As greater concern for the environment has grown over the past few years, we have come to understand that the Earth, the animals and the climate itself are not eternally stable elements, but hugely vulnerable to human action. As a result of this new comprehension, more people have become engaged in work to protect and rehabilitate the planet and the animals we share it with.

Working with animals today is not simply a matter of cuddling fluffy bundles of fur – it is a far more serious and vital engagement bringing together science, medicine, ecology, biology, design, education, lifestyle, health, finance, as well as employment. If you are able to combine a great love of animals with a career, then possibly you are looking at one of the best ways to spend your working life.

As much as we may think we know animals, we have learned an extraordinary amount of new information in just the last ten years. As of 2012 all animals have been declared sentient beings. A sadly late decision. However, we now know so much more with regard to how animals communicate and experience environments, that we are much better able to care for them and preserve habitats.

Gone are the days when the idea of working with animals would automatically translate to the veterinary discipline. Today, there are so many options across a broad spectrum of jobs, that searching for an animal career can be quite daunting. Everybody knows what a vet does, but have you thought of veterinary technology? Or marine biology? Or animal behaviour study? The list is extensive.

The most essential attribute you need if you want to work with animals, is love. It’s that pure and that simple. Pure love. You must, above all else, be prepared to work with empathy with animals who cannot speak for themselves, and work with them with love, dedication, and a sense of purpose rather than profit. Not all jobs in the animal world come with fat salaries. In fact, quite the opposite – so it is a choice of career that is as much a calling as it may be a calculated decision.

Veterinarian

If veterinary surgery is your choice, you will find yourself working with all kinds of animals. Unlike doctors who focus on one species – ie: humans, you will be studying and working with house pets, livestock, and wildlife, including fish, snakes, and crocodiles! Your patients will not be able to tell you anything – where the pain is or what kind of discomfort they may be suffering – so the responsibility is pressing, not to mention intuitive, and must be accompanied by a fund of patience.

You will diagnose illnesses, treat injuries, prescribe medications, perform surgeries, and monitor patients’ progress. In addition, you would also be involved in research regarding animal health, the prevention and control of illnesses, and euthanising animals that are too ill to be treated. Employment is varied and across many areas. While the majority of veterinarians work in private animal clinics, many also work for government agencies, research centres, in the agricultural industry, and with rescue and rehabilitation organisations.

Those interested in pursuing careers in veterinary medicine at the highest level are required to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from an accredited college or university. Admission into these programmes is extremely competitive, so in order for students to increase their chances of admission, they should successfully complete courses in biology, anatomy, zoology, chemistry and physiology when they are undergraduates. Communication, compassion, and critical thinking are essential skills for succeeding in a veterinary career.

Animal Rescue

This is an area of work that requires more than dedication, it also calls for extreme strength of mind and purpose of action. Some situations you may encounter will be heart-breaking, and you will have to act calmly and within the confines of the law. Often the animals you are required to save have been the victims of abuse and neglect.

You may also be called upon to deal with stray and feral animals that do not have owners, or to assist when animals have been injured when caught up in emergencies such as cyclones and fires. Ancillary employment may include: animal shelter attendant; animal adoption counsellor; animal rescue co-ordinator; humane educator; animal inspector.

Wildlife Rehabilitation

 Wildlife rehabilitation combines veterinary medicine, animal behaviour, natural history, and environmental studies. Working with wild animals, you would be responsible for rescuing, treating and caring for wounded, sick or orphaned animals – and ultimately returning them to their natural habitat. It’s a challenging role and often means being outdoors in the bush, tracking animals, and dealing with sometimes dangerous situations.

Wild animals are more difficult to work with than domesticated pets, and their space and sense of independence must always be respected. Some animals may need extensive recovery time before they can be released back into the wild. Working with wild animals is certainly not for the faint at heart. Your driving motivation must be the preservation of wildlife. You may find yourself dealing with snakes or lions, so you will need to be in good physical condition.

Careers include qualifications in: biology, wildlife management, animal science, or ecology in order to gain a deeper understanding of animal care and wildlife science than hands-on job training can provide.

Working with animals is a challenging and fulfilling sphere of endeavour – maybe not the best paid, but one that is always driven by love. Love for our beautiful world, the environment, and all the species that share it. Pure love.