Animal health jobs actually focus on the health of both animals and humans, contrary to what you might automatically assume. It is about protecting animals but also controlling diseases that can spread between animals and from animals to humans, such as Bird Flu.
Jobs in this field tend to involve working for the government or for charities, but obviously there are exceptions.
What does the work generally involve?
Animal health and welfare jobs broadly stem from the laws we have in the UK against animal cruelty. We have a legal (as well as moral) duty to protect those that cannot protect themselves, and this duty extends to animals as well. This is why there are so many animal charities in the UK.
According to All About Careers, a large percentage of the £9.3 billion donated to charity every year goes to animal charities, to pay for necessary things like rescue centres and staff, awareness campaigns, equipment, and lawyers.
Working within animal health and welfare can involve many different roles, from being hands-on with animals to working behind the scenes to promote their health and protection, so it depends on where your skills lie.
People who work in this field tend to have a strong interest in animals and protecting their health and wellbeing.
What specific jobs in animal health can you do?
What's great about this line of work is there are so many levels of jobs available. You could be a school leaver right up to a lawyer with decades of experience, and everything in between.
The jobs you could do in this sector are:
If you love animals, you're scientifically inclined and you're not squeamish this could be the job for you. You'll be diagnosing and treating animals for illnesses and disorders. You usually work with a specific kind of animal as a vet - pets, farm animals or tropical animals. This dictates where you'll work, from a surgery, to a farm to a zoo.
This is essentially a support role for a vet. You'll be getting involved with hands-on nursing for animals, both routine and emergency. You'll need a BSc degree in veterinary nursing, or equivalent, to follow this career.
Lawyers specialising in animal health focus on defining legal protections for animals. Tasks may include advising clients, arguing cases in court, researching cases and creating pet trusts.
You could work in marketing and communications for an animal charity like the RSPCA and the Dog's Trust. You'd need excellent marketing skills, like you would for any marketing job, but also a passion for the message you are trying to spread.
If you want to follow a career in finance but feel like you want to do good at the same time, why not consider working in the finance or accounts team of an animal charity? It depends on the role but you may need an accounting qualification or experience in finance.
If you don't want to actually treat animals but you want to help them, you could consider being a hospital assistant in a vet's surgery. Your role would involve tasks like feeding, washing, and exercising animals as well as helping to calm them and restrain them during treatment.
Another role in an NGO or charity focusing on animal health could be fundraising. Your role would involve organising events and campaigns which would raise money for the cause. Smaller tasks could be working on designing promotional materials and communicating with volunteers.
How much can you earn?
It's worth bearing in mind that salaries are never going to be enormous because you will likely be working for the government or a charity. However, they can range a lot depending on your experience level and position and there's certainly room for progression over the years.
After all your training, the starting salary for a vet is around £30,000 and you could earn up to £72,360, but that's with around 20 years of experience. Lawyers can earn very decent salaries the more experience they get, upwards of £100,000. Animal law will be less well-paid than corporate law, but you would still get paid well. If you're working for a charity, your salary will not be sky-high, but you should still get a fair wage.
Why work in animal health?
The main motivator will likely be a love of animals, a passion for what you do, and a feeling of purpose from knowing that the work you're doing makes a positive difference to the world.
There's also a lot of room to manoeuvre around. Obviously, it depends on your skillset, and moving may mean doing a qualification or some kind of training, but there are lots of different opportunities in the sector, so you don't have to accept being bored.
How to get a job in animal health
As you might have gathered, a career in animal health can involve many things and requires many different skillsets, meaning there's no one route into the profession.
The common feature is having a passion for what you do. Whether you're directly making animals better or you're working behind the scenes for a cause protecting animals, it's all about being compassionate.
It's likely you'll need some kind of qualification. If you're going to be a vet or an animal lawyer, this will be quite extensive but even a marketing executive needs either a degree showing their communications skills or ample experience in marketing.
Finally, you need to remember the people side of this sector. It's easy to get lost in the animals themselves, but where there's an animal there's also likely to be a person. If you're a vet treating a sick pet, be prepared that the owner will be upset or stressed. If you're a lawyer in an animal rights case you may be up against a difficult character. If you're fundraising you need to be prepared for rude as well as kind people. Interpersonal skills are a must in this sector.
If you're looking for work in the agricultural sector, Agricultural Recruitment Specialists can help you find the right niche in the UK, Europe and beyond. We can assist in finding which doors are open for you with your specific background and even advice on what you could do to improve your prospects.
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