Your Ultimate Guide to a Career in Animal Care

Look after your furry, feathered and feline friends with a career in animal care.

Our four-legged (or six-legged, or eight-legged…) friends bring us companionship and happiness, so it’s only fair that we return the favour and take care of them when they can’t take care of themselves.

Search Animal Care Apprenticeships
Animal Care Apprenticeships

The basics

We all have that one pet that we will never stop loving.

Maybe it’s the hamster you had as a kid or the dog you convinced your parents to get.

Jobs in the animal care industry are incredibly rewarding for the people who do them. But, despite the satisfaction of helping critters and carnivores alike, that’s not actually why people do it.

In fact, the biggest motivation for working in animal care is for the animals. They might not be able to thank you, but that doesn’t mean they’re not grateful!

While vets handle more serious issues, like illness and injury, trainers and groomers help animals maintain a general level of wellbeing. Then, of course, there’s the farming side of animal care, which tends to involve animals like cows and sheep.

So, what differentiates these jobs?

Types of Animal Care Apprenticeships

Animal Care Apprenticeships (Farming)

Not afraid to get stuck in? You can pursue careers like farm manager and herd manager.

Everyone says a dog is man’s best friend, but who says cows and chickens can’t make us smile, too? Animal care work includes welfare assistants, vets and cattle managers. As well as understanding the day-to-day care animals require, you’ll learn about breeding programmes, bio-security (i.e., how to keep your animals safe from theft and escape) and how to safely transport livestock. You can find some great animal care apprenticeships at Chester Zoo and the RSPCA.

When we talk about farming, we imagine big animals like cows and sheep. Let’s zoom in on something a little bit smaller: bees. The Bee Farmers Association works in partnership with Rowse Honey to offer a three-year apprenticeship in how to become – you guessed it – a bee farmer!

Veterinary Nurse Apprenticeships

Vets are the doctors of the animal kingdom, making sure every species from blue whales to bees are healthy and safe. This career is a medical discipline, and you can specialise in fields like surgery and dentistry.

Vets are responsible for using medical devices (like X-rays) and medication to help animals feel better, and they can also refer the animal to other carers, such as physiotherapists.

Animal Groomer/Trainer Apprenticeships

Want to train horses for the silver screen, just like in War Horse? Always aspired to win gold at Crufts? Or maybe you dream of preening and pruning dogs and cats so they look fabulous for their owners?

Animal trainers use specialised behavioural science techniques to teach animals to be obedient and to control their temperaments. Groomers make sure they look good doing it!

Entry requirements?

You’ll need at least four GCSEs at grade 4 or above for veterinary apprenticeships, and this requirement might be lower for other fields of animal care.

Human-to-human communication skills are just as important as your magic in making animals feel at ease. After all, you’ll need to calm anxious animal owners and work through their emotions, too.

Apprenticeship Levels

Apprenticeships are split into levels depending on length and the qualification that you receive at the end. Possible qualifications that you’ll get could be:

Level 2 (intermediate) – equivalent to 5 GCSEs (at grades 9 to 4)

Get your start in the industry with one of these apprenticeships:

Level 3 (advanced) – equivalent to 2 A-levels

Level 3 opportunities are extremely popular in the animal care industry, with apprenticeships like:

Levels 4 and 5 (higher) – equivalent to a foundation degree 

Level 4 and 5 apprenticeships in animal care are few and far between. But, you can still find some gems, like Level 4 Animal Trainer Apprenticeships and a Level 5 Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Levels 6 and 7 (degree) – you’ll get a full bachelor’s and/or master’s degree. Yep, that’s right: with some high-level apprenticeship,s you can achieve a full degree at the end, without going to university.

The Veterinary Gateway is the most widely recognised way to transition into a vet career without university. Although most animal care apprenticeships are Levels 2-5, you can keep your eyes peeled for career progression and apprenticeship opportunities.

Animal care degree apprenticeships

Becoming a fully qualified vet is possible without going to university. The Veterinary Gateway is a 6-year, full-time course designed for students who haven’t already studied veterinary medicine at uni. You’ll earn a BVetMed (a.k .a., a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine), and you’ll be ready to get a job as a vet.

The Royal Veterinary College hosts the Veterinary Gateway at the University of London, and the course requires on-site attendance in London for practical sessions.

The Latest Animal Care Apprenticeships:

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Search all jobs.

Sector spotlight

Ever wanted to be your own boss and work on your terms? The animal care industry offers a wealth of opportunities for self-employed people and small businesses, particularly in the fields of grooming and training.

For example, you could set up a dog grooming business in your or your parents’ house, even in the garden shed. You don’t need much room, and it’s easy to get started on advertising, thanks to the rise of social media.

Animal training is even more adaptable. While it’s helpful for you to be in the room with the animals, you can also offer consultancy services via video call and guide the owners on how best to train their pets.

When you finish your apprenticeship, why not join the millions of self-employed people and try going it alone?