Where can I go from here?
July 23, 2008 5:28 AM   Subscribe

Where can I go from here? I switched jobs (from waitressing to working at a pet store) a month ago, and plan on staying at the pet store for about a year. What can I do with pet store experience?

Will I need to go to school to do anything with a vet or a larger animal care facility like a zoo or animal sanctuary?
posted by d13t_p3ps1 to Work & Money (8 answers total)
I have a friend who earned a BA in sociology at a liberal arts college and went to work as a 'vet tech' straight out of college.
posted by LakesideOrion at 5:51 AM on July 23, 2008

It might be helpful to work towards being an assistant manager or manager assuming you are just a cashier. Management experience will be more useful than generic pet store experience. You are better off applying directly to zoos or animal sanctuaries if you want to work there. Pet store experience will doubtfully help you there.
posted by JJ86 at 6:00 AM on July 23, 2008

Best answer: Check out this site... National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. There's a plethora of information regarding educational programs, information, etc. Good luck on your endeavor!
posted by alcoth at 6:01 AM on July 23, 2008

I just heard an interview on my local NPR station yesterday with a zookeeper. He said that you need a minimum of a 4 year degree in a related field (zoology, animal husbandry, etc) and that you have to be willing to volunteer for a long, long time before getting hired on at the zoo due to the almost nonexistent turn over and the extremely high demand for openings. Maybe start volunteering at a farm/zoo/sanctuary as soon as possible, so that when you're done with your schooling you'll have all that experience already under your belt. Good luck!
posted by banannafish at 6:20 AM on July 23, 2008

Best answer: In most states, being a credentialed Veterinary Technician requires graduation from an accredited Veterinary Technology program and/or passing a statewide exam. There are still jobs available for uncredentialed Vet Techs, but they are becoming harder to find. You might want to look into starting out as a Veterinary Assistant (sometimes called a Technician Assistant or Kennel Assistant) to get experience in the veterinary field. You can usually get those types of jobs with little or no experience.

While having some hands-on experience with animals is good, working long-term at a pet shop may actually hurt your chances at getting into veterinary medicine. Pet shops are often (rightly or wrongly) considered unsanitary, unethical breeding grounds for disease and behavior problems by people in veterinary medicine. Volunteering at your local animal shelter might be a way to redeem and broaden your resume.

As far as getting into a zoo or sanctuary, medical jobs in those settings are generally in very high demand, and are nearly impossible to get, even for credentialed Vet Techs. Even the less technical jobs in a zoo -- like zookeeper positions -- often require specialized degrees.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:26 AM on July 23, 2008

Take some time to figure out what it is that really interests you about this job: (a) the critters themselves, (b) customer service -- helping people find pets, pet stuff, pet services, etc., (c) sales -- selling stuff to people, helping the store maximize sales, pitching the quality of the goods, etc., or (d) management -- helping to run the store, keeping it organized, purchasing, inventory, scheduling. Think it through, because depending on which factor or factors interest you most, you could end up going in any of a number of different directions (any of which could still be animal-related). Of course, there are a lot of different directions possible in each area -- the ones you mention (vet, zoo, sanctuary) are quite different from one another. And then, within the vet field, there are small animal specialists, large animal specialists, etc. Go about this systematically to sort out where you ought to be in the maze of possibilities. Some further schooling will be helpful, no matter which direction you choose, and then usually schools can help you find employment appropriate to your training.
posted by beagle at 6:31 AM on July 23, 2008

Pet stores are usually pretty fish-heavy. Get to know fish and you could work at a hatchery or fish farm. 'Course that's all about cutting their guts out, not petting them, but it is an expanding industry, what with ocean fish declining.

You could even farm talapia in tanks in your basement.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:03 AM on July 23, 2008

You could transition into grooming. Ask your regular customers where they get their pets groomed, and ask there about helping out. Your cage-cleaning experience (and apparent willingness to do the dirty work, so to speak) will be helpful to a groomer, and eventually you could transition into being a groomer yourself. The groomer where I take my dog works many hours and doesn't charge exorbitant fees, but she must do well enough to pay two assistants and the rent on a storefront in a very nice complex.

The groomers at a PetSmart I went to once were very nice and friendly, but didn't seem to know much, which led me to believe that they hire inexperienced but pet-friendly people and train them on the job. (I could be wrong, so check into that.)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:03 AM on July 23, 2008

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