Work in animal welfare: 10 interesting jobs (Plus salary)

Updated 15 August 2023

Working with animals is a very rewarding activity. Many animal lovers volunteer at animal shelters and rescue centres, which is both commendable and much appreciated, especially by non-profit shelters. There is also a variety of paying jobs within this field, from animal care and treatment to fundraising and re-homing. In this article, we explore the various roles available to work in animal welfare, rescue and rehabilitation and their average salaries.

Ways to work in animal welfare

Many shelter workers are professionals who work in animal welfare, providing support to shelter staff and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the animals in their care. Some professionals offer their services at reduced rates or, in certain circumstances, for free. Veterinary surgeons might perform an emergency operation on an injured animal, or a lawyer might take on an animal cruelty case. A journalist might assist with advertising campaigns and social media content. And in today's age of technology, there's always a place for web designers and database administrators.

For those looking for more than a volunteering role, there's a wide range of salaried job opportunities in the field of animal welfare. There are hands-on and behind the scenes jobs, from veterinary nurses and kennel assistants to adoption managers and fundraisers. Whether working directly with the animals or fulfilling an administrative role, each job is vital to the successful operation of a shelter, rescue centre or rehabilitation facility. Career opportunities in animal shelters and sanctuaries include entry-level, mid-level and director job roles.

Related: How to Become a Biologist

What's it like to work in an animal shelter or rescue centre?

Working in animal welfare can be challenging but ultimately rewarding, and you stand to gain knowledge about animals and develop unique skills. It's important to note that not all animal welfare responsibilities are as easy as cuddling puppies and bottle-feeding baby goats. While you may find yourself doing exactly that from time to time, there's a lot of work going on in the background.

Depending on your role, you may find yourself responsible for the day-to-day care of animals, or you may take on a range of tasks that support the overall operations of the shelter. While competence and dedication are essential in individual roles, the success of a shelter depends on teamwork. With this in mind, understand that shelter work is not always a nine-to-five job.

Related: Top 20 popular jobs for animal lovers in the UK

10 jobs in animal welfare

The first thing to do is think about what kind of animals you're passionate about. Consider the following questions:

  • Do you want to work directly with animals or are you more of an organiser?

  • Are you an outdoors person, or are you more comfortable behind a desk?

  • Do you already have any training, experience or specific skills that would make a particular job more suitable for you?

  • Is this the first step on your career path, or are you looking for a career change?

Look through the jobs we've covered below, and see which best suit your preferences and salary expectations:

1. Veterinarian

National average salary: £47,313 per year

Primary duties: Veterinarians provide healthcare to pets and farm animals and are important professionals for both pet owners and animal farmers. Veterinarians diagnose, treat and prescribe medication for animals. They also perform surgical procedures and advise animal owners on pre-and post-operative care. The daily responsibilities of a veterinarian vary depending on their speciality and where they practice. For instance, a veterinarian working in a city may be less likely to provide care to livestock than one working in the countryside.

Related: How to become a veterinarian

2. Veterinary nurse

National average salary: £23,967 per year

Primary duties: Veterinary nurses are essential members of veterinary teams. They support vets by caring for animals and assisting during assessments and surgery. They perform a wide range of duties, including preparing animals for surgery, collecting blood samples, administering medication and monitoring animals both pre-and post-op. They also schedule appointments and liaise with pet owners. Veterinary nurses may work long hours and cover weekend or night shifts.

Related: How much does a veterinary nurse make? (With job duties)

3. Veterinary anaesthetist

National average salary: £94,566 per year

Primary duties: A veterinary anaesthetist's main role is to sedate animals. This requires monitoring the animal's condition before, during and after the procedure, which could be a minor procedure, such as teeth cleaning, or complex surgery such as treating multiple injuries. A licensed veterinary anaesthetist requires at least one year of experience as a veterinary officer and the completion of three years of anaesthesia residency training.

4. Wildlife biologist

National average salary: £37,653 per year

Primary duties: If you're passionate about wildlife and enjoy working outdoors, becoming a wildlife biologist may appeal to you. A wildlife biologist often works with other specialists to conduct research and develop conservation methods. The research includes studying how wildlife interacts with its environment, identifying invasive species and quantifying the impact of human activities on the welfare of the wildlife. They also collaborate on breeding programmes for endangered animals and transfer injured animals to wildlife rehabilitation centres for treatment and care. Field research in remote regions requires a high level of physical fitness.

Related: How to become a wildlife biologist: with definitions and steps

5. Dog trainer

National average salary: £22,792 per year

Primary duties: Shelters often require the expertise of a dog trainer to deal with fears or behavioural issues in rescued or surrendered dogs, such as a fear of traffic or thunder, persistently chewing of furniture, stealing food or failing to socialise with other dogs. An abandoned dog or one rescued from neglect or cruelty may have trust issues with humans or refuse to accept food. A trainer assesses the dog and formulates a training plan so the dog can be re-homed. People who specialise in training dogs for law enforcement or guide dogs earn more than ordinary dog trainers.

Related: How to become a dog trainer (With tips and FAQs)

6. Dog groomer

National average salary: £17,882 per year

Primary duties: Dog groomers work in dedicated grooming premises or visit pets in their own homes. In shelters, they also check the hygiene of rescued or surrendered dogs, many of which require good shampooing, brushing, nail trimming and fur trimming. This process may reveal skin problems or minor injuries that require examination by a vet.

7. Animal caretaker

National average salary: £18,072 per year

Primary duties: Animal caretakers look after animals at zoos, shelters and other locations where animals stay in cages. Caretakers perform the same duties as groomers, but they also clean and disinfect the animals' cages and monitor and report any behaviour problems. Depending on the animal, caretakers may have additional, more specialised responsibilities.

Related: How to start volunteering at an animal shelter

8. Veterinary receptionist

National average salary: £17,183 per year

Primary duties: A veterinary receptionist performs the same tasks as a general office receptionist. These include greeting visitors, recording their details and the reason for the visit, answering telephone calls, scheduling appointments, accepting payments and completing admin tasks. A good veterinary receptionist can prioritise urgent tasks above those that can wait.

9. Fundraiser

National average salary: £23,471 per year

Primary duties: Few animal shelters receive government or local authority funding, which means they rely on donations. Fundraisers require skills in sales, negotiation, communication, organisation and creative thinking. A fundraiser's responsibilities include approaching businesses, local authorities and individuals to secure funding and donations, organising fundraising activities and events and recruiting volunteers when needed. A fundraiser liaises with the media to get coverage of press releases and understands the value of crowdfunding campaigns, which can be set up online within minutes and ready to accept donations.

10. Animal control officer

National average salary: £18,110 per year

Primary duties: Animal control officers are usually employed by local authorities, but they have a connection with shelters because one of their responsibilities is capturing strays or problem animals and delivering them to shelters. Animal control officers patrol public areas and enforce local animal laws, coordinate with communities to reduce animal control issues and respond to reports of animal cruelty and neglect. It's necessary for animal control officers to know how to safely capture and handle frightened or dangerous animals.

Other roles

Other roles in the animal welfare sector include shelter manager, volunteer services manager and adoption manager. Not all roles in the sector are well defined. For example, you might develop a role that involves petitioning the government for stricter animal cruelty laws or rallying volunteers to rescue animals caught in floods or displaced by some other disaster.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and the candidate's experience, academic background and location.


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