Table of Contents
Aspiring zoologists should start planning their career in high school by volunteering at zoos, animal shelters, kennels, and aquariums. Any exposure to working with animals will smooth the transition to studying and working in the field.
Most positions zoology require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in zoology, biology, wildlife biology, or ecology. Coursework generally includes anatomy, wildlife management, cellular biology, botany, physics, and chemistry. In addition, prospective zoologists should make mathematics, statistics, and computer science part of their curricula, as most jobs involve complex data analysis and the use of geographical information systems and modeling software.
Participation in internships, co-op work study programs, and undergraduate research opportunities relevant to the field is also recommended. The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are among the state and federal agencies which periodically have volunteer openings. These hands-on experiences help students with selection of a concentration or specialty and often enhance employment prospects or admission to graduate school.
A Master’s degree is typically needed for higher-level positions, and a Ph.D. is required for most leadership roles in research and for university teaching appointments. Because competition in the zoology job market is strong, even entry-level positions may go to candidates with a graduate degree.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that in addition to the formal coursework specific to a zoology degree, zoologists need advanced skills in communication, report writing, critical thinking, problem solving, and public speaking. Observational talents are of particular importance because it is imperative that zoologists notice even very slight changes in an animal’s appearance or behavioral characteristics. Abilities in each of these areas prove to be invaluable when zoologists apply for grants, deliver presentations, and advocate for changes in public policy that impact the environment.
Should I become a Zoologist?
It goes without saying that a passion for the environment and for animals – beyond playing with puppies – is essential in this career. An important part of being a zoologist is frequently working outdoors and in remote areas in sometimes challenging weather conditions. Being fit and healthy therefore, is imperative. A fascination for living things; patience; and a calm personality that instills calmness in animals are other desirable traits for anyone entering this occupation. Depending on the animals being monitored and studied, there can be an element of danger to the job; so prospective zoologists must be prepared to accept this aspect of the role. And, of course, these professionals must possess an essentially scientific and curious mind.
Furthermore, the accomplished zoologist will be well served by the capacities to work both independently and as part of multi-disciplinary teams. In addition, zoologists may need to endure long periods of time working with injured or sick animals and with little human contact; this calls for emotional stamina and stability. Attention to detail; analytical, research, and decision-making abilities; IT skills; and a methodical, meticulous approach to interpreting data will also prove to be invaluable in the study of living organisms.
Pros and Cons of working as a zoologist:
-Interacting with and helping animals is typically rewarding work
-Variety of work settings: laboratories, offices, outdoors
-Career advancement opportunities allow zoologists to pursue their own research
-Government employment opportunities
-Extended amount of work time spent out in the field
-Physical stress from fieldwork labor
-Irregular and long work hours are common during fieldwork
-Advanced education is necessary for higher-level positions
If you answer ‘yes’ to the following questions, zoology may be the field for you!
Are you ready to…?
-Publish a research paper in a scientific
-Assist a professor with research, for example, on the effects of parasites on animal populations
-Join the campus chapter of the American Institute of Biological Sciences
-Complete an independent research project
-Dissect a fetal pig
-Take chemistry, physics, and advanced math and biology courses
-Collect invertebrates out in the field
-Spend time in lectures and labs
-Study a wide variety of organisms, from your favorite zoo animals to the smallest insects
What are Zoologists like?
Based on our pool of users, zoologists tend to be predominately investigative people. This is not at all surprising, given that virtually every aspect of the profession entails some form of examination, investigation, observation, monitoring, research, or study in and of the animal world.
Zoologists by Strongest Interest Archetype
Based on sample of 174 Sokanu users
Are Zoologists happy?
Zoologists rank among the happiest careers. Overall they rank in the 93rd percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.
These two quotes support the high happiness quotient in the field:
‘I love this field because it is so exciting to study and learn about the intricate details of how animals function and reproduce, especially within an evolutionary framework.’
Professor, Miami University of Ohio
‘I don’t care two hoots about civilization. I want to wander in the wild.’
British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace
Zoologist Career Satisfaction by Dimension
Percentile among all careers
How long does it take to become a Zoologist?
Following high school, aspiring zoologists are required to earn at least a four-year Bachelor’s degree. Earning only an undergraduate degree, however, may limit job opportunities to junior roles such as biological technician. To enhance their employability, many undergrads pursue a Master’s degree, which is typically necessary in applied research positions. This adds another two years of study. Obtaining a Ph.D. in zoology can further add up to seven years to the education timeline.
In short, the spectrum of jobs in the field includes roles which necessitate between four and thirteen years of post-secondary schooling.
