Skip to content


How To Become An Animal Therapist

How To Become An Animal Therapist

Animal lovers with an interest in veterinary physiology or anatomy would likely be well-suited to an animal therapist job. With the potential to specialize in animal physical therapy, behavioral therapy, or to learn more about animal assisted therapists, there are plenty of opportunities open to people who want to start a career in this field.

But, before you start looking into degree programs, it’s worth taking a closer look at the relevant career information to help you figure out whether this really is the right path for you. And, for those hoping to get more hands-on experience before they begin their education, it might also be worth exploring the different online programs that focus on this sector.

Animal therapist job description and salary

Each animal therapist job description will vary depending on the specific branch of animal therapy it relates to, as will the job description salary. For example, the median annual animal therapist salary is around $26,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although the average can be as high as $79,000 for those looking into an animal physical therapist career specifically.

To get a more thorough idea of salary info and more, it’s worth finding and reading a range of relevant job descriptions. As with other health professions, the wages and responsibilities attached to animal therapist jobs can differ widely depending on the specialism and the level of education of the applicant.

What is animal therapy?

There are several different types of animal therapy that a person could possibly go into, all of which have a slightly different career profile. However, broadly speaking, whether they choose to become a rehabilitation therapist or an animal behavior specialist, animal therapists help to improve the quality of life of injured or distressed animals.

As such, a passion for animals will be a must in any animal therapist job description. The types of animals you are most likely to come across when working in this field include:

  • Overweight or older animals, particularly pets.
  • Athletic animals, including race dogs and horses.
  • Hunting dogs.
  • Disabled animals and animals with chronic injuries.
  • Animals with neurological illnesses.

From canine rehabilitation specialists who practice physical therapy on their four-legged patients to the vastly different world of animal assisted therapy, there are career job roles to suit all people. So, if you’re considering embarking on a complete career change or continuing education in this field, it’s worth delving deeper into the career info for each.

For those with high aspirations, it’s worth noting that, by and large, animal physical and behavioral therapists tend to have a solid foundation on which to expand their knowledge of the clinical sciences. As such, some even go on to do training programs in veterinary medicine further down the line.

What are the different types of animal therapy?

To help you decide which area of animal therapist employment is right for you, here is some additional information on the general job titles available in the field.

1. Animal physical therapist

An animal physical therapist primarily helps to treat pets’ and other animals’ pain and injuries, or aid recovery from surgery. And, as a practice, it has been around for decades. However, animal physical therapists usually start their careers in human physical therapy or occupational therapy, and then go on to train with veterinary patients further down the line.

2. Animal behavioral therapist

Those who opt to work in animal behavioral therapy focus more on the mental health of their patients. Using standard veterinary medical and health practices alongside expert techniques designed to help animals with their behavioral problems, an animal behavioral therapist will usually deal with pets that are aggressive or anxious to the point that they put themselves in danger.

3. Animal assisted therapy

Animal assisted therapy is actually something quite different from the above two forms of therapy. In basic terms, an animal assistant is one that has been trained to help patients with their mental or physical health problems. So, in this case, it is actually the animal that provides therapeutic benefits to human patients.

This branch of animal therapy has less of a grounding in standard veterinary medical practices, although there is still an awful lot of essential knowledge to learn about the field before heading into it. For example, there are plenty of scientific findings and studies that link the presence of animals to human wellbeing, which you will have to know all about if you want to work in the field.

Animal therapist career paths

Job growth in the animal care and animal medicine sector is much faster than that of other occupations, at an impressive 22%. So, whether you want to become an animal physical therapist assistant or an animal assisted therapy specialist, there are likely to be roles available for you.

Most animal therapy positions, including those in physical and behavioral therapy, will require candidates to have a relevant associate degree, bachelors degrees, or a doctoral degree on their resumes when they apply, and appropriate experience is also preferred. So, those with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine qualification, a background in medical assisting, and former occupational therapists will, for example, be more competitive in this space.

In addition, anyone already working in the animal care sector who wants to work their way up will be able to do so. However, if they want to specialize as a veterinary technician or something similarly technical, they will also have to undertake specific veterinary clinical or vet tech training.

How to become an animal therapist?

If you want to get started as an animal therapist, you should first consider doing a certificate program that covers your area of interest. The Courses for Success Animal Assisted Therapy Certification online course is a prime example. Some of the topics you’ll get to explore include the following:

  • Animal assisted therapy (AAT).
  • Animal assisted activities (AAA).
  • Holistic health.
  • Florence Nightingale.
  • Sigmund Freud.
  • Boris Levinson.
  • Positive psychology.
  • When medical support is needed.
  • Stress and anxiety.
  • The human givens approach.
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
  • Humanistic and positive psychology.
  • Human needs.
  • Self-awareness.
  • The social benefits of dog walking.
  • Other benefits of living with animals.
  • Guide dogs.
  • Hearing dogs for deaf people.
  • Dog aid.
  • Dogs for dood.
  • Support dogs.
  • Therapy dog heroes.

However, becoming an animal therapist will mean you have to achieve a higher level of education such as a veterinary medicine degree. And, there are several popular schools from which you can obtain your degree, including Howard University and the University of Colorado.

To make your application to your school of choice more competitive, it’s a good idea to try and get work experience as an animal therapist assistant. Such experience on your resume will show that you already have a solid education level in the relevant field.

Why Courses for Success?

Courses for Success offers over 10,000 online courses, all of which aim to help you in your personal development and career progression. Not only that, but you can also study them anywhere and at any time, and take them at your own pace, too.

You don’t need career diplomas or specific experience to get started. With every course we offer created to be as accessible as possible, you can be sure that all of them, from our coding courses and trading courses to design courses and developer courses, will help to boost your prospects, no matter who you are.

Beyond just the education itself, students will be issued with a certificate online after successful completion of each of the learning courses they do. Our animal therapist skills courses are no exception. Our Animal Assisted Therapy Certification Online Certificate courses are recognized by industry leaders. You could really make a name for yourself in the business world by signing up for a Courses for Success short course.

Previous article What Is Self-Development?