Find the Right Internship for Your Animal Career

By Paula Fitzsimmons

The right internship can give you a definite edge when it comes time to apply for that coveted animal welfare or conservation job. It can be a solid way to make contacts, learn new skills, and gauge your interest in the field (before interning, you didn’t think animal care actually required so much cleaning duty, or that arguing an animal welfare case in court required so much preparatory work). It could also enhance your resume, CV or application – so when a potential employer asks if you have experience, you can answer with an emphatic yes.

If you need to be convinced that internships count in the job search process, consider “The Class of 2015 Executive Summary” a study compiled by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The study found that 56.5 percent of  students who held an internship (or co-op position) received at least one employment offer – just 36.5 of those who didn’t intern had similar results.

This study looked at various work industries, so whether these results translate to the animal welfare or conservation fields is hard to pinpoint – more studies are needed. But I think it’s safe to say that an internship certainly can’t hurt. Most of the job ads I run across specify experience as a prerequisite . . . and an internship (or solid volunteer position) can certainly count.

Forest leaf
Internships aren’t just for college students, either. If you’re already in the workforce and are looking to change careers, internships can still be valuable. Career coach Nancy Collamer says ” . . .people of all ages have discovered the value of internships as a way to evaluate new careers and build up their resumes . . .”

Nancy is also author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement

. I have read this book, love it, and fully recommend it, but please note that this is an affiliate link, and that if you do purchase the book via this link, I earn a commission.

So aside from college and junior college career placement offices, where can you find an internship that will give you that edge? A few suggestions to consider . . .

• Your favorite organization or rescue. Even if they don’t offer a formal program, perhaps you can work out something mutually beneficial. If you’re stuck for ideas on organizations to intern with, or need contact information, the World Animal Net has a huge and comprehensive database of worldwide animal charities and organizations.

• Accrediting organization Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries maintains a Job Listings page, which includes internship positions available with the organization, as well as those submitted by animal sanctuaries.

• An assortment of nonprofit organizations post their internship openings at Idealist, which by the way, is also a great place to look for jobs and volunteer spots.

Forest leaf
There’s a good chance that an internship with an animal nonprofit will be unpaid. If that’s the case, make sure the position is mutually beneficial – and that you’re not just providing free help. If you’re a college student, some of these opportunities may be eligible for college credit.

There are many wonderful internship opportunities out there. The following are just a small sample of what’s available . . .

National Audubon Society’s Wings Internship Program offers US-based positions (both paid and unpaid) in conservation, education, fundraising, as well as with their magazine. They also list nationwide internship positions on their job opportunities page.

Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots Program. One of the great benefits of these internships (aside from Jane Goodall!) is the flexibility in location – the program offers telecommuting positions within the United States, as well as onsite locations. Also check their individual internship listings page.

Center for Biological Diversity. This dynamic organization works to conserve species and prevent them from becoming endangered. They offer internships at different US-based locations. Positions are available in fields such as law, conservation, and communication.

Marine Mammal Center is primarily focused on the rescue and rehabilitation of injured marine mammals – most of their patients are seals and sea lions. They offer positions within their different departments, including veterinary science, education, and digital media.

Rainforest Trust does the important work of purchasing threatened tropical forests that are vital to the survival of endangered species; they also work with local communities by providing them with educational opportunities and jobs (vital for long-term success of any conservation program). Check their Join Our Team page for internship openings.

Animal Legal Defense Fund is the ideal organization to turn to if your aspire to become an animal rights attorney and fight for protections in the courts. This group has an impressive list of victories on both small and larger scales. Check our their Clerkships, Internships & Fellowships page for internship listings with their organization, as well as with other animal protection nonprofit organizations.

Finding the right opportunity – the one that will help you succeed in an animal protection career, will take work on your part, but is worth the effort. Have you held an internship that’s been beneficial to your career in animal welfare? Or do you have a good program to recommend?


  1. Return to Freedom offers an In Residence Work Study Program at Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse sanctuary in Central coastal California.

    Interested applicants can apply online. We offer rustic accommodations for those ready to dig in and help with sanctuary operations, wild horse and domesticated horse care, socializing young horses to help prepare them for adoption, wild horse herd observation or habitat restoration projects to benefit the horses and/or resident wildlife and habitat.

    • Animal Jobs Digest |

      Hi Neda,

      Thank you for mentioning this opportunity and for caring for these magnificent creatures. I will share this information with others. : )


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest