Animal Care

Who doesn’t love animals? We’re all big fans in the office, and we know a few young people are keen to learn more about what a career working with animals could look like.

Australia is home to incredible wildlife and unique animal habitats, so there’s an array of potential career paths you could look at here.

Aside from general veterinary clinics and care, you could explore:

  • Specialist and exotic animal veterinary care.
  • Wildlife conservation.
  • Zoo keeping.
  • Dog training and care.
  • Horse training and care.
  • Agricultural veterinary care.
  • Animal handling (defence, security, rescue or police services).
  • Animal research and ethical laboratory care.

There are many different ways to get started in the industry, and the qualification pathway you take will primarily depend on the type of work and the role/s you want to do.

There are opportunities through apprenticeships, degree pathways, and direct work experience.

Working with animals probably sounds like a lot of fun, but it’s worth keeping in mind it can also be a lot of hard work.

Animals can’t openly communicate with us, so it takes a lot of patience, commitment, and empathy to work with them and understand their needs.

That said, as anyone who has ever had a pet will know, being around animals of all shapes and sizes can be a lot of fun and extremely rewarding.

What You Could Do

The typical career path people think of when working with animals is within veterinary clinics – but there’s a lot more variety.

Here’s a look at some of the top jobs you could pursue:

Animal Behaviourist

Animal behaviourists assess an animal’s level of obedience and behaviour responses, and the owner needs to help develop a training plan that helps both them and the owner lead a happy, healthy life. They might work one-on-one with animal owners experiencing behavioural issues like aggression, reactivity or anxiety, or they might work in small groups, for example, with owners and puppies, to help set them up for success as their pup grows.


Vets help to diagnose, assess and make treatment recommendations across a wide range of small animals. Some may specialise with domestic pets, exotic pets, or farming and agricultural animals. A love of animals is vital, but so are people management and communication skills, as you’ll be working with a wide range of professionals and assisting pet owners who may be in distress. Training is competitive and gruelling but can lead to a highly rewarding and lifelong career.

Veterinary Nurse

Veterinary nurses assist veterinarians during pet examinations, consultations and treatments. They provide in-house care to animals who may be staying in the clinic and can also assist during minor surgeries and procedures. As well as assisting with general duties around the clinic, such as clinic, administering medications, and answering owner queries. This varied and rewarding role can provide growth and opportunity for animal lovers.


Zookeepers ensure that animals in captivity are kept safe, healthy, and well cared for to the needs that match their species and desired habitats. As part of their roles, they may provide enrichment activities, train animals to accept human contact, take care of their nutrition and deliver talks to zoo attendees to help them learn more about a specific species. Zookeepers must be physically fit, observant, and able to respond quickly to animals’ needs in their care.

Horse Trainer

If you love horses, this could be the career path for you! As a horse trainer, you’ll work with horses in various environments, helping to train, manage and care for them for the activities they’ll be used for. This might be for jackets and show jumping or other competitive sports, commercial hose riding, horse therapy, disabled riders, or working horses on farms and ranches. You’ll work closely with the owners or potential owners of the horses to ensure they’re safe and ready for their new roles.

K9 Handler

K9 police dogs are trained to support police and security staff in various ways, including sniffing out hazardous or dangerous goods, finding missing people, and supporting search and rescue. K9 dogs and their handlers might work as part of police departments, airport security, or emergency services. You’ll usually have to start your training in a police or security role before specialising in working in the K9 unit.

These job roles are only just scratching the surface.

You’ll find the more you explore the sector, the more roles you’ll come across.

Graduate Employment and Gender Split

A degree isn’t necessary for many roles working with animals, but for some of the more specialist positions within veterinary care, zoology, and conservation work, a degree is essential.

Knowing what graduate employment looks like can help set your expectations and make further decisions about the pathway you take.

