How To Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: January 3, 2023  •  8 min read  •  Animals
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If you love animals, becoming a wildlife rehabilitator is a great career path. This career allows you to help animals and make a living at the same time. You will need to gain extensive knowledge of many different animals and how to care for them.

As a wildlife rehabilitator, you can work for many different types of employers. Helping animals is a big part of this career. Let’s look at the job duties of a wildlife rehabilitator and how you can become one.

How To Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

Job Duties of a Wildlife Rehabilitator

As a wildlife rehabilitator, you will do many different things. Most of your job duties will include providing some care for animals. It may be for sick animals, orphaned animals, or even injured animals.

Wildlife rehabilitators will care for many different types of animals. The common job duties include:

While a large percentage of job duties have to do with caring for sick or injured animals, many wildlife rehabilitators do even more. It’s common for this type of career to include plenty of time working to educate the public. You may also handle some administrative tasks and management tasks for a rehabilitation facility.

There are many job duties for wildlife rehabilitators. However, if you want to help animals and perform the job duties above, you’ll want to look further into this career.

How to Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator in 4 Steps

Step #1 – Finish High School

It’s hard to get a job as a wildlife rehabilitator without a college degree. This will require you to do well in high school and get your diploma or equivalent. You want to keep your GPA up and score high on the ACT or SAT. With the right prep course, you can score well on the ACT or SAT exams.

Getting into a good college should be the main goal if you want to be a wildlife rehabilitator. It would help if you focused on science courses in high school. It’s also helpful to volunteer or work part-time with animals.

Step #2 – Get a Bachelor’s Degree

While you can become a wildlife rehabilitator without a degree, about 60% have a college degree. Most have a bachelor’s degree, with only 2% holding a master’s degree.

You want to choose the right major for your degree. Getting the right degree can help you become a wildlife rehabilitator. A bachelor’s degree in animal science or biology is preferred.

Step #3 – Become Certified

You will need to earn a certification through the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. They offer the Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator certification.

If you want to become a wildlife rehabilitator, you will need this certification. This requires you to pass the exam and keep your credentials up by renewing them every two years. You may also decide to get certified in working with specific types of animals.

Step #4 – Complete an Internship

You will likely want to complete an internship in this field, as well. Your internship will allow you to gain hands-on experience in the field. In some cases, you may need to volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation facility to gain experience.

With the right experience, you will have a better chance of landing a job as a wildlife rehabilitator.

Gain the Right Skills to Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

There are many necessary skills you need to become a wildlife rehabilitator. Some of the most common skills you will need include:

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitator

How much does a wildlife rehabilitator make per year?

If you choose to go into this career, you can earn an average salary between $43K and $64K per year. Without much information for this type of position, this is the salary range for wildlife specialists and biologists. Your salary will likely depend on your experience and your location.

There are several levels of wildlife rehabilitators with different salary levels. The different levels include:

It’s not uncommon for wildlife rehabilitators to work overtime and get paid extra for these extra hours.

What is the best way to gain experience as a wildlife rehabilitator?

You will need to get the right experience to earn a position as a wildlife rehabilitator. Most of the time, an internship will be the best option. However, you might need to volunteer at a vet clinic, conservation center, or wildlife rehabilitation facility. All of these options give you hands-on experience with different types of animals.

Is a career as a wildlife rehabilitator risky?

Yes, this can be a risky type of job. You will likely need to wear specific safety gear and get the right vaccinations to help prevent injury and complications. However, this becomes a safer career path with the right knowledge of animals and the right training.

What type of environment do wildlife rehabilitators work in?

As a wildlife rehabilitator, you will work in a facility that cares for animals. Therefore, you will likely have a routine job with repetitive tasks. However, some of these positions will include some time outside in the field, too.

Which associations and organizations should I join?

The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association is one of the best choices. They hold symposiums and other events throughout the year.

You may also want to join the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. This organization offers the Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator exam. It also offers many other benefits.

Is the career field for wildlife rehabilitators growing?

Wildlife rehabilitation is a bit of a newer career option. It used to be more on a volunteer basis. Today, it’s becoming more popular and growing very fast.

What are my career options as a wildlife rehabilitator?

You’re not limited to just one career path as a wildlife rehabilitator. Often, you can go into another vocation as a vet tech, wildlife biologist, or zoologist. Some wildlife rehabilitators only perform their rehabilitation duties part-time. However, many others will work full-time as wildlife rehabilitators in a facility or as a part of a response team.

It’s also possible to specialize in a specific type of animal. For example, you may work specifically with birds, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, or another type of animal. But, again, this may require gaining experience in a specific area of interest.

You might also become a part of an emergency response team. This type of wildlife rehabilitator position will likely require travel. You will go to specific areas where animals are in distress due to wildfires, hurricanes, oil spills, and other natural disasters.

Do I need vaccinations to become a wildlife rehabilitator?

Most of the time, yes, you will need specific vaccinations to work in a rehabilitation center. This is due to the contact you will have with animals, which may have specific diseases. Typically, you will need at least a rabies vaccination.

There are many different career paths you can take as a wildlife rehabilitator. If you want to work with animals and help those in distress, this is the career for you. Whether you choose to be on the front lines as a part of an emergency team or work in a facility, becoming a wildlife rehabilitator can be a very rewarding career.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.