Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How to Get Animal Experience

Who wouldn't want to do this??
Photo provided by Bridget Walker.
Many of us grow up dreaming of someday becoming a veterinarian or animal trainer or zoo keeper. We raise pets and try to save the baby animals we find in the yard. We work hard in school and are mesmerized by Animal Planet. But what does it really take to make it into one of these coveted fields? A key factor to being competitive in any of these jobs is having lots of experience working with animals in lots of different ways. But there is a catch: to get a position working with animals, you need to have experience working with animals. So how are you supposed to get your foot in the door?

Snuggles! Photo by Jenna Buley.
The most reliable way to get animal experience is to volunteer, since most paid positions that work with animals are out of reach for those that do not have significant animal-handling experience. There are many different places that need volunteers to help with animal care. Local pet shelters, such as the Humane Society, are always looking for volunteers. For large animal experience, stables and animal farm sanctuaries are often looking for help. If you are looking for wildlife experience, many local wildlife rehabilitation centers and zoos will also accept volunteers. And if you are the adventurous type, there are ecotourism groups that can connect you with wildlife sanctuaries abroad that are looking for temporary volunteers (some are even geared towards pre-vet students). Granted, these volunteer positions are not glamorous: they don’t pay, they are hard work, and they generally involve cleaning lots of poop. But generally, the more you do, the more you will be allowed to do. And if you commit to at least 6 months to a year, you will make yourself competitive for other positions that work with animals.

Awww... as tempting as it is to pick up an adorable baby skunk,
don't do it unless you are a trained and licensed wildlife rehabilitator
(like this woman is). Image by AnimalPhotos at Wikimedia.
If you already have some animal experience under your belt, you may want to apply for some paid positions that work with animals. Zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries, and rehabilitation centers frequently have paid internships. Animal hospitals hire veterinary assistants, animal caretakers and receptionists with little to no animal experience. Stables and farms hire staff to care for their animals as well. In all of these cases, the larger and more famous the institution, the more competitive the applications will be and the more experience you will need to get a paid position.

Once your foot is in the door, you can move up the ranks into more exciting and fulfilling positions. Keep in mind that employers and veterinary schools are looking for both breadth and depth when it comes to animal experience. Having experiences at a variety of different places with a range of species will make you more competitive. Also, you want to stay in the same place for a long time (months to years) to gain the depth of animal-handling knowledge that employers and vet schools are looking for. But, if this is the career path for you, you may not want to leave anyway.

For more advice on working with animals, check this out.

No comments:

Post a Comment