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Anyone work in the animal industry and can help with a dilemma about qualifications?

(16 Posts)
chicaguapa Sun 15-Nov-15 18:56:55

DD wants to work with animals and always has done. She doesn't want to be a Vet and her leaning is more towards conservation or rehabilitation than zoo keeping as such. She's very interested in animal psychology and she shows a great deal more empathy towards animals than humans.

If she wanted to do a BSc in Animal Behaviour (possibly at Exeter as she is capable of getting all As) she could do A Levels (including Biology and Psychology) or a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management (again she is capable of getting Distinctions so would have maximum UCAS points to get into Exeter).

The dilemma is does she go down the academic route or the practical route? She is very academic but from what I have read about the industry, practical experience is really valuable. All the work experience and voluntary jobs around here are only for students studying animal management at the college so she'd struggle to find anything if she did A levels at 6th form.

But DH thinks she should be aiming for the highest qualifications she can, ie A Levels which need a B in the relevant GCSES rather than the Level 3 Extended Diploma which only needs 5 GCSES grade C. (She is likely to get all A/A*) And that doing A levels keeps her options open without narrowing her focus and will help her if a career in the animal industry doesn't work out. This is an important consideration as I know it is a very competitive industry.

Can anyone in the industry give any guidance please? DD was a 'zookeeper for a day' recently and the zookeeper she was with said experience will always be more valuable than qualifications, but I don't know how true that is for today's graduates.


Lonecatwithkitten Mon 16-Nov-15 09:07:21

I am a vet, a veterinary nursing clinical coach and a business ambassador in our local area for animal based industry so spend a lot of time advising similar students.
Both routes A-Levels v. Level 3 are equally valid and people go to uni via both routes, part of it depends on the individual with the level 3 diploma it is continuous assessment so if you are looking for high number of distinctions you need to be a very consistent worker, where as A-levels tend to suit people who do better in exams.
There is lots of work experience of the less fancy type available that is equally valid helping at cats protection league, dogs trust or any similar charities. Be an unpaid assistant at dog training classes is another option though make sure it is a modern training school. Local farms particularly sheep farms often need extra volunteer help at certain times of year so this is another route to explore.
The route your daughter is going to be most successful in will be the one she is happiest with.

Millymollymama Mon 16-Nov-15 09:57:49

If she is likely to get high grade GCSEs and A levels then I do think the degree route is better. Don't forget the zookeeper she was talking to may not have been as good academically, so their view may not be the one she should listen to above all others. Veterinary nursing and similar degrees at universities which have Vet Schools (eg Bristol) would be a good qualification for zoos or animal practices. She would need the relevant A levels, though! Sciences, but check the exact requirements.

I think if she looks she would find voluntary work with animals. We have friends who live near the Royal Veterinary College and their DD found animal work eperience (volunteering) without any problem with various charities.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 16-Nov-15 10:17:27

You can do the degree in vet nursing with the level 3 diploma you need DDM, but the level 3 diploma still accesses university courses.

sashh Mon 16-Nov-15 12:03:41

I'd go for the BTEC route, she might like the idea of working with animals but the reality may be different, she is better finding this out at college than uni.

But this is not my subject, although I do teach BTEC, and although 5 grade C GCSEs is the minimum it doesn't mean that's all people on the course have got.

chicaguapa Mon 16-Nov-15 12:22:05

Thank you all. It’s all really helpful info.

Talking to DD a bit more, she does seem to be more interested in the study of animals, in particular their behaviour, so I think she’d perhaps be more suited to the academic route, as opposed to the practical. Her A levels will probably be Biology, Psychology, Geography and Spanish so meet the entry requirements for all the universities offering Animal Behaviour degrees (except Aberdeen which also doesn’t accept the Level 3 qualification on its 3 year course).

Sparsholt college, which is nearby and offers the Level 3 qualification, does taster days for Y10 and Y11 students so she can go along and see what she thinks of that option before she has to choose either way. She’s lucky in that she [currently] consistently works hard so continuous assessment and exams suit her equally. With both routes being equally viable for university and the industry, I think I’d be happy for her to visit the two A level colleges in the area and Sparsholt and then choose which she feels most comfortable with and thinks suits her better and where she wants to take it.

We’ve looked into voluntary work in the area and they all need her to be 16 so she can’t do anything yet. But there are various rescue places where she could help out when she’s doing her A levels if that’s what she does. The Sparsholt students take all of the work experience places at Marwell and the bigger places, but tbh she’s going to have to be proactive when she’s in the industry anyway so it’ll be good practice for her to try and find something. And she’d be just as happy walking dogs or cleaning out guinea pig cages as sweeping out lemur enclosures and feeding penguins.

Just in case you have any insight or thoughts, are there better universities to do the Animal Behaviour degree? Chester looks pretty good with its on-site menagerie and according to the interweb has the highest number of graduates in work, but Exeter has field trips in years 2 and 3 which look right up DD’s street. I haven’t looked at any of the others particularly, other than the entry requirements. Aberdeen is out as DD is unlikely to meet the entry requirements in only doing one science A level. Bristol has discontinued its Animal Behaviour degree. RVC does Biological Sciences (including animal behaviour) but it’s London and expensive.

