Overcome the Barriers in the Way of Your Animal Protection Job

By Paula Fitzsimmons

What do you believe is holding you back from finding your animal dream job – No college degree? Lack of experience? Your location? What may seem like a barrier may very well be nothing more than a minor setback, or even perhaps the prelude to an even better opportunity.

You may very well have legitimate reasons for not being able to accomplish what you want to do right now: Vet school is too competitive; family obligations are preventing you from pursuing that advanced degree; you can’t accept an internship because you’re working two jobs. Situations arise . . . I get that.

But there’s no excuse for not getting as close as possible to your dream of working with or for animals.

The following are five common perceived factors that may be holding you back. I say perceived, because in many cases there are work-arounds.


Barrier #1: No experience working with animals

Depending on the position you’re applying for, you may not even need experience with animals. Organizations are often times focused on your passion for animals, skills, and strong work ethic.

Skills are often transferable. So if you excel at fundraising, public relations, writing, or finance, for instance, but have only worked with businesses or non-animal nonprofits, you still have a decent shot at getting hired.

This can even be the case with non-administrative positions. In a recent interview, Jennifer Hartman, a conservation canine handler with Conservation Canines told me this: “We do not actively search for people with a background in dog training. Our dogs and the application of the method is unique and applicants with a background in traditional dog behavior or obedience training find it hard to switch to what is required of our handlers.” Jennifer has a background in English Literature, and originally thought this would be a disadvantage to getting hired since her peers had a science background . . .yet she got hired.

If the job does require experience, there are different ways for you to get it, including via volunteering and interning.


Barrier #2: No college degree

If you want to become a vet, an animal rights lawyer, or behavior specialist, yes, you’ll need to have a college degree. Even administrative jobs will often times require an Associate or Bachelor’s degree – but this is the trend in today’s workforce.

There are however, a myriad of jobs you can consider applying for if you lack a diploma. Some of these include (depending on the organization) pet groomer, animal care giver, adoption specialist, and freelance writer. Check out No Degree? No Problem! for more ideas.

If you do need training and can’t swing the tuition expenses right now, there are several legitimate organizations offering free and low-cost courses. These aren’t meant to substitute a traditional degree, but can add value to your portfolio.


Barrier #3: Location

If you’re in a position to relocate, you’ll open the door to many more opportunities. But not everyone is able or willing to move.

Are there any animal rescues, shelters, or chapters of national welfare or conservation organizations in your area that are hiring? If not, one option is to consider starting your own business. I have some ideas for various solo animal-relate businesses you can start. Also check out my articles on starting a solo dog walking business and finding animal freelance writing markets.

More animal welfare organizations are offering remote employment options. A few that have offered telecommuting opportunities at some point include Best Friends Animal Society, HSUS, and ASPCA.

Keep checking the Animal Jobs Digest jobs board for opportunities.


Barrier #4: You’re applying but can’t seem to get hired

There could be a myriad of reasons why you’re not being offered jobs. First, how many have you applied for? Finding work is a numbers game – the more you apply, the better the chance of finding employment. Don’t get discouraged if you send out a couple applications, then don’t hear back.

There’s a lot of competition for jobs, especially those with animals.

It also wouldn’t hurt to review the different things hiring managers look for in good candidates to give yourself an edge.


Barrier #5: Money

Being able to pay bills is a concern for all of us, especially if you’re the prime income earner in your family. Despite perceptions, there are a lot of jobs in the animal sector that pay pretty decently. I’m not saying you’re going to get rich working in the animal welfare field – and you shouldn’t expect it – but advocates are making a living by doing what they’re passionate about. Jobs related to fields like fundraising, administration, and veterinary care will yield higher pay than say animal care giver or dog walker.


You have fewer barriers than you may think. Keeping your options open can yield satisfying career opportunities. Now it’s your turn: What are some barriers that are holding you back – and more importantly how can you overcome them?


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Big cat image credit (minus additional type): #34696071 from Clipart.com.

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