Wildlife Rehabilitator Career Profile

Do you want to work as an wildlife rehabilitator?

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 your 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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19 June 2024

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What is a Wildlife Rehabilitator?

A wildlife rehabilitator is a professional who cares for injured, sick, orphaned, or displaced wild animals with the goal of releasing them back into their natural habitats. This role involves a combination of veterinary care, animal behaviour knowledge, and environmental science.

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Alternative Names

Wildlife rehabilitators may be known by various alternative names depending on their specific roles, areas of expertise, and regional terminology. Here are some common alternative titles:

  • Wildlife Rescuer
  • Wildlife Carer
  • Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialist
  • Wildlife Caregiver
  • Wildlife Rehabber
  • Wildlife Conservationist (when focusing on broader conservation efforts)
  • Animal Rehabilitator
  • Animal Rescue Worker
  • Wildlife Rehabilitation Technician
  • Wildlife Veterinary Technician (if they have veterinary training)

These titles often overlap and can be used interchangeably, reflecting the diverse nature of the field and the various specializations within wildlife rehabilitation.

Career Categories

The Wildlife Rehabilitator career can be found in the following career categories:

  • Animal Care
  • Animal Health
  • Marine Conservation
  • Wildlife Conservation


The first registered centers started in the 1980s

Legal Issues?

It is illegal in some countries to own or rehabilitate wild animals without a permit

What does a Wildlife Rehabilitator do?

Groups of animals a Wildlife Rehabilitator works with

Mammals List Icon OZT
Birds List Icon OZT
Fish List Icon OZT
Reptiles List Icon OZT
Amphibians List Icon OZT
Crustaceans List Icon OZT
Mollusks Link Icon OZT
Critters List Icon OZT

What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?

With who does a Wildlife Rehabilitator work with?

Besides working with all of the animals, Wildlife Rehabilitators will need to interact with other people while doing their daily tasks. The people might include fellow staff members or the public.

Fellow staff might include:

  • Supervisors/Managers
  • Operational staff, such as Human Resources, Finance and Maintenance
  • Veterinary staff

What does a Wildlife Rehabilitator focus on?

The primary focus of a Wildlife Rehabilitator is to examine and care for stranded or injured animals.

What are the daily tasks of a Wildlife Rehabilitator?

  • Examine and identify possible injuries or stress
  • Work with veterinarians to figure out how to care for the animals
  • Ensure animals are fed and given medicine
  • Report progress
  • Reintroduce healthy animals to the wild
  • Administration and filing

The working environment of a Wildlife Rehabilitator?

Where does a Wildlife Rehabilitator work?

Environment –

Wildlife Rehabilitators will work equal amounts in and outdoors depending on the kind of animals and how they are enclosed.

Places of Employment –

Most wildlife rehabilitators work for government, wildlife sanctuaries or conservation societies.

What is the average annual salary of a Wildlife Rehabilitator?

Many Wildlife Rehabilitators volunteer their time and skills but some are permanently employed. The average annual salary is around US$36,000 and will differ depending on organization and country.

Can a Wildlife Rehabilitator be promoted?

Advancement in the field typically depends on work experience. First-year rehabilitators 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:

volunteer > intern rehabilitator > senior rehabilitator > rehabilitation manager

What difficulties can a Wildlife Rehabilitator face?

The most difficult part is handling injured and stressed animals that may bite or scratch.

Overtime and working on weekends might also be necessary.

​Future growth and Possibilities

Demand for wildlife rehabilitators has steadily increased throughout the years and is expected to continue to grow at around 7% annually.

Availability of Jobs


Which Skills are required by a Wildlife Rehabilitator?

The skills required for a career as a Wildlife Rehabilitator 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

Career Skills

  • Excellent animal handling
  • Animal care
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Computer literacy
Career Skills

Which Subjects must I have at School to prepare for this career?

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!

What will I need to Study to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator?

Minimum Requirements

Volunteer rehabilitators do not need any specific training, but full-time rehabilitators do require a minimum of a high school certificate. Most rehabilitators do have a College Diploma.

Some of the top positions are filled with people who already have a Bachelor’s Degree in something like zoology.

Study Focus

Major –

A good background in zoology animal health and animal behaviour.

Short Courses –

Courses in things such as animal first aid or rehabilitation to boost your knowledge.

Study Duration

The duration of College and Bachelor’s Degrees can be up to 3 or 4 years. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.

