Ask an Expert: Careers Working with Animals

Jill Cords

Jill Cords, Career Consultant, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Q: I’d like to pursue a career working with animals. Is becoming a veterinarian my only option?

It’s not! MSU alumni work with animals every day without degrees in Veterinary Medicine. You might consider some of the below opportunities as you explore your options.

  • MSU offers both two-year Certificate and Bachelor of Science programs that prepare students for rewarding careers with animals. Explore all of MSU’s academic offerings online here:
  • Employers in Michigan (and nationwide!) post many direct animal-care opportunities in Handshake and recruit regularly at MSU’s career fairs.
  • Many times, students with backgrounds in fisheries and wildlife are employed in biologist positions with state and federal agencies. Some fish and wildlife alumni work in law enforcement roles as conservation officers, too.
  • Zoos and nature centers offer an array of internship and professional opportunities that involve taking care of zoo animals and wildlife. In addition, zoos, parks, and nature centers employ alumni for educational and interpretive roles.
  • Small animal opportunities such as animal shelters, pet food companies, and organizations such as Leader Dogs for the Blind offer rewarding career opportunities for candidates who’d like to work with animals.
  • Contract research organizations employ many research technicians to assist in caring for lab animals enrolled in clinical trials.
  • Opportunities exist for equine enthusiasts to work at horse training centers and boarding facilities.
  • You might also consider work in the swine, dairy, feedlot cattle, and poultry (layer and broiler) sectors. These are important roles that produce protein for the food supply.
  • Students can utilize their animal knowledge and apply it in supporting roles, too. For example, there are sales opportunities as nutritionists, pharmaceutical sales representatives for veterinary products, and in technology-focused positions such as selling and servicing robotic milking equipment.
  • Students can gain employment in roles in animal reproduction. Firms like Centralstar recruit students for reproduction consulting sales representatives and artificial insemination technicians.
  • Graduates with Masters or PhD-level credentials are qualified for more involved roles with zoos, pet food, and livestock feed companies, who employ nutritionist and technical consultants.
  • Animal health companies hire research scientists to help develop new animal medicines and vaccines.

MSU offers a diverse array of student opportunities to gain hands-on experience in many of these career directions. Participating in labs, undergraduate research, and student employment are all great ways to further develop your interests and skills while you’re a student

Want to learn more?  Feel free to get in touch with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Career Consultant, Jill Cords (

By Jill Cords
Jill Cords Assistant Director, Career Services Network