Most Australians are animal lovers, with dogs and cats most commonly sharing our homes and our hearts.
But, 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. If you're looking to get a job working with animals, there's plenty of career paths that will get you there.
Studying a vocational course focused on animal care opens a world of opportunities for you to work and play with furry friends. As the saying goes, ‘find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.’
1. Zoo keeper
If you become a zoo keeper, 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 zoo keeper isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s 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.
“Zoo keepers 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 being in a smaller environment with smaller animals is more your thing, then a career as a veterinary nurse may be the best career choice for you.
As a veterinary nurse, you’ll be responsible for working alongside a vet 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, inclusive of 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 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.
Studying Veterinary Nursing will ensure that you’re ready for this exciting career, covering topics such as animal nutrition, animal anatomy, clinical office procedures and surgery practices.
Students who have undertaken this course have praised it for the skills it’s given them to pursue a career in veterinary nursing.
“It’s good and there’s a lot of information,” says Vet Nurse student, Lee Fuller. “The course work is all really relevant, especially a lot of the legislative information on workplace health and safety, because we all know that it’s very important nowadays to know and abide by the law.”
3. Animal carer
Completing a Certificate in Animal Care is a great stepping stone for anyone who’s keen to pursue a career in either a shelter, a pet shop or groomers. 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.
Topics within the certificate include animal anatomy, animal health and animal welfare. The focus of this course is predominantly on domesticated pets, companion animals and horses.
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.”
As awareness around animal welfare increases, it’s likely that job openings in the animal care industry will too. So, if, like Marisa, you want to help make a difference, then animal care studies may be the best choice for you.
4. Companion animal handler
As a trained companion animal handler, you'll be opening the door to multiple career choices as you learn new skills. You could explore your interests in working in a pet store, in kennels or as a pet exerciser.
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. During these courses, you'll make contacts within the industry and watch the professionals in action in real life situations. Who knows, you may even end up working in a business such as diggiddy doggy daycare.
“While we do request experience, we also recognise that there are some humans who have a natural gift working with dogs that cannot be taught,” says owner and operator, Nicole Farren.
“The connection with the dogs is the highest priority, so the majority of the time the dogs will let us know whether to hire or fire. If the candidate has the right attitude, they will have an open mind to learn, the motivation to grow and the passion to work with these amazing animals.”
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 some of the most notable, but really - the world is your oyster to get creative.
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.
For the more adventurous among you, a job as a dog trainer, an animal photographer or even a snake handler may well be on the cards.