If you’re looking for a career in zoology, be aware that this exciting and challenging field requires a considerable amount of education in order to secure an entry-level position.
Zoology is a vast field, with many different specialities. There are several main branches to consider when looking into a career in zoology — molecular and cell biology, ecology, conservation, animal behavior, biodiversity, wildlife management, and even pre-veterinarian fields.
In broad terms, zoologists are researchers who spend their time studying the lives of animals both in the wild and in captivity. They study how animals live, their behavior, mating habits, how they rear their young, how they adapt to their ecosystem, their social interactions, genetics, diseases, and basically their entire life cycle.
And having a career in zoology doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be working in a zoo. Many zoologists work in the field and never step foot in a zoo. Others work in research laboratories. Zoologists are employed by private industry, or they can also work for the state or federal government.
To gain an entry-level job as a zoologists you’ll need at least a Bachelor’s degree, but most successful zoologists have a Master’s degree in their field of study as well.
While you can take zoology as an undergraduate course, only a few colleges offer that as an option, and usually you’ll have to wait and take it as a graduate course of study. Typically students take something related like ecology or biological science as undergraduates, then move onto zoology as their graduate program.
Other natural science courses you could take include marine biology, microbiology, botany or anthropology. Ask your school counselor to help you work out a course list that will prepare you to earn a degree in zoology, botany, or biology.
Another way to enter a career in zoology is to work your way up through experience. Working as a zookeeping volunteer for a year or two will show you what’s involved with this type of work, and whether you’re suited to a career working with animals.
Just keep in mind that zookeeping can be a very physically and mentally demanding occupation. Zookeepers are constantly hauling, lifting, feeding, and hosing down animals indoors and outdoors, and in all types of weather.
Be aware that zoologists and zookeepers are a close-knit group. You’ll have to work your way up fromt the bottom, and gain the trust of your fellow zookeepers before you’ll be allowed to take on a full-time position.
And since a lot of people are interested in becoming zookeepers or zoologists, there’s a very low turnover rate at zoos, and even volunteer positions can be hard to come by. You may have to put yourself on a waiting list and wait for something in your area to open up. In the meantime keep taking classes and work toward your degree as well.
If you’re interested in professional organizations in this field, there are several good ones. The American Zoological Association is a first-rate organization, and they even have a list of zookeepers and zoologists at various locations around the country.
Another good organization if you’re interested in a career in zoology, and zoo keeping in particular, is the American Association of Zookeepers. There are also a variety of conventions and seminars available for zoologists and zookeepers, so keep your eye out for those as well.
And one final word of advice – work and study hard. Just like any other employer, zoological parks are looking for volunteers and graduates are hard-working, knowledgeable, and “team players” who can be a valuable asset to the park and the overall organization.
Visit the best colleges for zoology page for more information on getting a degree in this challenging and rewarding career field.