Can I make a career out of working with animals?

Screen Shot 2016-11-10 at 12.30.02ANIMAL CARE ASSISTANT
Care assistants are responsible for looking after a range of different animals in kennels, rescue centres and sanctuaries. Duties include preparing food, grooming and exercising animals, cleaning out kennels and pens and looking after animals that are unwell or distressed. This can be dirty, hard work, but also hugely rewarding – where else do you get paid to play with puppies? You can go straight into animal care from school and receive training on the job.


Vets diagnose and treat sick animals – they’re doctors for a million and one different species essentially. Vets diagnose health problems, treat injuries, operate, carry out tests like x-rays and scans, prescribe medicine for pets, do regular checkups and more. Some vets work with small pets, others with larger farm animals or even zoo inhabitants. You have to do a five-year degree in veterinary medicine to register with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).


While the animals they care for might be exotic (race you to the panda enclosure), the work is far from glamorous – you’d be amazed how much poo zebras can produce. As well as caring for zoo creatures, keepers are involved in research and conservation work to help protect species in the wild. You can get into this line of work from school, but a qualification in zoology or animal biology is a big advantage.


Working with service dogs in the police, Army, UK Border Agency, HM Revenue and Customs and security services, dog handlers train and care for working
animals. Dog handlers work with specially trained pooches to find missing people, detect drugs, control crowds, guard military bases, patrol properties and more. Dog handling and animal care courses are a good starting point but you’ll generally have to work with the relevant body, as a police officer or a soldier for instance, before you transfer into the dog unit. Contact the body you fancy working for to find out more.


Veterinary nurses work alongside veterinary surgeons to care for sick animals. Typical duties include preparing nursing plans, giving injections, administering medication, collecting blood and urine samples, preparing animals for operations and helping during surgery and procedures. To train as a vet nurse, you can either do an apprenticeship, college course or a degree and get accreditation from the RCVS.

Giddy up, horse lovers, we’ve got the job for you! There’s no set entry route to this line of work but, as well as being an experienced rider yourself, you can study towards specialist qualifications with the British Horse Society or study horse care  and equine studies at college. Instructors teach people of all ages how to ride, train riders for competition, pay close attention to health and safety and often oversee work in the stables too.


If you like animals, have a scientific mind and enjoy research, check out zoology. Zoologists study animals and their behaviour full-time and their work covers a wide range of different things, from pest control to animal welfare and education. A degree in zoology or animal biology will get you started.


If you want to get your foot up on the animal-related career ladder, studying for a relevant qualification could help. Here’s an overview of some of the courses on offer at a selection of Scotland’s universities and colleges…

SCOTLAND’S RURAL COLLEGE  Animal lovers have plenty of courses to choose from at Scotland’s Rural College – how about veterinary nursing, horse care and equine studies, animal care or animal science?

EDINBURGH NAPIER At Napier, you can sign up for a degree in animal biology, a great course for aspiring zoo keepers, researchers or wildlife conservationists.

GLASGOW UNIVERSITY Glasgow’s one of two centres in Scotland where you can study veterinary medicine. They’ve also got a veterinary biosciences course and a zoology degree.

ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY Head up to the Granite City for a degree in marine biology. The university has its own high tech Oceanlab on the North Sea coast where students learn about life under the sea.

At Edinburgh, you can also study veterinary medicine. For post- graduate options, check out their applied animal welfare and animal behaviour MSc or their equine science master’s.

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