in whichever field you think holds the most interest for you. Maybe you’ll have the chance to work at a farm and decide that this is the career you’ve always wanted, or perhaps you’ll decide that, while you like farm animals, it may really be worth it to complete a higher level of education and become a farm vet.
Along with working with animals, you have to be ready and willing to spend time working with a variety of other people. You need to be able to communicate with them effectively and efficiently, even when in the midst of an emergency. When working with animals, whether on a farm or in a vet’s office, you also need to communicate and express empathy to the owners of the animals you’ll be working with. This makes communication one of the top skills you must have.
Listen more than you speak—your clients will have important things about their pets to tell you. You’ll discuss with the vet what they told you and what it might mean in terms of a diagnosis, so you should be accurate. You’ll also take phone calls, give animal care information, and schedule appointments.
- Work independently:
You shouldn’t need supervision to do most of your job. You must be willing to work independently when you are caring for an animal, whether that is during a short visit or when animals are kept overnight for observation and care.
- Time management:
Staying “on time” during a hectic day is incredibly important in a business where people expect to be seen on a schedule. If all of your tasks are equally important, you’ll need to be able to work with the entire veterinary team and get things done by helping each other and staying on task yourself.
It’s important when you work as intake for your animal patients that you be able to observe the animal and their owner, gather information from what you see as well as what you’re told, and be able to note anything important in a chart or share it with the vet.
- Technical skills:
You’ll need to be comfortable with lab equipment and technical machinery used by a practice – you might be helping with urinalysis, disinfection, blood work, and sterilization of surgical instruments.
You’ll need to write effectively and efficiently so your veterinarian and other staff members know what you are saying.
If you want to do work with animals at a higher level, then earning a four-year bachelor’s degree allows you to work as either a zoologist or wildlife biologist; or you can earn a master’s degree and work as a veterinarian.
Another alternative to animal science is working as a veterinary assistant or laboratory animal caretaker. The median annual salary for these positions is $29,000. You’ll need a high school diploma or GED to work in this field and you’ll have on-the-job training. Your days will consist of routine animal care and you’ll likely also help the veterinarians and others with their daily work.
If you grew up on a farm and the work is familiar to you, you may only need a high school diploma or GED and five years of work experience in a similar occupation to find a position as an agriculture worker. You could help care for livestock and work with the products they produce. On-the-job training is sufficient for this position. You don’t necessarily need a high school diploma but it can help. The median annual pay for this position is $26,000.