If you're interested in some sort of animal-related career, an internship is a great way to obtain valuable hands-on experience. Internships can also enable a student to gain insight into the wide variety of careers that involve working with animals and get a better idea of what they would enjoy—and would not enjoy—doing for a living.
For example, a student that has an interest in zoo animals could pursue a variety of internships in curation, veterinary care, or educational program development. They could also specialize even further by pursuing an opportunity with a specific group of animals, like reptiles or big cats.
Finding Your Internship
There are several paths to locating internship opportunities.
Online: The Balance Careers has compiled information on internship programs in various disciplines.
- Animal Behavior Internship Programs
- Animal Nutrition Internship Programs
- Equine Internship Programs
- Marine Animal Internship Programs
- Pre-Veterinary Internship Programs
- Veterinary Pharmaceutical Sales Internship Programs
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Internship Programs
- Zoo Internship Programs
Your School: Check in with your high school or university career development office. Your college career center might also be able to facilitate introductions to successful alumni working in your field of interest.
An advisor or department head may be able to direct you to opportunities that are unadvertised and perhaps even exclusive to students attending your school. And don't forget to ask them for a letter of recommendation that would help give you an edge.
Locally: Consider searching for internship opportunities in your local area. Many zoos, aquariums, stables, veterinary clinics, and animal-related companies offer some sort of internship program, and it can be much more affordable to find an internship close to home, without additional expenses for housing and transportation. Local options are especially appealing if you would ultimately like to find a job in the same area after you graduate.
Networking: Communicate with as many industry professionals as possible to see what internships they pursued during their student years. They may offer to give you the contact information of the organization they interned with or make an introduction to the appropriate person at that organization.
To improve your networking opportunities, consider joining animal-related organizations, such as the Animal Behavior Society, the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, and the Student American Veterinary Medical Association, that offer reduced membership dues for students.
Paying vs. Unpaid
Some internships offer a wage or stipend, housing, or the possibility of fulfilling college credit hours. But remember that monetary compensation isn’t everything. An unpaid internship at a well-known organization can be incredibly valuable in the experience section of your resume.
You may not be able to afford to commit a lot of hours to an internship that doesn't pay you. In that case, seek out the best position that combines a quality experience with high-enough compensation to make it doable.
Mind Your Deadlines
Be aware that internship applications are usually due several months in advance of the start date. So start looking early and pay close attention to deadlines for turning in your application materials.