No Degree? No Problem! Find a Job in Animal Advocacy Without College
By Paula Fitzsimmons
You have your heart set on working as an animal advocate, but may believe your lack of college credentials will hold you back. A traditional college degree isn’t ideal for everyone – and even if you do want to go, it could be that you can’t swing the tuition right now.
Luckily there are jobs involving animals that you can find in an assortment of fields . . . including those below. You will need at least a high school diploma, and depending on the position, you may need experience, excellent interpersonal skills, and perhaps a few college-level courses or training. (Read my article, “10 Free & Low Cost Career-Boosting Courses & Training Opportunities for Animal Advocates” for resource ideas.)
Keep in mind that organizational needs vary – while one nonprofit may require a college degree for a certain position, another may just want to see relevant experience. One thing any job with animals requires is passion; if you care deeply about animal welfare, you possess the most important job qualification for this field.
Here are a few ideas to help get you started . . .
Animals could care less what your college credentials are, or resume looks like. If you’re kind, caring, responsible – and are passionate about animals, you have a large part of what it takes to be an animal caregiver. Especially if you’d like to work for a shelter or rescue for domestic animals.
If you have your heart set on working with specialized sanctuaries, such as those that house primates, you’ll likely need at least some college coursework, or hands-on experience with that species or group of animals.
It’s unlikely you’ll get paid to pet and feed animals all day, so expect other tasks to be part of your job description – cleaning cages, assisting with veterinary care, working with the public, moving equipment, doing data entry, doing groundskeeping & maintenance.
Writers and Creatives
If you plan to apply for an in-house communications, grant-writing, or other writing-intense position with an organization, you’ll probably need at least a Bachelor’s degree to be considered.
It’s a different story if you plan to venture out on our own as a freelancer. Sure, there are clients who care where you went to school, but my experience has been that most are focused on what’s in your portfolio. Your clips, your ability to write and narrate, coupled with your savvy marketing skills is what’s going to get you the gigs.
When I send queries to magazine and online publication editors I don’t even mention my Bachelor’s degree – the focus is on what I’ve written, how marketable the idea is, and how it can tie into their publication.
Have you thought of writing a book or ebook? Unless you’re writing something for the veterinary, scientific, or educational markets, you don’t need a degree. To see what I mean, check out the “About the author” page on several of your favorite books – you’ll be hard-pressed to find authors mentioning their degrees.
Ditto for graphic designers & artists. When I see a great piece of art work, the artist’s education doesn’t even come to mind. I’m thinking more along the lines of “What a captivating piece of work.”
This is another job you may be able to get without a college degree. It depends on the organization doing the hiring and the complexity of the position – whether you’ll be performing basic clerical tasks versus more complex ones, such as acting as liaison and making decisions.
A benefit of this type of job is that it can serve as a gateway to other types of employment. (You never know who you may impress.)
When searching for this type of position, be on the lookout for alternate titles such as office assistant, policy assistant, executive assistant, and office manager.
Animal Adoption Specialist
As an adoption specialist your job will be to facilitate the adoption process efficiently and with grace – ensuring adoptable animals find the best possible homes. That’s a lot of responsibility.
This is a job for someone who enjoys working with people, as much as they do with animals. Aside from getting to know the animals under your care, you’ll need to have excellent interpersonal skills – you’ll be working with the public, different teams within the rescue, and vets.
Larger rescues, such as Best Friends Animal Society, hire ambassadors – people that act as the face of the organization. Because you will be representing the rescue or sanctuary, your superb interpersonal skills will mean much more than your college training. As a sanctuary ambassador, some of your duties may include greeting people, giving tours, and helping with special events.
Alternate job titles you may want to look for include customer service, dispatcher, and liaison.
Examples of animal-centered jobs requiring a college degree
- Animal rights lawyer
- Veterinary medical director
- Animal behavior specialist
Examples of animal-centered jobs that probably will require a college degree
- Executive director
- Program manager
- Policy specialist
- Government liaison
- Communications manager
- Marketing specialist
- Grantwriter (non-freelance)
- Fundraising professional (non-freelance)
Examples of animal-centered jobs that may or may not require a college degree
- Veterinary technician (although certification does apply)
- Assistant: Program, office, administrative
- Article writer
- Cruelty investigator
Examples of animal-centered jobs that probably won’t require a college degree
- Adoption specialist
- Customer service liaison
- Animal care giver
- Pet groomer or bather
- Maintenance worker
- Dog walker
Unless a position requires a professional degree, such as that which a lawyer, veterinarian, or animal behaviorist would need, there are theoretically any number of jobs that don’t require education credentials.
The takeaway? Don’t restrict your job search because you think you won’t be qualified. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you find by keeping your options open.
What has been your experience?