What Is an Animal Welfare Specialist?

Read about the job duties of an animal welfare specialist, as well as employment opportunities and entry-level work. Find information on degree options, course topics and professional training. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Animal welfare specialists take care of animals, including feeding and exercising them. Entry-level positions typically do not require a degree; however, degrees are available for those who want to further their career in animal welfare.

Responsibilities Looking after animals and clerical work, like answering phones
Training On-the-job, workshops and training programs
Degrees Not required for entry-level positions, but bachelor's and master's degrees are available

What Are the Job Duties of an Animal Welfare Specialist?

You can expect to work directly with animals at humane societies or at private, non-profit or government shelters for much of your day. Additional employment opportunities may be found as animal control officers and humane educators. Typical entry-level duties include:

  • Feeding animals
  • Cleaning cages
  • Exercising animals
  • Screening adoption applicants
  • Maintaining records
  • Answering telephones
  • Assisting with vaccinations and euthanasia

How Can I Become an Animal Welfare Specialist?

No specialized education requirements pertain to work as an animal welfare specialist. You can receive on-the-job training or take advantage of the many workshops and training programs offered through animal shelters nationwide. Workshops and training seminars may cover such topics as animal capture techniques, wildlife encounters, cruelty investigations and public relations.

You may receive additional training through individual non-credit courses on such topics as disaster preparedness for animals, bite prevention or fundraising essentials. Certificate programs that train individuals for work as advocacy management specialists and humane education specialists or in shelter resource development may increase your job responsibilities and advance your career. These programs are commonly offered online and are available on campus in certain locations.

What Degrees Can I Earn?

If you would like to further advance your career and become a shelter manager or open your own shelter, you may want to consider a bachelor's or master's degree. Bachelor's degrees specifically designed for working in animal care and protection are available online and on campus in limited numbers. Graduate certificates in animal studies, humane leadership or animal policy and advocacy are available if you've already earned a bachelor's degree in another field. Your curriculum will include basic business courses in non-profit management in addition to courses covering the history, philosophy and current issues of animal protection. You'll take courses that cover the following topics:

  • Animal ethics
  • Animal behavior
  • Animal law and policy
  • Wildlife law and policy
  • Humane education
  • Fundraising
  • Animal Care

If you're considering a career in policy making, advocacy or research, you may want to consider a master's degree. Master's degree curricula focus on promoting the status and welfare of animals and deepening the public understanding of animals in society. Master's degrees are often combined with a veterinary medicine or law degree program. You'll take courses such as public animal policy, animal shelter policy, animal law and wildlife in captivity. You'll also be required to complete a thesis paper, internship and research project.

What is the Career Outlook for Animal Welfare Specialists?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall job growth expected across all fields related to animal care and service workers is 22% from 2016-2026. In particular, caretakers who work with non-farm animals are expected to have the highest growth rate at 24%. Personal care and service workers can expect a 19% growth rate, while animal trainers are expected to see an 11% growth rate in the same time period. As of 2017, the median pay across all fields was $23,160 per year, or $11.13 per hour.

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