How to Gain Experience Working With Animals

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Gaining practical experience with animals is critical for those hoping to work in many animal career paths. Many veterinarian programs require hands-on experience with animals to gain acceptance, and your experience will also provide you with valuable references. So how can you gain this essential experience? Here are ten of the best ways to gain experience working with animals:

Work at a Veterinary Clinic

Even if you are not intending to work in the animal health field, having prior work experience at a veterinary clinic is one of the best things you can include on your resume. Veterinary assistants and technicians tend to have superior animal handling skills combined with a solid knowledge of animal behavior and physiology. These attributes are highly valued in many career paths.

Volunteer at a Shelter or Rescue

Shelters and rescue groups are always in need of volunteers to perform a variety of tasks (such as completing kennel chores, providing basic obedience training, and assisting with the puppy or kitten adoption rooms). Volunteer experience is every bit as valuable as paid experience on your resume. Be sure to document your hours.

Start a Pet Sitting Service

Running a pet sitting business clearly demonstrates that you have both animal and entrepreneurial skills. This type of business has a low start-up cost and can be operated as a small-scale sideline business if you so desire.

Choose an Animal Related Degree Program

Your college major can be a great way to gain experience in an animal related field. Majors like animal science, biology, equine science, and marine biology can include a fairly substantial amount of hands-on experience working with animals. You may also have the opportunity to learn about anatomy and physiology through dissections and lab work.

Participate in College Work Study Programs

Many colleges and universities have animal production facilities that employ students, and this can be a great way to gain experience with a variety of livestock species. Common production operations on campus may include those focused on beef cattle, dairy cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, and poultry. Some schools also employ students to perform animal related lab work (such as processing and shipping semen, cutting meat, or testing samples).

Volunteer at a Zoo or Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility

Zoos and wildlife rehabilitation centers often have volunteer programs for students or those interested in seeing what goes on behind the scenes. If you have any interest in working with exotic animal species, this can be a great chance to enhance your resume. Zoo career paths, in particular, have a highly competitive selection process, with many more applicants than there are positions available. As a result, prior experience can be a major advantage.

Work at a Farm or Stable

For those interested in large animal or livestock careers, working at a farm or stable can be a great way to become familiar with the behavior of cattle, horses, and other livestock species. 

Complete Animal Related Internships

Internship programs are one of the very best ways to gain experience working with animals. There are internship programs focused on many animal career paths including pre-veterinary internships, equine internships, marine animal internships, zoo internships, canine internships, dairy internships, beef internships, aquaculture internships, insect internships, wildlife rehabilitation internships, primate internships, reptile internships, animal behavior internships, and more.

Participate in Job Shadowing

If possible; you should try to shadow a professional in your field of interest as they perform their daily duties. It can be a great opportunity to ask questions and get a behind the scenes look at careers that you are considering.

Achieve Professional Certification

There are a variety of certification programs that can enhance a candidate’s professional credentials. Certification programs are available for pet care, animal massage, animal behavior, animal-assisted therapy, dog training, animal control, riding instruction, dog grooming, laboratory technology, wildlife rehabilitation, and more.