Wildlife Rehabilitation Training

Two barn owls in captivity
••• Juan Silva/Photodisc/Getty Images

Wildlife rehabilitation is a relatively new career path that is growing rapidly in popularity.  Many wildlife rehabilitators choose to complete certification exams, training courses, and internships to enhance their practical skills and knowledge of the field.  While certification or professional training is not required, it is mandatory that rehabilitators comply with all permit and licensing requirements in the jurisdiction where they intend to use their skills.


The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) offers the most well-known wildlife rehabilitation certification program.  The Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator (CWR) designation is achieved through passage of a comprehensive written exam. 

The exam is open-book and consists of 50 questions drawn from a 12,000 question test bank.  The format of the exam includes true/false, multiple-choice, and matching questions.  The questions test the individual’s knowledge of twelve key areas: natural history and behavior, handling and restraint, basic physiology, intake and triage, euthanasia, hydration and fluid therapy, thermoregulation, wound management, medications, nutrition, captive housing, and release criteria.  Both web-based and classroom-based testing options are available.

  The exam is timed and must be completed within one hour.  The testing fee is $115 per application. 

Certified Wildlife Rehabilitators must renew their certification every two years and complete two units of continuing education.  Continuing education credits may consist of 8 hours of attendance at a conference or training event, presentation of a paper at an approved conference, or publication of a paper in a peer-reviewed wildlife journal.

Training Courses

Many wildlife rehabilitation training courses are offered at wildlife centers and community colleges.

The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council offers both in-person “physical classes” and online classes related to wildlife rehabilitation.  Current offerings for physical classes include basic wildlife rehabilitation, pain and wound management, parasitology, and zoonoses.  Physical classes are offered at many different locations across the country throughout the year.  Online class offerings include oil spill volunteering, pain management, parasitology, and wound management.  Course costs vary from $65 to $190, with discounted rates available for members of the IWRC.

Raritan Valley Community College (in New Jersey) is an example of a community college that offers wildlife rehabilitation training courses.  The Raritan Valley program consists of a five-day training course that is approved by the state division of Fish and Wildlife.  Coursework includes species identification and anatomy, handling techniques, care, nutrition, medical procedures, licensing requirements, regulations, and more.  Similar programs are offered in many other states.

The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) offers a weekend wildlife medicine course for veterinary students that includes both lectures and practical labs.  Students focus on topics related to medicine, surgery, and management of native wildlife species.  The NWRA also offers a yearly symposium for all wildlife rehabilitators that consists of four days of intensive labs and lectures from leading professionals.

St. Tiggywinkles, a British wildlife rehabilitation hospital that bills itself as “the world’s busiest,” offers a comprehensive training course that is approved by City & Guilds.  Students spend 90 percent of their time in hands-on practical learning with the animals, though classroom-based training is also offered.  Two diplomas are offered: Level 1 Diploma in Work-based Animal Care (8 months) and Level 2 Diploma in Work-based Animal Care (11 months).  Seasonal volunteer positions are also offered.


There are many quality wildlife rehabilitation internship opportunities that can help students gain valuable practical experience.  Internships can be found at rehabilitation hospitals, wildlife centers, wildlife societies, and national organizations.  Interns can find opportunities to focus on particular species of interest (i.e., marine mammals or birds) or work with a broader cross-section of wildlife species.


Individuals and organizations must have all necessary permits and licenses (as required in their specific state or locality) to be allowed to conduct wildlife rehabilitation activities.  Federal permits may also be necessary, especially if the rehabilitator intends to work with birds.  All wildlife rehabilitators should be careful to determine what permits and licenses will be needed to operate their facilities legally.