Use Your Humanities Degree to Find a Job Helping Animals


By Paula Fitzsimmons

Think you can’t land a job in animal care or protection with that humanities degree? If your major is in philosophy, English, psychology, or a similar liberal arts discipline, you absolutely do have options. More than you may think.

Remember those thesis papers you had to research, compile, and write in college? They seemed grueling but served you well. You may have not realized it at the time, but I’m betting you became a better communicator and developed stronger critical thinking skills, as a result. These are the types of skills employers seek, including those in the animal world.

Foster Parrot’s sanctuary director had a background in psychology, which executive director Karen Windsor says is invaluable in animal welfare and management work: “She didn’t know a thing about parrots, but I could teach her about parrots – and the parrots would teach her about parrots. What I couldn’t teach her is what she already knew about managing people, animal welfare politics, taking initiative, and working under pressure.”

Regardless of the major, a college degree in itself may not be enough to find work. For example, Foster Parrot’s sanctuary director had experience working at a wolf sanctuary. This combination of skills, experience, a strong work ethic, and a passion for animals is a powerful combination.

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If you have all the above ingredients except for the experience part, consider finding an internship or strong volunteer opportunity.

Some fields, such as veterinary medicine, dog grooming, and marine biology, require specialized training. With others, your foundation skills are sufficient. Here are a few animal-centric career categories that may work well with your humanities degree . . .

Development and fundraising. Includes grantwriters, event coordinators, development directors, donor relations managers, and others who work to raise money for their organizations. Who hires: Animal advocacy nonprofits, conservation nonprofits, sanctuaries, and rescues. My article on fundraising careers offers ideas and resources if this is a path you’d like to consider.

Humane education. May also be referred to as outreach educator or something similar. Who hires: Typically animal rescues and shelters; you’ll be working in-house, as well as doing outreach within the community and in schools. The Institute for Humane Education has a section on becoming a humane educator.

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Management and administration. Examples of positions include volunteer coordinator, project manager, shelter manager, membership director, administrator. Who hires: Animal rescues, sanctuaries, nonprofit conservation and animal advocacy organizations. The Society of Animal Welfare Administrators is a membership group offering opportunities to network with others in this field. SAWA also maintains an impressive job board – which can help give you an idea of the types of positions available.

Communications. Includes positions in marketing, public relations, digital communications, and content writing. Who hires: Animal rescues and sanctuaries, conservation and advocacy organizations, publishers, dog walking, veterinarians, and other businesses. My article about writing careers for animal lovers offers ideas and resources.

You may find that some of these employers don’t even require a degree . . . sometimes experience is more important. If you don’t have a college degree, consider some of the other options available to you.

Your humanities degree – or any degree, whether in biology, physics, marketing, or graphic design – helped you to develop important skills. But your character, your contributions, your experience, and your passion, are equally important – if not more important – than what’s written on your college diploma.

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