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Volunteering as a gateway into the animal welfare industry

 Volunteering as a gateway into the animal welfare industry

With the modern workforce as competitive as ever, skill-based work experience has become an important feature of prospective employees’ resumés. While students and graduates often seek out internships to learn new skills and refine existing knowledge, the power of volunteering on your CV should not be discounted.  

If you’re interested in working with animals, volunteering with an animal welfare organisation is a great way to gain the relevant skills for a career in this field. Volunteering before, during or after your studies (if you choose to undertake them) can equip you with a range of skills that will be useful in both the animal welfare industry and the general job market.  

In celebration of World Animal Day on Thursday 4 October, we’ve included some details on where you can volunteer your time to animal welfare organisations in Australia and abroad. 

Why should I volunteer?

Relevant work experience is becoming increasingly important to employers as rising numbers of qualified graduates enter the job market. Possessing the skills required for a certain role can give you the edge over other candidates, with knowledge and experience proving more attractive to hirers than a qualification alone. While graduates often eschew volunteering for internships, undertaking unpaid work is a great way to get some vital professional experience under your belt and onto your resumé.  

The beauty of volunteering lies in the fact that you can commit your time around the happenings of everyday life – some organisations may accept volunteers who donate their time one day a week over a period of several months. This provides you with the flexibility to juggle your studies, work, family and social life while gaining some useful work experience. 

While industry-specific experience is always highly regarded within the world of recruitment, the possession of transferrable skills is becoming increasingly important to hirers. Volunteering gives you the chance to acquire technical knowledge while refining soft skills such as problem solving and communication – abilities that employers look for in prospective candidates

The inclusion of volunteer experience on your resumé also catches the eye of recruiters. While many candidates choose not to add volunteer work to their CVs, surveys have shown that employers value such experience when selecting potential employees. The Deloitte 2016 Impact Survey found that 82 percent of hirers were more likely to choose a candidate who listed volunteer experience on their resumés, while data from SEEK shows that 85 percent of employers consider volunteering to be as credible as paid work. 

Interested in a career in animal welfare? 

The benefits volunteer work can have on your career prospects has already been well documented – but how does this translate to a future in the animal welfare industry? 

Say you’re good at science and love being around animals. You’re starting to think of potential career paths, hoping to work in a field that combines your strengths and interests. Studying veterinary science has crossed your mind, but you’d like to gain insight into how the industry works before committing. Volunteering is a fantastic way to develop an understanding of what a career in animal welfare entails to see if it’s the right fit for you. 

If you’re currently studying or are a recent graduate, volunteering with an animal welfare organisation could be useful in allowing you to consolidate your learned knowledge. It can also provide an opportunity for you to polish your skills for increased job marketability. Donating your time presents you with a chance to build rapport with the company you’re volunteering for – this could result in a list of valuable industry contacts or potential paid employment down the road. Recent postgraduates may find that volunteering provides a nice buffer between study and full-time work, allowing you to refine your skills before you enter the workforce. Overseas volunteering programs offer graduates the unique opportunity to combine travel with valuable, skill-based work experience. 

Where can I volunteer? 

Regardless of whether you’re an aspiring vet, recent graduate or animal lover, there’s some of the many places across the country for you to volunteer your time to the animal welfare industry. 

Australian Capital Territory

RSPCA ACT, Animal Compassion Team, Gungahlin Veterinary Hospital, Best Friends Pet Rescue

New South Wales

RSPCA NSW, Animal Welfare League NSW, Sydney Dogs and Cats Home, Cat Protection Society of NSW

Northern Territory

RSPCA Darwin, PAWS Darwin, Wildcare Inc NT, Alice Springs Animal Shelter


RSPCA Queensland, Animal Welfare League Queensland, Oceans 2 Earth

South Australia

RSPCA SA, Animal Welfare League SA, SA Dog Rescue, Zoos SA


RSPCA Tasmania, The Dogs’ Home of Tasmania, Bonorong Sanctuary 


RSPCA Victoria, The Lost Dogs Home, Guide Dogs Victoria, Lort Smith Animal Hospital, Animal Aid

Western Australia

RSPCA WA, Best Friends Animal Rescue, Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Parks and Wildlife Service 


If you’d like to combine travel with volunteering, why not look at an overseas program to gain some industry-related work experience? 

GVI Australia

Costa Rica, Seychelles, South Africa, Thailand 

International Volunteer HQ:

Cambodia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Zimbabwe 

Projects Abroad

Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, China, Ghana, Mexico, Romania, Samoa, South Africa, Sri Lanka 


Useful links:

Five Five benefits of completing an internship
Five Five reasons why: Veterinary science
How How to hack your university degree: Experience