12 Jobs Working With Animals That Pay Pretty Well

A dog walker

Walking a dog | Thinkstock

“When I grow up I want to be a veterinarian,” some children say when you ask about their dream job. Of course, considering the level of schooling this career requires, coupled with the student loan costs and the level of commitment, that changes for some people once they become adults. But the love for animals and the desire to work with animals might remain.

One of the more difficult tasks job seekers face is finding a career that pays enough money, as well as one they will enjoy. The old saying, “Do what you love, and the money will come,” is true to a point. But money also matters, and like it or not, it has to be a priority. The key is finding a balance. That is, doing what you love for money, as opposed to doing what you love in hopes that you will earn money.

If animals are your passion — the field that makes you want to get up and do something — then you can certainly achieve this balance. The typical household brings in about $55,775. Aside from a veterinarian career, there are a variety of jobs working with animals that also pay decent wages. These jobs bring in close to that median income or even higher. Here are 12 jobs working with animals that could pay the bills. 

1. Groomer

Man holding dog

Groomers make sure pets look their best | iStock.com

  • Median salary: $21,010
  • Salary range: $17,160 to $34,780
  • Minimum qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

Groomers help pets look their best by cleaning them and trimming fur. Those who make the highest salary earn more than $34,000 a year. Groomers who work in states including Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and California make the most money.

How to become one: Animal caretakers must have at least a high school diploma. Most training takes place on the job, but some choose to study at a grooming school. Employers generally prefer candidates to have some experience working with animals. If you want to care for animals in a zoo, you will likely be required to have a bachelor’s degree in animal science, biology, or a similar field.

 2. Kennel attendant, pet sitter, and dog walker

Man taking care of dog at kennel

Attendants, sitters, and walkers make sure animals are taken care of when owners are away | Oli Scarff/Getty Images

  • Median salary: $21,010
  • Salary range: $17,160 to $34,780
  • Minimum qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

Kennel attendants, pet sitters, and dog walkers care for pets while owners are traveling or unavailable. The highest-paid workers earn up to $34,780 a year. Those who work in states including Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and California earn the most.

How to become one: Generally, most kennel attendants, pet sitters, and dog walkers must a obtain a minimum of a high school diploma. They learn additional skills on the job. Most employers prefer candidates to have previous experience taking care of pets. Those who work in kennels or shelters can learn more about the job by taking classes through the Humane Society of the United States and the American Humane Association. Pet sitters can obtain additional education through the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. The organization offers courses, such as caring for parrots, dogs, and dealing with pet behavioral issues.

3. Veterinary assistant

Medical team standing outside medical facility

Veterinary assistants help veterinarians with basic office tasks | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

  • Median salary: $24,360
  • Salary range: $18,060 to $36,690
  • Minimum qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

Veterinary assistants work in a clinic or animal hospitals, helping veterinarians care for animals. They are responsible for helping veterinarians with routine tasks. The best-paid veterinarian assistants earn $36,690 a year. Those who work in states such as the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut earn the most.

How to become one: If you want to become a veterinary assistant, you should at least have a high school diploma. It also doesn’t hurt to love animals. Most veterinary assistants learn their trade on the job. Certification isn’t required, but it may help you get promoted or obtain an advanced position.

4. Laboratory animal caretaker

Rat among laboratory glasses

This rat is having some fun in his lab home | iStock.com/JanPietruszka

  • Median salary: $24,360
  • Salary range: $18,060 to $36,690
  • Minimum qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

Laboratory animal caretakers work in labs with animal scientists, biologists, or veterinarians. They feed, care for, and monitor the well-being of lab animals. The best-paid laboratory animal caretakers can earn as much as $38,350 a year. Those who work in states such as the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut earn the most.

How to become one: Laboratory animal caretakers are required to at least have a high school diploma. Most laboratory animal caretakers learn their trade through on-the-job training. Certification isn’t required to become a laboratory animal caretaker, but some employers prefer it. Having a certification could also help you get promoted or obtain an advanced position.

5. Trainer

Pet trainer and his dog.

This dog is willing to obey his trainer — only if the treats are good | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

  • Median salary: $26,610
  • Salary range: $18,160 to $57,170
  • Minimum qualifications: no formal education requirements

Animal trainers are responsible for training animals for tasks, such as riding, performance, obedience, or assisting the disabled. They also help animals become more comfortable with human interaction. The highest-paid animal trainers can earn an annual salary of up to $57,170. Those who work in states such as Minnesota, New York, and California can make the most money.

How to become one: There are no formal education requirements to become an animal trainer. Those who work in the animal-training field usually receive on-the-job training. In addition, animal trainers can receive education through organizations, such as the Humane Society of the United States.

