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Are you an animal lover? Do you feel strongly about animal welfare issues? If you are a naturally caring person and would enjoy working with a range of different species of animals, then a career in animal welfare could be right up your street.
What is animal welfare?
Animal welfare is all about protecting and looking after animals that are sick or have been mistreated. Animal welfare is a wide-ranging area and there are many different roles within the sector. You could be employed as an animal care worker, looking after animals in rescue centres, kennels or animal sanctuaries. Or you could work for the RSPCA as an animal collection officer or as a care assistant, helping veterinarians at an animal hospital.
What animal welfare jobs can I do?
Jobs in animal welfare are really diverse and there is something out there to suit all animal lovers. Whether you enjoy spending time outdoors, or would rather work inside, the animal welfare sector will have something to meet your preferences. Some animal welfare jobs include:
As a kennel worker, your job will mostly involve working with dogs. Some of your main duties will be grooming, checking for signs of ill health, cleaning the kennels and feeding the dogs. You’ll also be responsible for providing companionship to the dogs, taking them for walks and playing with them. Most kennel workers receive on-the-job training but having a good understanding of canine health and diet will certainly help you learn the ropes quicker.
Working as an animal behaviourist, your job will be to understand and train animals either as part of an animal captivity programme or in a domestic setting. This role will require you to have in-depth understanding of animal psychology as your job will involve identifying behavioural issues and implementing training programmes. In order to work as an animal behaviourist, you’ll need to have a degree in animal behaviour or animal welfare.
The work of a zoologist can be very interesting. In this role, you could be involved in researching animal behaviours or applying knowledge and understanding to resolve animal welfare issues. Despite the name, not all zoologists work in zoos, although many do. You could be working in agricultural environments, animal sanctuaries, welfare organisations or in schools, teaching children.
In order to work as a zoologist, you’ll need to be well-educated and will most likely need to have a master's degree or doctorate in animal welfare.
Zookeepers look after animals in zoos and are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of the creatures in their care. They work in safari parks, aquariums and sometimes even in the wild. Anything from tigers and giraffes to birds and fish would come under a zookeeper’s care. Take a look at our article on how to become a zookeeper.
Vets make sure animals are healthy and happy and treat them medically when they are ill or injured. They work in veterinary practices (where you take your cat or dog), zoos and safari parks, research facilities, farms and even in the military - wherever animals are to be found, in short. To become a vet, you need a degree in veterinary medicine and you'll have to train and gain experience in the role.
Veterinary nurses work alongside vets, helping them out in surgery and carrying out routine procedures and daily care of the animals. You'll need a level 3 diploma, which you can gain at college or via an apprentice in the role, training over two to three years.
Is a career in animal welfare for me?
If you love animals and have a passion for keeping them safe and well, a career in animal welfare could be perfect for you. You will need to have a good understanding of animal behaviour and have patience when helping with their recovery.
You should be a naturally caring person and enjoy spending time with a variety of different animals. You will also need to be emotionally resilient as you may need to handle upsetting situations. Animal welfare workers should also be able to handle animals gently and with confidence.
How can I start a career in animal welfare?
In order to work in animal welfare, you don’t necessarily need to have any qualifications. However, like most jobs, having GCSEs in English and maths will be beneficial. Depending on your exact role, you may receive on-the-job training and have the opportunity to study for a qualification while you work.
If you plan on working as an animal behaviourist, vet, zoologist or in any role that involves medicine or surgery, you will need to have a degree in animal welfare, zoology or veterinary medicine.
One way of improving your career prospects in the animal welfare sector is to apply for work experience opportunities. Although many work experience placements are voluntary, the knowledge and skills that you’ll learn will make you more attractive to employers. Contacting local animal welfare organisations is a good place to start when looking for work experience. You might also want to try contacting the following larger organisations:
What animal welfare qualifications are available?
If you’re working in an entry-level role, there’s a good chance that your employer will want to invest in you by offering training and the opportunity to gain qualifications. Animal welfare qualifications are available from agricultural colleges across the UK and you could gain a certificate or diploma in animal care from levels 1 to 3.
Other available qualifications include:
- Level 3 Diploma in Animal Management
- Level 3 Certificate in Kennel and Cattery Management
- Veterinary medicine MSc
Did you know these animal welfare facts?
In 2007, the Animal Welfare Act was introduced in England and is regarded as the single most important piece of animal welfare legislation for 100 years.
According to recent statistics highlighted by the PDSA, there are 10.3 million pet cats and 9.3 million pet dogs in the UK.
The RSPCA investigate more than 140,000 complaints of animal cruelty and neglect each year.