Do furry kittens and puppy-eyed dogs melt your heart? Working with animals could see you ditching the office to spend your days out in the open, tending to animals of all shapes and sizes. Fancy swapping the desk for a dog lead? Here’s how…
Life as an animal care worker
An animal care worker is responsible for the hands-on care of animals, looking after anything from dogs in kennels to birds in rescue centres or sanctuaries. You’ll need a real passion for working with animals, and you won’t be scared of getting your hands dirty.
To secure this type of role, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate ease with handling pets, and perhaps have experience in an animal care environment. But don’t worry, you won’t be expected to know everything ñ you’ll receive on-the-job training to get you up to speed with the organisation’s practices. Salaries tend to be modest, with annual salaries from around £11,000 up to £15,000 but with experience, you may be able to progress to a managerial position.
Each day can prove quite a different kettle of fish, but the usual duties you’ll be required to carry out every day include preparing food, feeding the animals, exercising dogs, cleaning out kennels, cages or pens, and grooming or cleaning the animals.
Formal qualifications are rarely required for an entry-level role in animal care, although some employers request a minimum of 5 GCSEs (A*-C), including maths and English. That said, doing a college course before applying for your first job will ensure you have the necessary basic skills for the role. Try one of the following:
- BTEC Level 2 Certificate, Extended Certificate and Diploma in Animal Care (www.edexcel.com)
- City & Guilds Certificate and Diploma in Animal Care and Management (www.cityandguilds.com)
- NOCN qualifications in Caring for Animals in Kennels and Catteries (www.nocn.org.uk)
As animal care is such a hands-on vocation, apprenticeships are a natural fit. As an apprentice, you may find yourself working in many different settings, with a variety of animals. Schemes will vary from employer to employer, but if you’re studying for an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship (where you’ll achieve a qualification equivalent to 5 GCSEs, A*-C), you may spend your time learning about feeding and exercising the animals, advising customers or health checking. This is suitable for roles such as dog groomers, animal care assistants and pet shop assistants.
The Advanced Level Apprenticeship is designed for more specialised positions, including zoo keepers, animal trainers and animal management technicians. It will focus on supervisory roles and planning duties, and result in a qualification equivalent to 2 A-levels.
Lend a paw
Charities and animal sanctuaries usually rely on volunteers to help care for animals. This can allow you to gain experience before you apply for a job, college course or apprenticeship. To find your nearest volunteering opportunity, call local kennels, catteries and animal rescue centres, or log onto the following sites where you can pop in your postcode and find openings near you:
Always fancied yourself as a zoo keeper? It’s not a job for the faint-hearted. Just as animals don’t function on a nine-to-five basis, neither will your role. Zoo keepers often work in shifts, including evenings and weekends – and you’ll need to be prepared for outdoor work in the cold, hot and everything in between.
In terms of qualifications and entry requirements, most zoos ask applicants for a minimum of five GCSEs (A*-C). ABWAK (The Association of British & Irish Wild Animal Keepers) recommends that applicants hold an Advanced National Certificate in the Management of Zoo Animals, although other equivalent qualifications will usually be considered. As well as qualifications, you’ll need to demonstrate volunteering and work experience in zoos. Try to get placements in different environments, with a variety of animals, to show a breadth of experience on your CV.
Words: Jessie Bland