Questions To Ask Yourself to Determine If You Qualify For A Career with Animals

Diana L Guerrero asks animal career seekers seven questions to determine if they qualify for a career with animals in this article at Animal Career Secrets.  All content copyrighted 2007 by Diana L Guerrero. Some rights reserved.

I thought I would take a break in the story telling/teaching series to give you some insider information about getting a career with animals. Basically I am going to ask you some core questions:

1. You LOVE animals–but do you understand them?

Believe it or not love is not enough; in fact most animal professionals are leary of “animal lovers.” People tend to get some really interesting (and inaccurate) ideas about animals and how they behave or what they need. It would be a good idea to read about the specific animals you have an interest in before you set your heart on working with them.

For instance, I was asked to do an appearance at a large festival and asked what type of animal they wanted me to bring. The festival organizer wanted a chimpanzee—because he thought chimps were cute and funny. Chimpanzees, even young ones are very powerful and dangerous—they are not a safe choice for public events.

My tip for you on this question: Don’t read stories, read some of the training and behavior works or scientific papers on animals. You can also interview people in the careers you are interested in. If you don’t know any, stay tuned—I do and will be doing interviews for you.

2a. Do you have practical experience around the animals you wish to work with?

One of the reasons I mentioned an apprenticeship is that if you are serious about a career with animals you had better get on the ball and get some experience if you don’t have any. Experience carries weight since it shows that you have gone beyond being a dreamer into becoming a really dedicated animal person. The next part of this question is:

2b. If you do not have experience are you willing to work for free to get it?

If this makes you squirm then you probably should go look for another career to pursue. Facilities will often pay you nothing (or next to nothing) in exchange for valuable experience. However you are going to have to act like a regular employee and do your share, be on time, work regular days/hours, and work hard.

3. Are you willing to invest time and money in specialty training for this career?

There are some schools that you can attend for specialty training. Some are college or University affiliated while others are private. They can cost a lot or require you invest a lot of time, but either way they are a serious investment. I’ll be getting into these in the future.

4. Do you have allergies to hay molds, dust, and animal dander?

I brought this up before. If you get really sick from any of the above, I would suggest you consider another career or an aspect of an animal career that is not hands-on. One client I consulted with is doing quite well writing about animals. You really do want to avoid the miserable state of watery eyes, running nose, wheezing, coughing, and worse.

5. Do you object to being dirty?

If you do—well, I hate to break it to you but hands-on animal work is definitely not for you!

6. Do you like physical labor?

Depending on your animal career choice, fitness is a must since working animals requires the ability to move quickly and adeptly. It also requires that you lift, carry, and leverage objects—which sometimes means an animal.

Which brings me to a short story, early in my career I was one of the first women to work with big cats and some of the male trainers took issue with it. One guy said that I would be like a rag doll and get dragged all over the place. Since he was smaller than I was I simply asked, “Do you think a 500 pound lion is going to drag you any less than it would me?”

7. Do you like being outdoors and travel?

Being outdoors is great but when you work animals you are outside in all kinds of weather. So if you prefer a warm cozy office–you better pass on this. There is often travel involved in transporting or hauling animals.

Okay—how did you do answering these seven questions? I have more for you so take a few minutes and make sure you answer these honestly first!


Diana L Guerrero is an animal career specialist and has extensive experience in many areas of the animal world. A well known animal expert, she has worked professionally with animals for over thirty years. Guerrero is the author of several books and writes for a variety of websites including Ark Animals.

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