The conversations were like clockwork. “I’m studying animal science.” “Oh! You’re going to be a vet?” My tongue in cheek response was, “No, the idea of going to school another four years only to spend my career getting calls at 3 a.m. to take care of other people’s animals isn’t appealing to me.”
In actuality, my focus in animal industries was by no means an alternative to something better. It’s a distinct career path all its own and the one most perfectly aligned with my passions, skills, and life goals.
If you like animals the first suggestion, you probably heard was just be a vet. If you grew up around livestock you have one other alternative — be a farmer. If you don’t like either one of those, sorry kid. One of my college professors regularly joked, “Every animal science kid is pre-vet once.” It isn’t that either of these two professions are the best routes, they’re just the only ones most people know.
I admire veterinary medicine very much. It’s a respectable profession, an agricultural cornerstone, in fact. And sure, the idea of cheerfully healing grateful animals is an idyllic image that appeals to any animal lover. (My vet school friends can vouch the reality is slightly different.) However, vet school is a competitive pursuit that demands you love every aspect of it to be successful. It’s not enough to want to help animals, you need to want to practice medicine. I knew right away it wasn’t for me.
Luckily, agriculture is hiring in so much more than the veterinary and full-time farming disciplines. With a degree in any type of animal industries there’s almost nothing you can’t do. It’s made up of sales, marketing, farm and ranch management, nutrition, communications, publication, law, research … the list goes on and on. A lot of people forget the animal industries need all the exact same kind of professional skills you’d find at any other (more boring) workplace. You can pair up majors and minors, or double major, to put your different skills and interests together. If that weren’t enough, you have the opportunity to go to grad school for a plethora of specializations! Remember, you don’t need a DVM to be an “animal doctor” — think about your professors. The fast-paced world of innovation and technology assures the opportunities will only keep growing. Think about it, today we have careers that didn’t even exist before. Think things like computing, welfare auditing, and social media; the situation is ripe for young professionals with new ideas to take the stage.
As a freshman I had no idea where I specifically wanted to go. I just knew I was an animal person and wanted that as the foundation of my career. It made sense my passion was out there somewhere in the hard industry. Post-graduation with a B.S. in hand I had three different job offers all in different career paths, but all in the animal industries I loved.
My advice to anyone interested in a career with animals is to start thinking bigger. Think about where your passions and skills lie, no matter how obscure. Is it agriculture advocacy? Solving problems? Education? Computer programming? Mine happened to include writing and having opinions. And so far, it’s all served me pretty well. Never let anyone tell you there isn’t room in animal agriculture for someone with your skillset and ideas. I promise you, there is!
Jaclyn Krymowski is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic “agvocate,” professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.