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Why animal jobs are more than just jobs working with animals

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

If you’re looking for animal jobs, you might think that this means you have to find jobs working with animals. At Animal Advocacy Careers, we don’t think that this is true.

We’re always excited when we hear about people who want to find jobs with animals, because it suggests that they have a passion for animals and want to make a real difference for them.

For example, most people believe that animal welfare is important and support reforms to make animals be treated more humanely, but only about 10% of people in the US say that they have “spent time with cows, pigs, chickens, or farmed fish.” So if you’re the sort of person who’d love to interact directly with animals in your daily work, you might be one of the people most motivated to help animals! That’s fantastic.

We think that any work that helps animals is a good thing. And, of course, working directly with those animals in front of you, such as in an animal sanctuary or as a veterinarian, can feel personally rewarding.

But have you considered other options that might also be a great fit for you, and perhaps even more rewarding or helpful for animals, like other types ofsome of these options for animal charity jobs?

Experts often seem to advise that considering too few options can lead you to make worse decisions, and this chimes with our experience in career advising. Some people fixate on one or two options without considering promising alternatives.

So what are your other options?

What other animal jobs are there?

Animal jobs don’t have to just be in animal care, such as pet care or animal shelter jobs. Consider this infographic about the range of role types that we summarise in our vegan jobs blog post, which includes various jobs that create impact for animals:

It’s true that many of these jobs require you to accept that you won’t necessarily be working with animals hands on. But if you truly care about them, you might find roles that have lots of positive social impact for animals rewarding in a different way… and you might still be able to get plenty of personal contact time with the animals that you love! (More on that below.)

If you want to get a sense of the sort of specific opportunities that exist for helping animals within the nonprofit sector, you can take a look at our animal advocacy job board. Our analysis of roles posted to the board shows the wide range of role types available:

Our introductory animal advocacy online course can walk you through some of the key considerations involved in exploring these different promising role types.

Why not just stick to jobs working with animals?

80,000 Hours have noted some reasons why medical careers might not be the best option if you want to help other humans, and similar reasons could apply to why veterinary careers might not be the best option for helping animals:

  • Vets can only treat the patient in front of them. You might have more leverage if you can work on tackling the root causes of the problems that animals face, such as through research or policy careers. There’s a broad range of high-leverage tactics that can be used to help animals!

  • Wider factors like money, education, public attitudes, and national laws affect which animals have access to care.

  • Healthcare resources tend to be concentrated in the areas where they’re least needed. This might apply for animals too. For example, a lot of the world’s farming and aquaculture is in countries in Asia where there aren’t always enough resources to provide proper animal care.

  • Veterinary schools and careers can be very competitive, with lots of applications, so your work might be quite replaceable.

Some of the same concerns apply for animal sanctuary jobs. Direct animal care can be very expensive, so the effects of your work are often limited to a small number of animals.

Additionally, veterinary technicians might have to perform work that goes against their ethical principles, from dissections in class through to finding that many paid work opportunities indirectly support industries that exploit animals.

To be clear, if you’ve already done training or qualifications that you were planning to put to use in jobs working with animals, there are still plenty of other ways you can make use of that experience! For example, knowledge of animal science can be put to use in campaigns roles, which we have found to be one of the most common role types in effective animal advocacy nonprofits. Or, you could combine your skills with with those of a wildlife biologist to address neglected research questions relating to the wellbeing of wild animals; it is very common to support rescues or rehabilitation of injured wild animals, but can we identify promising ways to help wild animals on a larger scale, such as through vaccinating them rather than killing them when there are disease outbreaks?

Do I have to give up on jobs with animals?

If the idea of not being directly in contact with animals feels disappointing to you, then don’t worry, because there might be ways to keep this up while still being able to explore other kinds of animal jobs.

Firstly, you might be able to continue doing jobs with animals part time. For example, alongside her animal activism, Daniela Espinosa, the Project Director or ARBA in Peru was also working in a veterinary clinic. This combination of part-time advocacy work with other jobs for skill development, supplementary income, or personal interest seems to be quite common among people growing the animal advocacy community in countries where it is small or new.

Secondly, even if you don’t end up working in paid jobs with animals, you can still volunteer with animals.

If your main goal in exploring volunteer opportunities with animals is to try to help as much as possible, then we usually recommend that you do “skilled volunteering”, applying expertise that you’ve already built up in your professional life. But another perfectly valid goal for volunteering is to focus on building a stronger connection with animals and gaining motivation for work that helps them more indirectly. In that case, it might be that you want to focus on getting direct contact time through animal shelter volunteer work. Or, you might not even need to formally volunteer; you could just adopt rescued animals!

This sort of direct connection with animals might help give you the motivational boost that you need so that you can keep doing something more indirect but more impactful for animals full time, whether that’s working in an operations role in a nonprofit, becoming a journalist, a researcher, a political staffer, or whatever else!


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