5 high-paying jobs that are perfect for people who want to work with animals

Margaret, a 10-day-old Rothschild giraffe, is fed by a keeper at the Chester Zoo in England.
PAUL ELLIS | AFP | Getty Images

If you're less of a people person and more of an any-other-kind-of-animal person, we may have found your calling.

CNBC Make It combed through data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the occupations that pay workers more than $56,000 a year and involve lots of quality time with animals. The five gigs that made the cut vary widely in how exactly you'll be spending that time — some call for studying animals, some for treating and healing them and others for protecting them.

So if you'd rather spend your days in the company of coworkers who won't ask about your personal life or complain about you to the boss, walk on four legs instead of two, and probably prefer hay to an after-work drink, then consider on the following jobs:

Zoologists and wildlife biologists

Wildlife biologists conducting research on the Adelia and Emperor penguins at Terra Nova Bay, in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.
Vittoriano Rastelli | Corbis Historical | Getty Images

Median annual pay: $62,290
Projected job growth through 2026: 8%

These researchers and scientists study animals and other wildlife to learn how they interact with their ecosystems. They observe the physical characteristics of animals and animal behaviors as well as investigate the impact humans have on wildlife and natural habitats. To do this, they may need to conduct experimental studies or collect biological data and specimens for analysis. They also research animal breeding programs, monitors wildlife populations and invasive species, and help with developing conservation plans. Entry-level positions in this field require at least a bachelor's degree, but a doctorate degree is necessary if you want to lead independent research, according to the BLS.


fotoedu | iStock | Getty Images

Median annual pay: $90,420
Projected job growth through 2026: 19%

As the healthcare workers and doctors for animals, veterinarians diagnose and treat medical issues in pets, livestock and other animals. They may be called upon to treat and dress wounds, perform surgery, test for and vaccinate against diseases, prescribe medication or euthanize animals. Some also research medical conditions and diseases found in animals. Veterinarians can specialize in caring for companion animals, like cats and dogs, or food animals, such as pigs, cattle and sheep. Or they can focus on food safety and inspection, which means testing livestock and animal products for diseases. All veterinaries must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from an accredited veterinary college, as well as a state license.

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Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers

Maskot | Maskot | Getty Images

Median annual pay: $69,620
Projected job growth through 2026: -1%

These workers run the establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products. This means they supervise the care and raising of all livestock and animals on their farm, deciding everything from what to feed them to how to house them. They must also maintain the farm facilities such as all animal shelters, fences, and water pipes. And finally determine the price of their goods and sell them. Farmers and ranchers own and operate mainly family-owned farms, whereas agricultural managers handle the day-to-day operations of one or more farms for an owner who does not want to such tasks. No college degree is required for this job, just lots of work experience.

Animal scientists

simonkr | E+ | Getty Images

Median annual pay: $60,760
Projected job growth through 2026: 6%

These scientists research ways to improve the safety and efficiency of agricultural practices relating to domestic farm animals. They study an animal's genetics, nutrition, reproduction, growth, and development as well as any common diseases it might get with the aim of creating new processes that improve the production of things like milk, eggs or meat. They also advise farmers on how to improve animals housing, lower animal death rates, and improve the health of their animals. To become an animal scientist, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree, although many in the field earn advanced degrees such as a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Fish and game wardens

A California fish and game warden holds a western grebe that was caught in an oil spill in San Pedro, Calif.
David McNew | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Median annual pay: $56,410
Projected job growth through 2026: 4%

These law enforcement officers patrol fishing and hunting areas to ensure people are complying with federal, state, or local fishing, hunting and boating laws. They may be called upon to conduct search and rescue operations, investigate complaints and accidents and educate the public about laws pertaining to the outdoors. Those who work at a federal level are more often called federal wildlife officers. To become one, you'll typically need a bachelor's degree in a related field like wildlife science, biology or natural resources management.

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