People don't go into this profession for the money. Almost everyone who works with animals has wanted to do so since childhood. People in these professions almost always grew up with a family pet. Some lived on farms and developed close ties to farm animals. Working with animals is reconnecting with a part of that childhood. For people who love animals, it's a thrill to be around them on a daily basis.
It's also exciting working with a different species — one that communicates on a totally different level. For animal workers, it's a joy and, in part, a privilege to be around animals. That is not to say that the money is bad. In many cases, it is good — very good. Many animal workers are highly skilled at what they do, and they are well compensated for their services. Starting salaries for students fresh out of veterinary schools range from $30,000 up to $75,000 or higher, depending on the location and the position or area of specialty. Median salaries are $40,000 to $50,000. Veterinary technicians earn less. Shelter workers are paid hourly — often minimum wage or slightly better. This is slowly changing because there is a strong demand for shelter workers, which is forcing pay increases.
Dog-training salaries also run the gamut, from $30,000 to six-figure incomes. Burwell is making more money as a dog trainer than he did when employed as an executive in a bank. “Plus my hours are so much better,” he notes. “I like being my own boss, and I enjoy the many people and dogs I meet. It's fun going to work.
“An in-home dog-training franchise requires less capital than most franchises,” says Burwell. “It requires no investment in real estate. You just go to the client's home to do your training. Plus, an in-home dog-training franchise requires no investment in personnel other than you.”
People who work in nonprofits writing grants are seeing changes in their salaries too. “I work for the state,” says Susan Smith. “I'm a civil service employee, so salaries don't always match the private sector. Still, I'm seeing positive changes. Grant writing is a growing profession, and one that is highly valued in the nonprofit world.”
Christopher O'Sullivan says, “The need to educate children and adults about our environment and our interaction with nature and animals is what drives my profession. Changes are happening and salaries are getting better.”
Starting salaries in the nonprofit world as a grant writer, educator, publicist, or administrator are around $30,000. Directors at nonprofits earn more; their salaries can start at $50,000 and go up to $100,000 or higher — depending on the size of the organization and geographic location.
While salaries are improving, one thing remains constant — the perks. “It's a joy being around nature and animals,” says O'Sullivan. “Working with animals, and educating the public about them, is quite rewarding.”