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Animal care services a growing career option

Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 01:47 PM

Employment of animal care and service workers is expected to grow 21 percent during the decade from 2008 to 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

And those who work with animals tend to be extremely dedicated to their work.

It doesn't hurt that their four-footed charges are cute and cuddly and enjoy affectionate pats now and then.

However many workers in the animal industry lack the academic credentials that can allow them to advance in their career. It is becoming imperative that professionals have the opportunity to get a specially designed degree that is both affordable and convenient.

Duquesne University offers the first online and only regionally accredited Bachelor of Science degree in Humane Leadership in the country.  The degree is intended to meet the needs of individuals who are working in -- or are interested in – the fields of animal care, control or advocacy. It provides specific knowledge that will support career goals in animal advocacy and shelter management. 

The program combines a foundation in nonprofit management with grounding in the history, philosophies and issues related to animals. Students in the program come from a variety of professions, including animal shelter workers and volunteers, animal control officers, humane educators, veterinary technicians and even lawyers.

A sample of courses in the degree program includes_ Animal Health and Behavior in a Shelter Environment, Cruelty to Animals and Interpersonal Violence, and Studies in Humane Education. 

Courses are available entirely online in an accelerated format.  Several important changes have been made to the curriculum to allow more flexibility for transfer credits.  Students can transfer up to 60 credits from a two-year institution, and up to 90 credits from a four-year college or university.  These credits can fulfill both university core requirements as well as the 42 credits of electives.  "This benefits the students by allowing them to finish the program in a shorter period of time, and to pay for fewer credits," says Kathy Rebholz, an academic advisor.  "The accelerated delivery model also allows students to finish their undergraduate program in less time while still maintaining full-time student status for financial aid purposes.  Most students obtain financial aid packages, which makes this degree affordable." 

The updated program comes at a time when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, "Demand for animal care and service workers in animal shelters is expected to grow as communities increasingly recognize the connection between animal abuse and abuse toward humans and continue to commit private funds to animal shelters, many of which are working hand in hand with social service agencies and law enforcement teams." 

Rebholz says students enrolled in the Humane Leadership program are "very unique individuals."

"They are kind, caring and passionate about what they do, and very dedicated to continued learning in their field," she says.

Many students are working in nonprofit animal shelters or animal welfare organizations already. This degree may also assist a person who is looking to move up in their organization. Some of the students have formed their own rescue businesses, shelters and animal-related magazines.

Recent Humane Leadership graduate Andrea Ackerman, of Fort Collins, Colo., teaches veterinary technology classes at the community college level.  "It was great taking part in this program, not only because of the convenience of online classes, but also because of the engaging and knowledgeable instructors," Ackerman says. "Having been a veterinary technician for 20 years, this degree allowed me to follow a new and exciting path in the field of education. I did apply for financial aid as I am a single parent and could not afford to pay for school otherwise.  My program counselor was the main reason why I did not give up. She was always there with an encouraging word and another way to help me get financial aid to finish my degree."

Duquesne University is nationally recognized; it ranked among the Best Colleges 2011 by U.S. News and World Report and as one of the country's best institutions for undergraduate education, as well as Best in the Northeast by The Princeton Review. For more information about the Humane Leadership online program, visit www.duq.edu/leadership/humane/.


Write to pet-lifestyle expert Kristen Levine at Fetching Communications, P.O. Box 222, Tarpon Springs FL 34688; email kristen@fetchingcommunications.com.

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