Katie Needles Helland's Story
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Katie Helland

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Can you give us a bit of background on yourself?

I grew up in WI and become a pharmacy technician after high school. I received my certification as a pharmacy tech, worked at a pharmacy for a year and hated it. I quit and went back to work in a grocery store while trying to decide what to do next.

How did you become interested in your field?

Back in high school, I wanted to be a veterinarian or a vet tech, but anatomy wasn’t my strongest subject and I knew I wouldn’t attend school for either of these careers. But I enjoyed animals and wanted to work with them. I researched different careers and was drawn to wildlife rehabilitation. I received information from the Animal Behavior Institute and decided to pursue my certification. I completed the programs in both Wildlife Rehabilitation and Zoo & Aquarium Science

Where do you live and work?

I live in Eau Claire, WI and work at The Raptor Education Group, Inc. REGI is a non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured or orphaned birds. Their mission also includes public education on wildlife issues. 

Websites: http://www.raptoreducationgroup.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/RaptorEducationGroupInc/

How did you benefit from your ABI experience?

The courses aligned perfectly with the jobs I was interested in. I still use the course materials from ABI, specifically the calculations and techniques. When I was applying to internships, having ABI on my resume, and my status as a student with ABI, helped give me an edge to get my foot in the door. Virtually any job or internship in the animal industry is competitive; they’re look for experience as well as education.

How did you complete your field requirement?

While completing my field requirement I found that I preferred Avian Rescue. I interned at National Eagle Center in WI to fulfill my Zoo & Aquarium Science certification. I found National Eagle Center with a Google search for centers in my area. I interned at The Florida Keys Wild Bird Center to fulfill my Wildlife Rehabilitation certification. I found The Florida Keys Wild Bird Center through the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association; I still keep in contact with both centers. During my internships I developed a preference for working with birds of prey.

Do you have any advice for potential students or current students?

There are a lot of volunteer positions in Wildlife Rehabilitation, but in recent years more paid opportunities have been popping up as well. Larger institutions often pay, but you will most likely have to work your way up to those positions. Paid positions will usually mean travel, as some may not be local to you, so you may have to be flexible in your ability to move or to travel farther than you would normally.

Would you recommend ABI?

Yes, I would and do. The curriculum was amazing and I find that I still use it. The two certificate programs I completed compliment each other very well and the courses in each program apply to both fields. In Zoo & Aquarium Science program, I often use the cage design, husbandry and enrichment.

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