Careers in Animal Rescue Organizations: Job Options and Requirements

Animal rescue organizations offer both volunteer and paying positions for people who like working with animals. Usually only a high school diploma is required for entry-level positions, but management level positions typically require a bachelor's degree.

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Job Options in Animal Rescue Organizations

Animal rescue organizations include animal shelters and voluntary breed rescue groups. Cities may run animal shelters or shelters may be operated by charitable organizations that raise funds by donations. Breed rescue groups work with animal shelters to foster and find homes for specific breeds like Labrador retrievers, bulldogs, setters or spaniels. Other volunteer rescue groups help mixed-breed dogs, cats, horses, rabbits and wildlife.

Types of Rescue Positions

Many positions in rescue organizations are for unpaid volunteers. For example, dog rescue groups may have officers, contact persons and foster care providers. Volunteers with experience in animal rescue or care evaluate pets and homes to find good matches. Some volunteers socialize animals to prepare them for adoption.

Not all positions with animal rescue organizations are unpaid. Paid positions may include professional veterinarians, veterinary technicians, adoption counselors, animal caregivers and shelter vehicle drivers. These professionals may provide medical care, help determine the placement of animals, exercise the animals and provide obedience training.

Shelter management positions may include volunteer management interns, special events managers, client specialist supervisors, medical care managers, animal care managers and shelter managers. Executive level positions may include executive director, director of operations and animal welfare program director.

Job Requirements for Animal Rescue Careers

Volunteer positions usually require no specialized education or background, but do require an interest in caring for and learning about animals. Many paid positions require at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Veterinarians must be a DVM and vet technicians often need surgical experience. Most management positions require a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience. Acceptable experience includes customer service, event planning, disaster planning and response, animal cruelty investigations and animal cruelty prosecutions.

Experience handling animals is usually needed for those working directly with animals. The U.S. Humane Society, American Humane Association and National Animal Control Association provide courses in cruelty investigation, euthanasia, capturing animals and public communications, which may be taken to gain some training in animal care and rescue.

Some rescue positions may require a valid regular or commercial driver's license. Customer service experience is often required for those in positions working with the public.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that veterinary technicians and technologists were expected to see employment growth of 30% between 2012 and 2022. These professionals earned a median salary of $30,500 as of May 2013. In comparison, the BLS found that veterinarians could see growth of 12% during that same decade, while the median salary for veterinarians was $86,640 as of 2013.

The BLS found that employment for animal care workers could grow 15% during the 2012-2022 decade. These workers earned a median of $19,910 as of May 2013. While the BLS doesn't have data specific to shelter managers, it does report employment outlook of 12% for the larger group of administrative services managers between 2012 and 2022. Administrative services managers earned a median salary of $82,310 as of May 2013.

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