FREE Career Path Plan

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 a road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

To prepare for a career as a wildlife rehabilitator, a high school student can follow this detailed pathway:

1. Attend Career Guidance Sessions

Gain an understanding of the wildlife rehabilitation field and related careers. Attend sessions at school, participate in career fairs, and seek advice from career counsellors.

2. Research All Possible Careers

Identify various roles within wildlife rehabilitation and related fields such as veterinary science, wildlife conservation, and environmental science. Use online resources, library books, and informational interviews with professionals in the field.

3. Explore Educational Paths

Understand the educational requirements for becoming a wildlife rehabilitator. Look into college programmes in biology, zoology, veterinary science, environmental science, and related fields. Research certifications and specialised training programmes in wildlife rehabilitation.

4. Align High School Subjects with the Educational Path

Prepare academically for college-level coursework. Focus on subjects such as biology, chemistry, environmental science, and animal science. Take advanced placement (AP) or honours courses, if available.

5. Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent

Meet the basic educational requirements for further education. Maintain good grades, complete all required courses, and participate in relevant extracurricular activities.

6. Learn About Animals You Will Work With

Gain foundational knowledge about wildlife species and their care. Read books, watch documentaries, and visit wildlife centres, zoos, or nature reserves.

7. Align Post-School Path with Career Goals

Decide whether to enter the workforce directly, pursue further education, or start a business. Evaluate personal interests, financial situation, and career aspirations. Consider college programmes, apprenticeships, or starting with entry-level positions in wildlife rehabilitation centres.

8. Gain Experience Through Volunteering, Internship, Mentorship, etc.

Develop practical skills and build a resume. Volunteer at animal shelters, wildlife rehabilitation centres, or veterinary clinics. Apply for internships or seek mentorship from experienced wildlife rehabilitators.

9. Pursue Extracurricular Activities

Enhance knowledge and skills outside the classroom. Join environmental clubs, participate in wildlife conservation projects, and engage in outdoor activities like hiking and birdwatching.

10. Join Professional Associations

Connect with the professional community and access resources. Join organisations such as the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) or International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC).

11. Gain Specialised Skills

Develop expertise in areas critical to wildlife rehabilitation. Take courses in animal first aid, wildlife handling, and rehabilitation techniques. Learn about wildlife laws and regulations.

12. Network with Professionals

Build a professional network for advice, job opportunities, and mentorship. Attend conferences, workshops, and networking events. Connect with professionals on platforms like LinkedIn.

13. Enter the Job Market, Finish Tertiary Studies, or Launch a Business

Begin a career in wildlife rehabilitation. Apply for jobs at wildlife centres, zoos, or veterinary clinics. Continue education if pursuing advanced degrees or certifications. Consider starting a wildlife rehabilitation centre if you are entrepreneurial.

14. Stay Updated and Pursue Continuing Education

Keep current with advances in wildlife rehabilitation and related fields. Take continuing education courses, attend seminars, and read professional journals. Stay informed about new techniques, technologies, and regulations.

By following this comprehensive pathway, a high school student can effectively prepare for a rewarding career as a wildlife rehabilitator.

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 Alternatives (there are a lot more):

Stepping Stone Career

Being a Wildlife Rehabilitator 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 rehabilitator 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 careers, most of the skills you will need as a Wildlife Rehabilitator will be acquired through practice. 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 rehabilitator.

Join the Wildlife Rehabilitators Group in the OZT Community to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of education of all the people who enter the career:

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

Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

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

Most paid Wildlife Rehabilitators need to pass the international Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator (CWR) exam.

Learn more about requirements by joining the OZT Community.

Professional Associations

Where can I study further?

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 rehabilitation.

How do I start to prepare for this Career?

If you do decide on following this career, then OZT can assist you in figuring out a path to prepare, as well as help you to gain further knowledge about the career and the animals you will be working with. We do this by offering you FREE career development tools. There are almost a dozen free tools, but these are the three primary ones:


Use the career path plan above on this profile as an example to follow, or to work out your own path.

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Access easy-to-use short courses to make your career preparation easier! The basic information in each course is free, but the rewards can only be unlocked as an OZT member!

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Get a supercharged study guide that fits into the career path plan! Now that's really upping your preparation game! Join us for free to gain access!

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But, if you are still uncertain about choosing this specific career, and even where to start, then have a look at our special series of WHAT NEXT courses (link below). They take you through all of the questions you might have on how to choose the right career, what to do while at and after school, and even how to start your own business.


Join the OZT community & career chat Group

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitator.

Members of the 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 a Wildlife Rehabilitator, 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, and search for something different.

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