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Many students begin their journey into animal care by studying, much like yourself here at OCA. The importance of study and understanding theoretical information on animal care and husbandry cannot and should not be undermined. It is a vital aspect of getting prepared to work in the industry. However, theory alone will not equip you to be the best you can be for the animals in your care.

Hands-on, practical work is very important when choosing a career with animals. Getting experience handling, feeding, cleaning, and medicating a variety of species is of great importance. When we get our hands dirty, it helps us to understand what we learn through studying more efficiently; you begin to make connections between what you’ve learned, and what you are seeing firsthand in a workplace! 

While many would prefer to get paid work as soon as possible, the reality is that the animal care industry is competitive and there are a lot of people just like you that want to make a career out of helping our furry (or scaly!) friends. To set yourself apart from others, you need to have some experience to demonstrate in your resume. Not to mention the added benefit of helping animals in need 😊  

I have done a combination of volunteer work and paid work, and I can report that both experiences gave me plenty of real-life learning opportunities that helped me to be a better animal carer. Not only are you giving yourself great hands-on experience, but you also have something else to add to your resume which will further benefit you in gaining paid employment later. You may also receive some training and education before you begin volunteering for an organisation.  

Listed below are some popular volunteer opportunities in animal care: 

  • Walking shelter dogs 
  • Fostering animals 
  • Cuddle time (often with cats in the shelter) 
  • Cleaning cages and kennels 
  • Preparing feeds and feeding animals 
  • Basic animal husbandry 
  • Fundraising 

Volunteers are highly sought after and very well appreciated within the industry. Most volunteer work resides in animal shelters and rescues, so volunteering your time to help animals in need of a home can be some of the most rewarding work you can do. 
But don’t just take it from me, what does one of the most renowned rescue organisations think about volunteers? 

“Volunteers are at the heart of what RSPCA NSW does. In the 2019/20 financial year, 2,128 volunteers and foster carers donated their time, energy, love and commitment to animals and pet owners around the state.

They assisted with the day-to-day operations of our shelters, Care Centre and op shops, they provided loving home environments for animals to grow, mature and recover, and they utilised their professional skills or hobbies. They ran branches and crucial fundraising drives in their townships. They created showstopping artwork, and they helped answer calls asking for bushfire assistance.

Every day, our volunteers fundraise and champion the RSPCA NSW name within their local communities – giving a voice to the abandoned, neglected and injured animals who need them.

Our volunteers' work is invaluable and creates a life-changing difference to animals in need. Simply put: RSPCA NSW wouldn’t exist without the helping hand of our amazing volunteers.” 

So, if you want to help animals AND get some valuable hands-on experience, consider volunteering in your downtime. 

Here are some links to organisations that need volunteers:

Please note that not all of these applications are within all states across Australia, so be sure to visit websites or organisations local to you and reach out to get the hands-on experience you will need in the animal health industry. 

Olivia Basham


Online Courses Australia is a short course, CPD Endorsed training provided that covers more than 20 different professional areas; give us a call today at 1300 611 404 or email our friendly team at [email protected], and we’ll be happy to talk to you through some of your Animal Health course options.

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