Several different professions that involve reptiles to some degree since I have either personally researched each one or gone to college for them or worked in the field in each of these positions. I figured it’d be a good opportunity to share with you my experiences and my thoughts so that you can set yourself up for success anyway. Today I’ll be sharing with you the pros and cons of each of these career choices as well as touching a little bit on the education you’ll need and the experience that you will need in order to land a job in one of these fields.
Let’s start with one of them. Obvious ones a vet tech or a veterinary technician being a vet tech has probably crossed your mind before. if you’re an animal lover of any type of animal. It’s kind of an umbrella term to assisting veterinarians in their day to day work with animals.
Your duties as a vet tech will include things such as administering medication-taking samples wrapping wounds with bandages and checking the vital signs of animals that come into the clinic that you are working at. This is a great position if you want to be hands-on with animals every day. You’re moving around not stuck in a cubicle and honestly, every day is going to be different. If you are a veterinary technician although if you consider yourself a reptile enthusiast and reptile specialist.
It is important to know that as a vet tech most of the animals you’ll be seeing and attending to are gonna be furry. They’re gonna be cats and dogs primarily with rabbits and other animals as well with some reptiles here and there. Unless you can land a job at a clinic that specializes in reptiles and amphibians. Which are sadly not that common of course you have to be comfortable with the fact that you’ll be cleaning up a lot of poop.
Being a vet tech doesn’t mean playing with animals all day it’s administering those medications and cleaning up a lot of their messes. It’s a lot of hard work. I mean you are on your feet all day and you are busy the entire time and unfortunately being a veterinary technician isn’t gonna make you a millionaire. The average salary for a vet tech in 2020 is a minimum of $15 per hour up to $30 if I remember correctly. I mean $15 to $30 is a liveable salary but you’re not gonna get rich off of it so just know that. You won’t be poor but you won’t be able to buy that pair of black-headed pythons that you might want to add to your collection in the vet tech line of work.
There are pretty much two routes for your college degree that you can take in order to qualify yourself for one of these physicians. They are based on the only difference between the two is how long you stay in college. The first of which would qualify you as a veterinary technician. Would recommend you go to college for two years for an associate’s degree in veterinary technology.
This is a great way to start although it’s important to know that this job field is in high demand so clinics are quite possibly going to look past applicants. Who only have a two-year degree. They’re going to look for the people who have a four-year degree instead. That four-year degree is what I’d actually recommend you get it’s basically the same major. It’s veterinary technology but you stay in school for four years to get a bachelor’s in it and that’s what will make you a veterinary technologist. Instead of a veterinary technician. There are very similar positions technologists sometimes work more in labs instead of clinics.
They do like experimental testing and sampling. If you just want to work at a clinic. I would still recommend getting a four-year degree in veterinary technology. It’ll make you that much more hireable and noticeable to a hiring clinic.
The next step above that would, of course, be a veterinarian. This requires a lot of schooling. You’re going to have to get your doctorates in veterinary technology. Which requires eight years of college. This can mean substantial debt after college and it means a lot of time that you have to put into researching and learning about veterinary technology. If you are driven go for it that is awesome but also know that if you are a veterinarian the most successful ones are those that own their own veterinary clinic.
It’s good to have a bit of a business background as well since you’ll be basically maintaining your own business. The good thing about being a veterinarian is that after you’re out of college you should hopefully be making between eighty and ninety thousand dollars a year. Now a lot of that is gonna go back to paying your tuition from college but after that’s paid off. You can make a decent amount as a veterinarian if you own your own clinic. It is a lot of work and money to get to that point.
If you preferred not to go into the veterinary field one position I recommend is. A wildlife biologist people with this profession are out in the field conducting surveys or animal counts. They’re seeing how populations rise and decline every year and what they can do to best conserve those species in the wild. It’s good to be an outdoorsy person of course because you will be in the wind and the rain and the snow and the heat. I was trained to be a wildlife biologist in college.
