Wildlife Rehabilitation Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in wildlife rehabilitation. Read on to learn more about career options along with education, licensure, salary and job outlook information. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Wildlife Rehabilitator Do?

Wildlife rehabilitators provide many services for animals in need of protection. Some careers within this field involve providing daily animal care and educating the public with programs that allow limited contact with the wildlife. Others involve medical care and treatment for injured or ill wild animals in a manner that allows them to be safely released back into the wild. In order to work within the field of wildlife rehabilitation, you need to have plenty of training in proper wild animal veterinary techniques and have a reasonably thorough background in animal science. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this profession.

Wildlife Caretaker Wildlife Veterinary Technician
Degree Required Bachelor's degree desirable; some jobs provide on-the-job training Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Wildlife biology, marine biology, zoology, animal ecology Veterinary technician
Licensure Required Wildlife rehab license required; state permit required; migratory bird permit required National vet tech exam required by most states; wildlife rehab license required; state permit required; migratory bird permit required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 11% for non-farm animal caretakers; strong competition for wildlife jobs* 19% for vet technicians and technologists*
Average Salary (2015) $23,630 for non-farm animal caretakers* $33,280 for vet technicians and technologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Careers Exist in Wildlife Rehabilitation?

The field of wildlife rehabilitation encompasses several different jobs. Wildlife rehabilitators may work with veterinarians at a clinic or rehab center to determine the extent of an animal's injuries and the best path to care for the animal, including performing lab work and radiology and/or keeping animal medical records. A wildlife rehabilitator might also work at an animal rehab center to provide daily care for animals to ensure cleanliness of animal areas, access to food and water and administration of medications. Public education is another facet of wildlife rehabilitation.

What Training and Education are Required?

A wildlife veterinary technician needs an associate's degree for vet technicians and, in most states, must pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam. Since degree programs may focus on domestic animals, you could take additional courses in zoology and wildlife biology. For advanced training, you might consider earning a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology.

For a wildlife caretaker, a bachelor's degree in wildlife biology, zoology or animal ecology may be preferred or required, though in some situations, caretakers receive on-the-job training. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that animal caretakers at zoos must have a bachelor's degree (www.bls.gov). Degree programs focus on wildlife management, with additional classes in wildlife conservation, wildlife policy, and the study of plants, mammals, birds and habitat.

Those working with wildlife are required to have a license, according to the National Wildlife Rehabilitator's Association (NWRA) (www.nwrawildlife.org). You'll also need to obtain a permit from the state where you're working, or in the case of rehabilitators who want to work with migratory birds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (www.fws.gov).

What Could My Salary Be?

According to the BLS, in May 2015, caretakers of non-farm animals, a category that includes wildlife caretakers, earned an average annual salary of $23,630, while veterinary technicians and technologists made $33,280. The BLS also reports that job growth for non-farm animal caretakers in general is expected to be 11% between 2014 and 2024; however, there will be strong competition for jobs working with wild animals due to the popularity of these positions. In the vet technician field, job growth is expected to be 19% overall, a rate much faster than average.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you enjoy working with animals, you may be able to find work on a farm. Agricultural workers need to be able to handle basic animal care duties and have a background in agricultural work. You may also want to work as a veterinary assistant, providing support to the head veterinarian and monitoring animals within the surgery. Both of these positions are well-suited to those with associate's degrees. A veterinary technologists shares many of the same duties as a veterinary technician, but requires a bachelor's degree and may perform more advanced procedures.

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