9 Unusual Jobs if You Love Working with Animals

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If you love animals but aren’t sold on being a vet, look into one of these nine unusual animal-based careers instead.
Updated April 11, 2024
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nurse with a dog in nature doing medical healthcare checkup

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Want to work with animals? Going to veterinary school is one viable option — but it’s far from the only one. It’s also not the only career for animal lovers that can boost your bank account.

If you’re committed to turning your love of animals into a career that extends beyond the medical realm, one of these nine jobs could be the perfect fit for you.

Farrier

herraez/Adobe farrier at work trimming the horses hoof

Median full-time salary: $116,486

Farriers specialize in all things horse hoof-related, starting with shoeing horses.

Farriers safely remove old horseshoes, trim the horse’s hooves, measure the horse’s feet for new shoes, apply the shoes, and customize the shoes to the horse’s feet.

Farriers also play a crucial role in detecting hoof and gait problems that could lead to lameness later on.

Since farriers need both blacksmithing and veterinary knowledge, it’s an ideal career for people who love working with their hands and who want to care for animals without being tied to an office.

If you end up working with racehorses, you could make over $200,000 a year as a farrier. Typically, though, you’ll earn closer to $100,000 a year. Part-time farriers earn a quarter of that amount, especially when they’re first starting.

Conservation biologist

AYAimages/Adobe marine biologist analyzing water test results and algea samples

Median full-time salary: $63,750

Are you passionate about protecting animals and their habitats?

As a conservation biologist, you would study ecosystems and endangered species, gathering the information you need to advocate for vulnerable animals and environments.

Your job would likely include lots of hands-on research as you document problems in the environment and come up with proactive solutions.

Wildlife rehabilitator

Marlene Vicente/Adobe kangaroo fed with a bottle by a person

Median full-time salary: $28,730

Wildlife rehabilitators take care of injured or abandoned wildlife. You’d perform some basic veterinary and caretaking duties with the goal of nursing sick, injured animals back to health so they can re-enter their native environment.

Wildlife rehabilitators have different relationships with the animals they work with than domestic pet veterinarians. The goal is to have as little contact with wild animals as possible, preserving their wildness while providing care.

If you want to help wild animals survive without doing as much veterinary work, many rehabilitation centers need community outreach educators. In this role, you’d help communities understand how they can protect the ecosystems and animals around them.

Park ranger

Patrick/Adobe grizzly bear 399 and her four cubs cross the road in Grand Teton National Park

Median full-time salary: $38,660

Unlike most of the other jobs on this list, park rangers don’t necessarily work with animals full-time. Instead, depending on where in the country they work, they juggle duties like directing tourists, hosting educational programs, and maintaining trails.

But park rangers have more opportunities than most to encounter all types of wildlife when they’re on the clock.

Like wildlife rehabilitators, park rangers might spend some time educating the public on ways to protect the environment.

And like conservation biologists, park rangers also play a crucial role in preserving the habitats wild animals need to survive.

Adoption counselor

Mila Supinskaya/Adobe woman working in animal shelter

Median full-time salary: $28,730

If you want a job that lets you interact with humans and their pets in equal measure, consider pet adoption counseling.

Adoption counselors usually work with shelters, reading through adoption applications to make sure pets go to the right homes for their needs. But an adoption counselor’s most important job is to maximize the chance that an adoption will last.

If you take this career route, you’ll spend most of your time helping potential owners and adoptees bond and understand each other.

Aquarist

hedgehog94/Adobe man changing water in aquarium using siphon

Median full-time salary: $24,000

Did you grow up taking care of a pet goldfish? Then you already know what it’s like to be an aquarist in miniature.

These animal professionals specialize in taking care of fish and other underwater creatures typically found in aquariums.

Aquarists spend a lot of their time submerged in tanks, cleaning them, or installing and maintaining exhibits. (SCUBA certification is a must for this role.)

Most importantly, they feed and care for aquatic creatures, keep their tanks clean and water pure, and help teach visitors how to protect precious underwater environments themselves.

Snake milker

kampwit/Adobe milking green pit viper (Trimeresurus) snake for venom

Median full-time salary: $66,350

If you’re not already familiar with snake venom milking, it might not sound like a real job — but it is.

Scientists and researchers need to collect snake venom to formulate lifesaving anti-venom solutions. Most medical researchers aren’t trained to handle snakes, especially venomous ones, so that’s where snake milkers come in.

As a trained snake milker, you’d work at a snake-centric lab or serpentarium. Along with learning how to carefully extract venom from snakes without harming them (or yourself), you’d likely assist in other snake-related tasks around the lab.

Depending on where you end up working, you could work on scientific papers, care for the snakes, or package and ship the venom to research centers across the country.

Pet groomer

bondvit/Adobe  pet groomer dries Welsh Corgi Pembroke dog fur with a hair dryer

Media full-time salary: $28,060

Humans aren’t the only ones who need their hair and nails looked after regularly. Pets — specifically dogs — need a human who can wash and bathe them while providing a necessary trim every once in a while.

And some pets (or their owners) crave the full spa treatment, including painted nails, fancy hairstyles, and even the occasional fur dye job.

Pet groomers can work out of animal shelters, veterinary offices, or pet stores. You could even open your own pet grooming business, running it out of your home or as a mobile business.

You’d likely need to apprentice with a local pet groomer to get started, which might mean signing a non-compete promising not to poach your trainer’s clients.

Acupuncturist

Martin Schlecht/Adobe pet acupuncturist

Median full-time salary: $42,098

Traditional vets are usually a pet owner’s go-to option for medical care, but non-traditional medical providers certainly have a place as well.

Many pet owners want alternative medical treatments, like acupuncture, for their pets in need of pain relief.

As an animal acupuncturist, you’d need a solid understanding of both veterinary medicine and acupuncture, so the educational requirements for this job are quite high. As a result, it pays more than many of the careers on our list.

Despite the time and effort required to become a pet acupuncturist, it can be a rewarding career for people who want to improve the quality of life outcomes for pets in pain.

Bottom line

Studio Romantic/Adobe man works hard on a dairy farm throwing hay to cows

There isn’t just one career path that people who love animals have to follow. Instead, animal lovers can find stellar career options in nearly every field imaginable.

You can work with animals full-time, work equally with pets and their owners, or care for animals from afar by studying climate change and ecosystems.

No matter your interest, you can find an animal-centric career that pays the bills while helping you do what you love.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.

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