Then I realized how much of a cold baby I am so I kind of altered my paths and for a couple other reasons too regardless. You have to be comfortable being outside in all weather conditions. You also have to be a very patient person because you will often spend like hours outside in the field conducting a survey and it’s not actively counting. Just waiting and listening for different bird calls throughout the course of like four hours. You need a lot of patience to be a wildlife biologist and you’re not always going to be in the field either. A lot of your time will be spent doing calculations on population ecology and numbers and growth and that, of course, will be out of computer back at your office. Although some of it is hands-on and you’re actually working with the animals those wild animals in the field. A lot of it is computer work too but if this is something that strikes your fancy then.
I would recommend getting either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in a related field such as wildlife management or fisheries and wildlife. Which was my major the more education you get the more likely you will be to get hired for a position like a wildlife biologist. Other majors you could pursue this type of job would be like ecology or just a general biology major. Having a bachelor’s or master’s in kind of a more general major like just biology is kind of nice. It’ll allow you to be more flexible in what exact job you can get after graduating from college.
However, if you want to get a job as a field biologist. It is essential to get experience before your college education is complete because I’m sure after you graduate you’re gonna want your full-time position. Those positions are hard to get in the field. But if you want to get a wildlife biologist position not only do you need education but you need a ton of experience under your belt to become go on one of those full-time permanent jobs.
An experience that you can get would be things like. Volunteering for field surveys with your local herpetological society or working with counts or like population counts basically. I recommend just contacting your local DNR agent and seeing if they have any volunteer opportunities for you to start getting. That experience built up. It’s never too early to start volunteering for the line of work you want to work for in the future. Due to all the technical skills required to learn in order to become a wildlife biologist.
There’s a pretty decent salary involved with it after you get a four-year degree. A little experience and you land that permanent job you can expect to eventually earn about sixty thousand dollars a year. Of course, all these numbers of mentioning are highly depending on variables. Variable based on your experience and how long you’ve been with said organization. Basically, this will be a position where you are working directly with animals at a zoo. Which involves a lot of cleaning a lot of food preparation and administering medications when and if needed. If you want to become a zookeeper the good news is a lot of those places don’t require a college education or a college degree. The bad news is because of that it’s not a very high-paying position you can expect to make around twenty thousand a year on average. That’s kind of what you can expect for a position that doesn’t require secondary education and it’s just an entry-level position. You can, of course, build up from there and earn more money the longer you are with that zoo. It’s still not going to make you a ton of money unless you go back to school while working for the zoo to get more of a business background. Then maybe you can look into zoo management positions. That’s gonna get away from working hands-on with reptiles and other animals. If a zookeeper position sounds right for you though then. I recommend volunteering now at the zoo most zoo’s require. That you have at least like one or two years of volunteer work before they’ll even consider you for a paid position. This is kind of an issue I ran into when I was considering maybe being a zookeeper. I wanted to do it but I had already graduated college and I looked at the requirements and I needed to have already had a couple of years of experience. I had no time to get at that point since I didn’t have it already.
If you want to be a zookeeper start volunteering right now. That you can get a position in the future another position that involves without live including reptiles. That I would recommend is an interpretive naturalist. This is actually the position I was straight out of college. What is a interpretive naturalist means. Promoting conservation by educating the public about Natural Resources. This is usually done through interactive hands-on programs. Connecting Park visitors to those natural resources. Whether it be a program about reptiles or birds or bugs or geology or trees. Programs will involve anything natural resource-related places that will hire a naturalist to include state parks County Parks and Nature Center’s it really depends on your government’s funding though or nature centers funding on how often those positions are available. If you are an interpretive naturalist you will be on your feet for quite a bit of the day because you’re walking on trails. You’re usually stationed at like a state park so you’re walking on trails you’re talking with the public talking with campers. If your park has a campsite area. Part of your job will also be indoors at the computer prepping future programs like getting props ready. Figuring out your objectives for your programs. There is some planning and some computer work involved. However,
I will say when I was a interpretive naturalist about 60 to 70 percent of my day was spent outdoors talking to people and connecting them with wildlife or other natural resources. It was a lot of fun the only downside is that interpretive naturalist positions are often seasonal and temporary or both. I had a position that was that lasted two summers. It was just three months during the year.
