Individuals interested in pursuing animal rescue and welfare career paths gain valuable experience doing volunteer work with shelters, humane societies, wildlife rehabilitation programs, breed rescues, and other similar organizations. Completion of formal internships also help—especially wildlife rehabilitation and animal behavior internship program options. Career paths available for those concerned with animal rescue and animal welfare include many options.
Animal Welfare Veterinarian
Animal welfare veterinarians are board-certified specialists who have advanced training in animal welfare and ethics. This has been a specialty in the United States only since 2012, when the first diplomates were recognized as charter members. The first certification exam was administered in 2013.
Median salary for veterinarians as of 2018 is approximately $93,830 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Board-certified specialists can earn more than $120,000 per year due to their advanced training and professional qualifications.
Animal Shelter Manager
Animal shelter managers oversee the animals, staff, and maintenance at facilities they supervise. Shelter managers seek funding, develop procedures, interact with the public, and represent the shelter at community events. Shelters tend to prefer managers with a degree in business administration or an animal-related field.
The median annual salary for animal care and service workers, including animal shelter managers, is about $23,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2018. However, managers of larger facilities can expect to earn more than this.
Pet Adoption Counselor
Pet adoption counselors screen adoption applicants, process applications, and supervise interactions between pets and the public. While a college degree is not required to secure a position in this field, most pet adoption counselors have extensive experience working with companion animal species.
The median annual salary for animal care and service workers, including pet adoption counselors, is about $23,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2018.
Humane educators provide information about animal welfare and behavior. They present a variety of educational programs to school groups, businesses, and other area organizations. They also may be involved with educating pet adopters about how to care for their new animals. Humane educators usually have a degree in education or a related field, but this is not always required. Certification programs are also available through the Humane Society of the United States.
The average annual salary for humane educators is between $27,000 and $35,000, according to postings with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), as of 2019.
Animal Control Officer
Animal control officers capture stray animals, investigate cases of animal mistreatment, enforce licensing regulations, and provide care to animals in their custody. This position allows for a high level of direct contact with animals, so it is critical that officers take all proper safety precautions to minimize chances of injury. A degree in an animal-related field or criminology is preferred for officers, but a high school diploma or GED may be sufficient with the proper certification. A strong knowledge of animal behavior and first aid is critical for those seeking a position in this field.
The median annual salary for animal control officers is about $36,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2018.
Wildlife rehabilitators provide care to injured native wildlife with the long-range goal of returning rehabilitated animals to the wild if at all possible. Rehabilitators must be licensed to work in their home state and obtain all necessary permits required by law. Professional certification is also available.
The median annual salary for animal care and service workers, including wildlife rehabilitators, is about $23,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2018.
Animal lawyers handle cases that involve legal protections for animals and their welfare. Lawyers must complete law school and successfully pass the bar exam to become licensed to practice in their home state. Many lawyers practice in the private sector and incorporate animal law into their practice.
Pay scales are based on salaries at private firms and vary depending on the size of the firm and the location. Median pay for lawyers is about $120,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the average starting salary for a new animal lawyer is around $50,000, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).