6. Veterinary technicians

Laboratory technician working

Veterinary technicians perform medical testing | iStock.com/diamant24

  • Median salary: $31,800
  • Salary range: $21,890 to $47,410
  • Minimum qualifications: associate’s degree

Veterinary technicians perform medical testing with the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. They help diagnose an animal’s injury or illness. Veterinary technicians who are in the 90th percentile of earners take home an annual salary of more than $47,000. Those who work in states such as Alaska, Massachusetts, and New York earn the most.

How to become one: Those who desire to become veterinary technicians are required to complete a college-level program with the American Veterinary Medical Association. Candidates must enroll in either a two- or four-year program. Technicians are required to pass an exam and become registered, licensed, or certified, depending on the state where they are employed.

7. Animal control worker

pit bulls at animal shelter

Animal control workers help ensure the proper treatment of animals | Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

  • Median salary: $33,450
  • Salary range: $20,830 to $53,190
  • Minimum qualifications: varies by location

Animal control workers help ensure the proper treatment of animals, investigate cases of mistreatment, and locate abandoned animals. Those who are among the top earners can make more than $53,000 a year. Animal control workers who work in states such as Nevada, California, and Washington earn the most.

How to become one: Animal control workers are required to have a minimum of a high school diploma or the equivalent. Additional training usually takes place on the job. The National Animal Care & Control Association offers training programs. In addition, some states require certification in animal control.

8. Conservation and forest technicians

hikers walking in forest

Conservation and forest workers keep track of wildlife | iStock.com/michaeljung

  • Median salary: $35,430
  • Salary range: $25,430 to $54,860
  • Minimum qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

Conservation and forest workers keep track of wildlife, gather data, suppress forest fires, and work to improve the health of forests. The top earners make more than $54,000 a year. Those who work in states, such as Massachusetts, New York, and Georgia earn the most.

How to become one: A valid driver’s license and a high school diploma are the minimum requirements to become a forest and conservation worker. Most workers receive on-the-job training, such as the proper procedure for planting or thinning trees. They also learn how to safely operate and maintain forestry equipment. Some employers prefer candidates to have an associate’s degree in forestry technology or a related field. Programs should be accredited by the Society of American Foresters. In addition, some states require that employees receive training and sometimes obtain a license in the appropriate use of commercial pesticides.

9. Breeder

Close up of a four-month-old F1 Savannah cat

This little kitty is the Savannah, a hybrid cat breed | Wikimedia Commons

  • Median salary: $39,380
  • Salary range: $20,430 to $75,210
  • Minimum qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

Breeders select and breed animals according to characteristics and genealogy. The top earners make more than $75,000 a year. Those who work in states such as Ohio, South Dakota, and Kentucky earn the most.

How to become one: Animal breeders are required to have a minimum of a high school education. In addition, breeders learn their skill through short-term on-the-job training. Those who want to breed zoo animals are required to have a bachelor’s degree in veterinary science and, depending on one’s career goals, postgraduate study in zoology.

10. Biological technician

Worker holding a sample

Biological technicians assist medical scientists with various laboratory duties | iStock.com/Csaba Deli

  • Median salary: $41,650
  • Salary range: $26,610 to $69,180
  • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree

Biological technicians help medical scientists in the laboratory. They are responsible for the setup, operation, and maintenance of laboratory equipment. They also monitor experiments. The top earners make more than $69,000 a year. Those who work in states, such as California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts earn the most.

How to become one: Biological technicians generally need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a similar field. Technicians must also acquire laboratory experience. In addition, it’s important to take computer classes because laboratories have computers and other high-tech equipment.

11. Zoologists and wildlife biologists

A armadillo eats a corn cob

This armadillo is enjoying his corn cob | Holger Holleman/AFP/Getty Images

  • Median salary: $59,680
  • Salary range: $37,100 to $95,430
  • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals and wildlife and how they interact with their environment. The top earners make more than $100,000 a year. Those who work in states, such as the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Connecticut earn the most money.

How to become one: A bachelor’s degree is necessary for those seeking entry-level positions. A master’s degree is usually required for advanced or scientific positions. Those who want to lead independent research or work at a university must have a doctoral degree.

12. Conservation land managers

Surveying the land

Conservation land managers help protect the land and wildlife | iStock.com

  • Median salary: $60,220
  • Salary range: $37,380 to $91,830
  • Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s degree

Conservation land managers work with conservation groups, land owners, or other entities to protect specific wildlife and land. The top earners make more than $90,000. Those who work in states, such as Alaska, Rhode Island, and New Jersey make the most money.

How to become one: Conservation and land managers must obtain a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, preferably in natural resource management. In addition, experience can be gained through internships and volunteer work. Some states require those desiring to become foresters to obtain a license.

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