Obviously nearer the time, DD will do the rounds and will make a decision based on the course content. But it would be good to know which ones are the good ones.


cdtaylornats Mon 16-Nov-15 13:10:31

My cousin did a course in Equine Management, which led to her getting a job in the civil service checking farms. She spends days looking at cows ears and going to livestock sales to check animal passports.

Millymollymama Tue 17-Nov-15 15:29:51

Basically any courses attached to veterinary schools. Therefore anything at Nottingham, Bristol, RVS (I thought this was Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, not London), Liverpool and, I think, two others, of which one is Cambridge. Exeter is a much higher ranked university than Chester. I would look very critically at whether students get appropriate work after qualifying, unless she really wants to feed penguins for a living of course. You did say she was hoping for A*/A grades at GCSE but her A levels do not include enough sciences to get onto scientific courses. Most people working with animals, at a professional higher level, have a science background. Have you checked how much work is out there for animal behaviourists as opoosed to veterinary nurses, for example? Her A levels may well close off access to some courses so I would check if she really is doing the right ones. Spanish?

Lonecatwithkitten Tue 17-Nov-15 18:37:50

I just started to take a cruise round some of the animal science course requirements as I am currently advising a student who is interested in this area. Before she makes her A-level choices she would do well to read a lot of the requirements for example Aber ( very well thought of in the industry due to well thought of agriculture department) are totally up front that if you study more sciences you offer is likely to be lower than someone who is studying a broader range of subjects.
It is worth keeping eye on Surrey with their brand spanking new vet school they are very likely to have more subjects come on board over the next few years.
It's worth also taking time to see what careers each university indicate the graduates end up in for example Bioveterinary Science at the RVC seems to suggest most graduates end up going on to do

Lonecatwithkitten Tue 17-Nov-15 18:38:28

Posted too soon
To do PhDs and end up in research.

SoundFury Tue 17-Nov-15 18:46:36

Would this be the course in Cornwall for Exeter?
I'm doing Zoology there at the mo. I think the vast majority did a levels, but I'm not sure, nobody talks about it once you're there!

chicaguapa Tue 17-Nov-15 19:47:10

Thanks. It's good to know the Aberystwyth is well thought of for animal sciences. I've heard good things about the university and know a couple of people who've been.

It does look like most of the universities count Psychology and/or Georgraphy as a science if DD has biology too. I'm not sure about Aberystwyth, it just says more science subjects. Another science A level isn't an issue as such, it's just choosing which one she'd drop for it. DH is a science teacher (Chemistry and Physics) so he'd be pleased. grin

Anyway A levels are changing so maybe that will affect what she'll be able to do and the university entry requirements. I'll have to keep an eye on it and make some direct enquiries with the unis. Will keep an eye out for Surrey too.

Yes, it's the Cornwall campus for Exeter.

This all started because DD has to choose whether to do double or triple science in the next few months. I think she should do double because I'm a short cut Charlie, but DH wanted to make sure it wouldn't disadvantage any future university applications.

titchy Thu 19-Nov-15 21:36:09

Triple science, drop Spanish A level for Chemistry. Aim for a high ranking university, as lonecat says pref with a vetsci dept. Keeps her options open.

Millymollymama Fri 20-Nov-15 15:09:12

Triple science gives better preparation for science A levels as each science is studied in more depth. It is not so much to do with university applications, but hitting the ground running with A levels. It is also more rigorous for brighter students because of the greater content. Double award is fine for people who are not looking towards scientific courses but it is not a short cut to anything. I think 2 science A levels gives far more scope than Spanish. Psychology is not considered to be the same as Chemistry or Physics when applying for science based courses so be careful that her choices are not excluding the best courses.

Just a small aside..... My DDs could not bear the thought of being in Aberystwyth! Far too rural with a limited social scene. Be very clear about what your Dd will actually want from a university. Some young people hate isolated universities and prefer cities. It is not 100% about the course, it is about the right fit, including personality.

chicaguapa Sat 21-Nov-15 17:42:02

Thanks Molly. This isn't the case at DD's school as they fly through the triple syllabus at a rate of knots because it's covered in a double timetable. But I agree that's the perception (and maybe the case in other schools), which is important when on the CV and applying for uni. One advantage though is that the classes are more focused and have less disruption, at DD's school anyway, which is a consideration.

pestilence13610 Sat 21-Nov-15 17:52:36

Triple science all the way, double science tends to rule out science A levels. Geology for A level is counted as a science and much more fun if she likes physical geography.
Lots of colleges who do the BTEC L3 have good links with the industry. Lackham works with Longleat etc.. And many have residential students.
Do keep an eye on what the Unis want, they change it a bit from year to year, keep options open for as long as possible.

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