How do I become an animal shelter assistant?

READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.

RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.

PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for the career, then join the OZT Community! Members have access to tools, while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!

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UPDATED: 29 August 2020

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1. What is an animal shelter assistant?

An animal shelter assistant cares for stray animals at government run shelters or pounds. They generally help animals that need protection, attempt to find homes for homeless animals, and reunite lost pets with their owners.

Other names for an Animal Shelter Assistant

The name for this career can be slightly different, depending on the country, or even just the organization where the career is situated. Here are some of the alternative names:

  • Animal Shelter Attendant
  • Humane Shelter Assistant
  • Shelter Worker

Similar Career

The people who work with stray animals for non-profit organizations (not government) are called Rescue Center Assistant. Click on the name to see that Career path.

Mostly dogs?

More than 60% of animals in shelters are dogs.

Important numbers?

Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter animal shelters in the USA alone!

2. What does an Animal Shelter Assistant do?

Career Categories

The animal related careers are organized into categories. Here are the categories in which Animal Shelter Assistant can be found:

  • Animal Care
  • Law & Enforcement

What does an Animal Shelter Assistant focus on?

Their primary focus is to perform animal care duties, such as feeding and grooming the animals, cleaning enclosures and help monitor the health of the animals,

Daily tasks of an Animal Shelter Assistant

  • feed animals
  • clean enclosures
  • help check the health status of animals
  • communicate with future animal adoptees
  • filing and administration

3. The work environment of an Animal Shelter Assistant

Work environment and places where an animal shelter assistant can be employed:

Environment –

Animal shelter assistants generally work indoors, in the shelters. However, with larger shelters they may have the chance to walk the dogs outside.

Places of Employment –

​They are employed by government run shelters, kennels or pounds.

Average annual salary for an animal shelter assistant:

The average yearly salary of animal shelter assistants is US$29,000. This might change according to the country and currency.

Can an Animal Shelter Assistant be promoted?

Advancement in the field typically depends on work experience. First year assistants often begin on a part-time basis, fitting their training commitments around other work demands.

The levels of each promotion might differ from organization to organization, but generally are the following:

Intern > Junior Assistant > Senior Assistant > Supervisor

Promotion to senior levels are available in all related careers.

What difficulties do Animal Shelter Assistant face?

​Animal shelter assistants often experience difficulties associated with aggressive or frightened animals that may bite, kick or scratch, causing injuries. You may also be required to work irregular hours including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Future growth and possibilities in this Career:

The prospects of future growth in this industry is good. Unfortunately, as more and more people buy pets, the amount left or found at shelters keep on rising.

4. Which Skills does an Animal Shelter Assistant need?

The skills required for a career as an animal shelter assistant can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem Solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship
Life Skills
40%

Career Skills:

  • Basic animal handling and care techniques
  • Basic customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Basic computer literacy
Career Skills
60%

5. Which Subjects must I have at School?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

6. What will I need to Study to become an Animal Shelter Assistant?

Minimum educational requirement

The minimum requirements for animal shelter careers is a High School Certificate, but the best have furthered their studies with a College Diploma.

Subject focus

Major –

If you do want to study further, then a diploma with a focus in animal behaviour, animal physiology, or a closely related area is preferred.

Short Courses –

Most short courses can be done through the shelter, and will include topics such as basic animal care and handling, pet first aid etc.

Subject duration

The duration of most diplomas are between 1 and 3 years full time. The duration of short courses differ, but can range from a few days to a few months.

​Possible Career Preparation Paths

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternative(s):

Stepping Stone Career

Being an Animal Shelter Assistant can also be used as a stepping stone career. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high fees etc).

You can begin as an intern after basic short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.

Some of the possible paths:

Training and apprenticeship

Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal caregiver careers, most of the skills you will need will be acquired through on-the-job training. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.

In some cases entry level positions (or junior positions) require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.

Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior person or expert. The more hands on careers, such as animal trainers might require apprenticeship.

Join the Animal Shelter Assistants Group in the membership Community to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of education of those entering the career:

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

7. Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

Certain animal care careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.

Although not required by law, certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills.

Learn more about requirements by joining the Community.

Professional Associations:

Still to be added

8. Where can I study further to become an Animal Shelter Assistant?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards animal care.

Do you want to contribute information to this Career Page? Please click on the red beetle to find out how!

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Join the OZT community and our Animal Shelter Assistant Group

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming an animal shelter assistant. 

Members of the Group and Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being an Animal Shelter Assistant, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu.

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