**This is an updated post**
Most Australians are animal lovers, with dogs and cats most commonly sharing our homes and our hearts. There are almost 29 million pets in Australia, which outweighs the country’s human population! Cats and dogs are the most popular pet of choice for many, with birds, fish and small mammals (like rabbits and guinea pigs) also making wonderful companion animals.
For some people, a love of animals has led them to a career working with them - and it’s something that you could do, too.
Studying a vocational course focused on animal care opens a world of opportunities for you to turn your love of animals into a paying job. As the saying goes, ‘find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.’
If you're looking to find a job working with animals, there are plenty of career paths you could look at.
Here are six animal-focused jobs that could help get you inspired to turn your love of animals into a fulfilling career.
Popular jobs working with animals
If you become a Zookeeper, you’ll be responsible for all aspects of animal care. Of course, there’s the fun stuff, such as giving the elephants a shower, supervising breeding programs and feeding those cheeky monkeys. But, there are also the less glamorous jobs such as cleaning out animal living spaces and dealing with poo (of varying size)!
Being a Zookeeper has plenty of perks, but it is a physical role which can involve unsociable hours, and working in the outdoors exposes you to all the elements. Building up trust and rapport with the animals is only a small part of the job.
“You need to be someone who is able to communicate effectively with others and has an understanding of what their needs are,” says Chris Hosking, Program Manager for Captive Animals.
“Zookeepers look after the needs of the animals within the captive institution, which involves feeding, cleaning and providing the requirements for breeding, but they also need to communicate with other members of staff and the public.”
In-depth topics such as interacting, monitoring and observing captive animals, as well as managing enclosures and developing animal diets will see your career off to a roaring start.
2. Veterinary Nurse
If working with smaller animals is more your thing, then a career as a Veterinary Nurse may be a great career choice for you.
As a Veterinary Nurse, you’ll be responsible for working alongside a Veterinarian and caring for the animals coming into the practice, whether they’re being treated for an illness or attending for a routine check-up.
You’ll assist the Vet in numerous ways, including prepping and sterilising equipment, holding animals during operations and undertaking x-rays. Of course, you’ll also take on the role of chief cuddler!
As well as being an animal lover, you’ll need to be a compassionate person who’s able to offer advice to owners about how best to care for their animals, as well as empathy and sympathy for any animal loss.
3. Animal Attendant or Animal Carer
An Animal Attendant (or Carer) is sort of an all-rounder job description. It describes someone who assists professionals and cares for animals in an environment like a kennel, a shelter, a pet grooming salon or another workplace that looks after companion animals.
Your daily tasks will depend on your place of work. But most commonly, you’ll be expected to be patient and understanding as you work with a variety of different animals.
Marisa Capuana is the owner and operator of the Second Chance Animal Rescue shelter. “There is no greater feeling of accomplishment for me than seeing a dog or a cat that I have rescued and rehabilitated, find the loving home that they have always deserved,” she says.
“I love being able to make a big difference in an animal's life and making families complete with their new furry family members.”
More and more Australians are becoming aware that it’s a much more ethical option to adopt a pet from a shelter rather than spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a ‘designer’ pet. This means that the animal you adopt is given a safe, loving home, and pressure is taken off the shelter who probably accept hundreds or thousands of animals every single year. In the financial year of 2019-20, the RSPCA alone accepted 112,530 animals into their shelters and adoption centres. Fortunately, a huge percentage of these animals were able to be rehomed.
As awareness around animal welfare increases, it’s likely that job openings in the animal care industry will too.
If you want to help make a difference like Marissa, then you could consider studying the ACM20117 Certificate II in Animal Studies. This is a great stepping stone for anyone who’s keen to pursue a career that’s focused on caring for animals. It’s also a great way to start your studies to get a feel for what kind of animal care you may want to specialise in further down the track.
4. Dog Groomer
As more Australians look to adopt their very own fur baby, the need for specialised professions such as dog grooming is on the rise.
Dog Groomers usually work in-house at a pet store, a vet hospital or a kennel, or in a pet grooming salon. Some may also operate a mobile dog grooming service.
Dog Groomers need to be well-versed in different types of dog breeds and what kind of care they need. For example, any dog breed with longer hair will need different care to a short-hair breed. This might involve using different types of cleaning products and different grooming tools.
But dog grooming isn’t just about giving pets a cool new haircut – Dog Groomers also need to bathe, wash and dry dogs, as well as clip their nails and clean their teeth.
5. Horse Trainer
Have you always had a love of horses? There are many different career options that involve working with horses, and Horse Trainer is just one of them. For example, you could work on a stud farm, as part of a tourism group that operates horse tours, or for a farrier (horse shoeing) business.
Horse Trainers have a lot of different duties that will vary day to day. Their responsibilities will also vary depending on the kind of discipline they work in – racehorses will require a different type of training to horses that are competing in dressage.
Part of the role will be working with horses and introducing them to wearing a saddle, exercising horses and working with riders. But you’ll also need to clean out stables, feed and water the horses, as well as groom them and make sure they’re in good health.
6. Professional Pet Sitter / Dog Walker
What could be a better job for an animal lover?
Professional Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers are there to give pet owners a helping hand when they’re needed.
Pet Sitters (or Pet Minders) generally look after pets in the pet’s own home. This may be because the owners are on holidays and can’t take their pet with them and don’t want to put their fur baby into pet lodgings. This could be for a whole range of reasons: from travel-induced stressed, to becoming upset at their routine being changed, or simply because they don’t like being around other animals.
Being a Professional Pet Sitter means that you stay in a person’s home and care for their pet by exercising them, playing with them, feeding them and making sure they don’t get lonely.
In the same vein, professional Dog Walkers are there to help owners who may not be able to exercise their dogs as often as they want to.
Professional Dog Walkers are becoming more and more popular. There are even professional services now in some major cities that offer to walk peoples’ dogs while also chasing away birds and preventing them from annoying patrons. If you’ve ever been to Sydney Opera Bar or the Art Gallery of NSW, you’ll recognise the sight of a happy puppy on a leash chasing away pigeons and seagulls!
Ready to take the next step?
There are so many reasons and opportunities to work with animals in a job you love.
These jobs for animal lovers are just some of the most notable, but there are also plenty of others out there for people with the right temperament, skills and knowledge.
Qualifications are the first step in pursuing your dream, and from there the sky’s your limit. By starting your studies today, you could well be on your way to working in that kennel, veterinary practice or zoo.
Check out the ACM20117 Certificate II in Animal studies to start your career in the animal care industry.
Armed with a set of practical and hands-on skills, you'll gain the confidence to take on any animal caring role, or perhaps even start your own animal care business. Plus, throughout the course, you'll make contacts within the industry and watch the professionals in action in real life situations.
Enrol today and discover where your love of animals could take you!