During the summer months when our park was the busiest and that meant that throughout the rest of the year. I had to find a different job after doing two summers at this position. I decided you know I really need something that’s more permanent and year-round and that’s why I left being an interpretive naturalist. This position as you can imagine that these are very highly contested. You need a lot of experience under your belt usually volunteer work or seasonal work at that Park to help kind of make yourself stand out a little bit more. They’re very competitive positions after my two summers as it as a seasonal analyst. I was trying to get one of those permanent year-round positions. I just couldn’t do it though cause I only had two summers of experience behind me. It’s much easier to get one of these seasonal positions than year-round. If you are able to land one of those permanent around naturalist positions then you can expect to earn between thirty and forty thousand dollars a year of course. Again depending on the organization’s funding.
If you don’t mind working with people, and with products and like stocking shelves. Then working in the retail industry might not be a bad idea for you. Either this if you’re working in retail like at a pet store or even better a reptile specialty store. You will be working with animals a lot along with people so of course, you have to be a people person in order to do this kind of job. But for some people, the corporate life just isn’t right for them. It wasn’t for me I was working at a large chain retail pet store for actually about 3 years off and on and. Then I decided you know what I need to do something on my own and that was another reason why I left and started my own business about reptiles. If you don’t mind the retail world then working at a pet store is not a bad idea. It’s an entry-level position that doesn’t require a college degree at all but again just like the zookeeper position. That’s going to reflect in the amount of money you make you’re not going to make as much as you would in some of those other fields. That requires a college degree unless you end up moving up the corporate ladder and doing more of a managerial position. Just like a zookeeper position if you switch and become more into the management area of that business or organization. Then you will have less hands-on time with reptiles. Of course, retail work though is very repetitive. Like you will be doing the same tasks every week week after week. Monday is cleaning the enclosures. Tuesday is stocking the shelves. Wednesday you do this and then it just repeats again the following week. If you like having a set scheduled type of job along with working with both people and animals. Which again in retail you’re not going to be playing with the snakes or other animals throughout the day you’re strictly going to be caring for that. Cleaning and feeding and really not much interaction. Keep that in mind but if all that sounds ok to you. Then retail at like a pet store or if you have one near you a reptile specialty store. It might not be a bad idea for you.
That covers pretty much all of the career paths I wanted to touch on. I know a lot of people also want to become full-time reptile or snake breeders. About that briefly – I don’t mean to like to kill the mood or kill any dreams. There’s only like two people that I know of two organizations or businesses really that are full-time breeding reptiles for a living. Unless you are producing thousands upon thousands of reptiles every year and you’re able to move them like sell them. It’s just not that lucrative of a business to be a snake breeder. I really hate the fakes and a lot of you want to become that full-time breeder but it’s good to know the reality of it and that it likely won’t happen. That doesn’t mean you can’t breed snakes like a side project or a side hobby. Just make sure you have a full-time job elsewhere. That you can take care of your food bill you take care of your rent or your mortgage. Take care of all your other bills and then you can still breed reptiles for fun to make a little bit of money on the side. You just won’t be able to make a hundred percent living off of it. Overall the points to take from this article would be to research the positions you are interested in to see if the job is. As the job description is something that you want to work with and pursue. I know that a lot of people also want to work with animals for a living it’s a very competitive field and jobs are not only a few and far between but they are so competitive. It is so tough to even be considered and brought in for an interview for one of those positions. That’s why you need to have at least a four-year degree. Not just a two-year degree to get a job in an animal field. As well as experience a couple of years of experience under your belt before you even like graduate from college. When you’re going to college also volunteer for the line of work that you want to do in the future. That is what will set you up for the best success after you graduate. Those are pretty much the main career paths that I can come up with.