No Experience With Animals? These Skills are Transferable

By Paula Fitzsimmons

Are you a career-changer considering a switch to the animal care and welfare sector? If you’ve worked in fields like business, communications, or another nonprofit category, you may already have what you need to find a job working for animals.

Sure, veterinarians, humane law officers, and animal behaviorists, to name a few, need specialized skills and experience. But animal welfare organizations need people with other talents, too. One requirement that is non-negotiable? A love for animals and a desire to improve their lives.

The following is a look at several transferable careers . . .



The fundraising field is hot, and not just according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, who projects jobs for fundraisers will grow faster than average from 2014 to 2024. One of the most frequent job ads on the Animal Jobs Digest jobs page are those in the fundraising category.

Related job titles: Fundraising is an umbrella term encompassing an assortment of job titles. Some of these include development director, grantwriter, membership coordinator, donor relations assistant, gift planning associate, special events coordinator, and major gifts director.

Read “A Career Raising Cash for Animal Causes” to learn about what Angela Grimes does as development director for Born Free USA.

What you’ll need: Most animal nonprofits typically want to see a bachelor’s degree, but experience carries a lot of weight. Be prepared to demonstrate your past successes to potential employers.

Examples of organizations that have hired fundraising pros: Defenders of Wildlife, Project Coyote, Rainforest Trust, National Audubon Society, various rescues and animals shelters.


Business & program assistants

CEOs and managers at nonprofits and animal care businesses are just as busy as their corporate counterparts, and several employ assistants. Some organizations combine roles – at Save the Chimps, for instance, J. Christopher Howell‘s title is Human Resource Generalist and Executive Assistant.

Related job titles: Administrative assistant, executive assistant, development assistant, finance assistant.

What you’ll need: Most of the ads I’ve seen ask for at least an associate degree, but depending on the requirements and complexities of the position, you may need a bachelor’s degree. Your past experience in an office environment and software skills are equally important.

Examples of organizations that have hired assistants: National Audubon Society, Return to Freedom, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Alaqua Animal Refuge, Humane Society of the United States


Don’t discount volunteer experience. Employers like applicants who have donated time at a humane society or other animal welfare organization.

Read “How Volunteering Can Help Your Animal-Centered Career” for more insights on the benefits of volunteering – as well as resources for finding great gigs.



Like their corporate counterparts, nonprofits need to keep track of revenue and expenses, maintain budgets, and follow tax laws. You’ll also need nonprofit-specific knowledge, such as how 403(b)s operate and federal grant compliance laws.

Related job titles: Accountant, account manager, manager of budgets, finance and budget analyst, director of finance and administration, payroll specialist, accounts payable coordinator.

What you’ll need: At least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related discipline, experience, or a combination of education and experience.

Examples of organizations that have hired finance pros: Xerces Society, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, Humane Society of the United States, assorted animal shelters and sanctuaries.


More examples of skills that transfer to the animal care & welfare sector . . .

• Graphic designer

• Marketing & public relations specialist

• Groundskeeper

• Volunteer coordinator

• Resale shop manager (animal shelters run them as a way to raise funds.)

• Website specialist



Communicating on behalf of an organization is a big responsibility. A good communicator imparts critical information, and compels people to take positive action, become members, and donate.

As a communicator you may be tasked with writing content for the agency’s website, blog, and newsletter, as well as overseeing its various social media platforms. If the organization has its own magazine, you may write articles or act as editor.

Related job titles: Marketing and communications manager, digital communications specialist, social media communications manager, writer, director of communications, editor.

What you’ll need: The most important requirement, of course, is your ability to write effectively and compellingly. Get ready to show potential employers past samples of your work. In many cases you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in Communications, Journalism, or a related field, but it’s not always required.

Examples of organizations that have hired communications pros: Rainforest Trust, Alley Cat Allies, Jane Goodall Institute, Farm Sanctuary, various shelters and sanctuaries.


If you have a desire to make a different for animals, don’t let your lack of experience be a detractor. Your special skills, attitude, and passion for animals may just be what an employer is looking for.


  1. Martha Breeding |

    Hello. I’m currently looking for work involving animals. I want to work from home so I can be with my cats! I am looking to make a good living and not have to do anything where I’d be on the webcam. I’m not sure if I have the qualifications for anything like this though. Can you help me?

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