Steps to becoming a Zoologist
As with most occupations, becoming an accomplished zoologist is not merely a matter of obtaining the appropriate education. It is an ongoing process of learning, participating in real-world settings, and hopefully experiencing eye-opening moments with the potential to positively impact the profession and the environments it aims to protect.
- High School
- Bachelor’s Degree
- Volunteering / Internships / Employment
- Master’s Degree (optional)
- Doctorate Degree (optional)
- Stay up to date
1 High School
For prospective zoologists, high school is the time during which to lay a strong career foundation. A focus on biology and chemistry and gaining practical experience by volunteering at zoos, aquariums, or animal sanctuaries will pay dividends at later educational stages.
2 Bachelor’s Degree
Some Bachelor's degree programs in zoology allow for specialization and others are more generalized. Core courses for most programs are general biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. The biology requirement is sometimes divided into courses in molecular and organismal biology. If specialization is permitted or required, options are marine biology, ecology, genetics, animal behavior, or zoo and aquarium science. By taking certain elective courses students may be permitted to create a custom-made specialization in the subject.
Bachelor’s programs may offer both a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Science (BSc). The BSc is the preferred degree for those considering earning a Master’s and/or Ph.D.
A Bachelor’s in zoology generally opens doors to entry-level and some mid-level positions. It may be sufficient to obtain an assistant research post. However, more advanced roles in applied research typically call for a Master’s degree.
3 Volunteering / Internships / Employment
While working towards a Bachelor’s it is wise to seek out volunteer opportunities, co-op programs, and internships, which may count for college credit. They will most definitely provide experience in writing research papers and proposals; offer networking connections; and possibly lead to employment or prove to be beneficial in gaining acceptance to a graduate degree program.
4 Master’s Degree (optional)
Master’s programs in zoology consist of coursework that is similar in subject matter to that of a Bachelor’s program; however, graduate-level studies are, of course, more advanced and they also offer a thesis or non-thesis option.
Some Master’s programs involve conducting extensive research and completing a thesis, while others are coursework-based and require that students pass an exam instead of completing a research project.
5 Doctorate Degree (optional)
For zoologists who wish to teach at the university level or who are primarily interested in conducting independent research, earning a doctorate degree is the best option. Research at this level is used to develop new ideas and plans for conservation of certain animal species.
Completing a Ph.D. dissertation is the most likely route to focusing one’s career in a specific sub-discipline. This requires carrying out original research, recording data, writing about findings, and orally defending the research to peers and department faculty members. It is important to look for universities that are home to professors specializing in the desired area of study. Examples of research dissertations include wolf spider foraging behavior, toxicity effects of certain chemicals on rainbow trout, and the effects of nutrient availability on phytoplankton communities.
6 Stay up to date
Zoology is a particularly research-oriented field. It is therefore necessary to stay current on new findings and trends. The Journal of Animal Ecology, Animal Behaviour, and Mammal Review consistently publish articles related to the field.
The Zoological Association of America (ZAA) accredits professional zoological facilities. Its major pillars are conservation, education, and research. The Association conducts animal ambassador programs, classroom education, and comprehensive work with wildlife management professionals around the globe. Its programs involve research in behavioral sciences and genetics and the exchange of information and training in the areas of husbandry, nutrition, best management practices, and veterinary care.
The Wildlife Society facilitates networking of wildlife professionals through magazines, journals, an e-newsletter, an annual conference, and working groups. It also administers professional certification for wildlife biologists.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a network of more than six thousand zoo and aquarium professionals and organizations, offers animal management information, business benchmarking data, conference proceedings, grants, and more.
Education History of Zoologists
The most common degree held by zoologists is Biology. 7% of zoologists had a degree in biology before becoming zoologists. That is over 2 times the average across all careers. Zoology graduates are the second most common among zoologists, representing 6% of zoologists in the Sokanu user base, which is 33.9 times the average.
Zoologist Education History
This table shows which degrees people earn before becoming a Zoologist, compared to how often those degrees are obtained by people who earn at least one post secondary degree.
|Degree||% of zoologists||% of population||Multiple|
|Anthropology And Archeology||2.2%||1.1%||2.0×|
Zoologist Education Levels
|High school diploma||0%|
How to Become a Zoologist
What Degree Is Required To Become A Zoologist?
Zoologists with advanced degrees are expected to have the most opportunities for higher-level positions.
Zoologist Career Information: Becoming A Zoologist
Research the education and career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in zoology.
How To Become A Zoologist Or Wildlife Biologist
Zoologists and wildlife biologists need a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions, but a master’s degree is often needed for advancement. A Ph.D. is necessary for independent research and for university research positions.
Compare Schools With Zoology/Animal Biology Degrees
Compare Schools With Zoology/Animal Biology Degrees in the USA