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What the job involves
Animal care workers look after animals in kennels, rescue centres or sanctuaries. Duties range from grooming and exercising animals, preparing food and cleaning out accommodation, to answering queries from colleagues and visitors, and ensuring the maintenance of animal enclosures.
It is essential that you have a real interest in working with animals. You must be gentle, handling animals with patience, confidence and care. Rescue care work requires a diligent, hardworking, and enthusiastic attitude. Individuals must be reliable and flexible.
Good communication and interpersonal skills are important, and it is important to take a methodical approach to working practices.
Animals need to be looked after seven days a week and so you may work shifts. Hours may start early, and you could be required to work during the evenings or at weekends.
This job can involve a lot of physical work and can be emotionally challenging at times. You are likely to spend periods of time working outdoors, regardless of weather conditions.
Qualifications and training
Once you are employed as an animal care worker, you will receive on-the-job training. Your employer may decide to enrol you onto a work-based course such as an apprenticeship or NVQ to help develop your skills. It will be valuable to update your skills and knowledge with continuing professional development (CPD) courses.
What qualifications do I need to start training as an animal care worker?
Formal qualifications are not always necessary for animal care jobs, however some employees may ask for qualifications such as GCSEs in their entry requirements.
Whilst searching for a position, you may wish to undertake a course to gain the skills and knowledge required in this type of work. The College of Animal Welfare offers full-time Level 2 Diploma in Animal Care and Level 3 Diploma in Animal Management courses aimed at those looking to work with animals in the future. If you are already employed or volunteering in a suitable animal care environment, such as a boarding kennels or cattery, animal charity, zoo or wildlife centre, work-based qualifications are available, including:
- Level 1 Diploma in Work-based Animal Care
- Level 2 Diploma / Intermediate Apprenticeship in Work-based Animal Care
- Level 3 Diploma / Advanced Apprenticeship in Work-based Animal Care
Getting into the profession
Experience working with animals is vital in this industry, helping to support your application and entry into the profession. It is worth contacting your local animal welfare organisations for volunteering opportunities, as well as national organisations such as the RSPCA, Blue Cross, PDSA, Dogs Trust and Cats Protection.
You may be able to become an animal care worker through an apprenticeship scheme. If you are not already employed or volunteering for a suitable animal care environment, you can search for opportunities using the National Apprenticeship Service website.
Salary and benefits
As a guide, rescue care workers can expect a starting salary from £11,000 to £15,000 a year.
Experience as a rescue centre worker may lead to promotion and you may progress onto a supervisory or managerial position.
You may even be inspired to open your own shelter, care centre, boarding kennels or cattery.
Alternatively, you may progress to a route in education, lecturing others on aspects of animal care and passing on your expertise.