Overall, employment for veterinarians is high:

  • Veterinary Science Graduates in Full-Time Roles: 86.9%
  • Environmental Studies Graduates in Full-Time Roles (inc. Conservation Disciplines): 60.9%
  • Agricultural Studies Graduates in Full-Time Roles: 78.4%

*Figures from the 2021 QILT Graduate Outcomes Survey

Gender Split

The gender split depends on the segment of the sector you work within Across veterinary roles, the industry has a higher percentage of females than males compared with other sectors.

Recent reports indicate the current split as roughly:

  • Females: 61%
  • Males: 39%

This is not always the case for other parts of the industry, including across agricultural/livestock care and in some areas of conservation work, but generally, there is a fairly even gender split.

Average Salary

Current surveys in the sector indicate the median salaries for full-time roles in this industry as:

  • Animal Behaviourist: $50,000-$70,000
  • Veterinarian: $99,100-$130,000
  • Veterinary Nurse: $54,500-$78,000
  • Zookeeper: $57,100-$67,500
  • Horse Trainer: $44,500-$56,000
  • K9 Handler: $65,000-$81,200

Salaries can be pretty varied, with lower expectations for entry-level roles.

Salaries are also determined by several factors, including:

  • The segment of the industry you work within.
  • Your job title and seniority.
  • The amount of experience you have.
  • Any additional qualifications or certifications that give you a specialist skillset

Industry Growth

The Australian Industry and Skills Committee splits animal care into two core sectors:

  1. Animal care and management, which includes veterinary services, agricultural and livestock care, and similar.
  2. Animal services include animal breeding and training, companion services such as guide dogs and therapy animals, and wildlife care.

According to the committee, there were 28,400 people employed in veterinary services in 2021, a figure that has grown significantly since 2001. There is an additional 3,500 people employed in horse farming and training.

It’s projected that this figure will continue to increase, with the expected employment rate at 31 500 by 2025.

Many individuals who work within the animal services sector are self-employed (this includes trainers, groomers, pet sitters, animal behaviourists and nutritionists, and similar care roles).

Animal services contributed $12.2 billion to the Australian economy in 2021 – a figure that has increased significantly in recent years.

Overall, the sector shows continued growth with plenty of opportunities across organisational employment and self-employment – depending on which area you’re interested in.

Qualifications and Entry Pathways

Entry pathways are varied and will depend heavily on the type of role you want to get into.

You’ll typically need at least your high school education certificate for most roles and learn on the job while you gain industry-relevant qualifications.

Nationally recognised training for animal services roles is delivered under:

For skilled roles such as veterinary practice, conservation and zookeeping, you’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in a related subject such as:

  • Bachelor of Veterinary Science
  • Bachelor of Animal Science
  • Bachelor of Animal Behaviour
  • Bachelor of Zoology
  • Bachelor of Environmental Care

TAFE and vocational education pathways are ideal for individuals wishing to pursue careers in animal care.

Here are a few of the qualifications you could pursue:

  • Certificate II in Animal Studies
  • Certificate III in Animal Studies
  • Certificate III in Pet Grooming
  • Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing
  • Certificate III in Horse Management
  • Certificate III in Horse Breeding

Requirements will depend on the type of role you want to get into – so make sure you do your research.

Whatever your circumstances, grades, or preferred way forward, a qualification pathway will work for you.

Best Places to Study

Where you choose to study will be dependent on a range of factors, but some top institutions to study automotive engineering and related subjects include:

  • James Cook University
  • University of New England
  • Murdoch University
  • Charles Sturt University
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Melbourne
  • Murdoch University
  • University of Adelaide
  • University of Queensland

Your local TAFE and vocational education providers are also excellent places to reach out to explore your apprenticeship and vocational qualification avenues.

Top Skills You’ll Need

Some of the key skills identified to be successful in the industry include:

  • Empathy
  • Problem-solving
  • Time Management
  • Patience
  • Communication
  • Team Work
  • Sensitivity
  • Attention to Detail
  • Commitment
  • Customer Service

Where to Learn More

You can learn more about different automotive and mechanical career pathways through professional bodies and organisations advocating for careers in the sector.

Some good places to start include:

And many more!

Each state will also have several professional organisations to help you learn more about the industry, network, and develop your career.