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So you want to work with animals?
We regularly get requests coming in asking for advice on how to go about getting into the animal work industry, so we thought we’d write a little section on what people can do to get their foot in the door!
In truth, it’s a VERY competitive field, with far more people wanting to get into the industry than there are jobs for unfortunately. Our last part-time position got over 150 applications!!! With other zoos often getting far more than that, people need to do everything they can to get ahead of the competition!
An animal/science based qualification such as zoology is a good start, it often shows potential employers that you are serious about getting into the industry rather than just fancying the idea of working with animals as a bit of fun. Sadly however, having the qualification these days isn’t always enough with such a lot of competition. The biggest thing that a lot of zoo employers look out for is actual experience in the field! It shows employers you’ve experienced what zoo work really is and still want to pursue it! The amount of students that have been on work experience for a few days only to realise that animal work is not getting to play with animals all day and have changed their minds half way through is staggering! Employers don’t want that at employee level so prefer to know that their potential employee understands what working in the animal industry really is like!
If you’re serious about getting into the animal industry field then we’d recommend getting as much work experience/volunteering work as possible alongside your studies to be ahead of the game and your competition for that dream job! We really can't stress the importance of it enough! Any animal related work will do, even volunteering at the local kennels/farm would give you an insight into animal work and what it entails. Ben, one of the owners of Wild Encounters, was doing work experience at veterinarians, farms, rescue centres from a young age, and took a year out from his animal behaviour and welfare degree to volunteer full time at the local zoo in order to get as much experience as possible. He owes this to the fact that after graduating, he was one of three people (from a class of 40!) that actually managed to gain a job within the animal industry (they were the only three people to take the year out and only ones to even now, many years on, be working within the animal/conservation field).
The animal industry can sometimes be a painfully long route to take, with sometimes a lot of no's before that first 'you're hired!', only the most dedicated and passionate make it, but once you’re in, its one of the most rewarding jobs out there, so keep at it, and do everything you can to make yourself and your CV stand out in these job applications, it's worth it!