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Careers in Zoology

Overview of a zoologists career

Zoologists are life scientists who study animals, observing them both in the laboratory and in their natural habitat.

They study the origin and development of species, their habits, behaviours and interactions.

They also research the development of animal diseases. Zoologists are sometimes known as animal scientists or animal biologists, as zoology is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom.

Zoology is a wide field offering many career opportunities for research, as there is still a great deal to learn. It offers a way to make a difference to the planet's ecology through conservation work. Most zoologists are employed by colleges and universities, where they undertake research and teach students. Here is a brief summary of some of the main careers available.

  • Zookeepers are employed by a zoo or aquarium, where they manage and befriend the animals on display.
  • Zoo Curators are responsible for acquiring animals for zoos, either through breeding programs, through purchase from other zoos, or very occasionally from the wild.
  • Animal and Wildlife Educators work in a public venue, such as a sanctuary, museum or aquarium, the educator creates a range of materials that help visitors to understand the wildlife they are seeing.
  • Wildlife Rehabilitaters care for ill, injured or orphaned wild animals that have been damaged by bush fires, oil spills, or other major disasters. They are responsible for then releasing the animals back into the wild.
  • Animal Behaviourists train zoo employees how to interact with and successfully care for animals. They are usually trained in ethology (the study of animal behaviour in natural habitats) and have had direct experience working with animals themselves.
  • Conservationist work for conservation agencies, reporting on what is impacting on a particular species' survival or on a region's ecosystem.
  • Researchers conduct research in private organisations or in university departments, where they also teach students.

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Daily tasks for zoology careers

With such a wide range of different zoology careers, daily tasks vary enormously. Here are a few of the key tasks in some of the roles.

A zookeeper's role includes:

  • Preparing animals' meals.
  • Caring for the animals.
  • Cleaning enclosures.
  • Monitoring and recording behaviour.
  • Ensuring that animals are healthy.
  • Grooming, exercising and training the animals.
  • Talking to visiting groups about the animals; etc.

Amongst other duties, a wildlife educator will:

  • Reside at the venue and study, research and explore various intricacies of wildlife behaviour.
  • Research and write information to be printed as leaflets, brochures, etc.
  • Write information for websites.
  • Prepare information for educational visits.
  • Design and prepare displays.
  • Buy or rear animals for exhibiting; etc.

A researcher will:

  • Run experiments.
  • Identify new data achieved through research.
  • Use data to help solve environmental or health problems.
  • Breed and raise specimens.
  • Dissect animals and preserve their bodies.
  • Use computers, microscopes, and other equipment to analyse and record their findings.
  • Prepare collections of preserved specimens or slides for identification and study.
  • Research species in their natural surroundings.
  • Collect specimens to study in the lab.
  • Collect or catalogue species.
  • Write papers and give speeches.
  • Prepare grant proposals to gain funding; etc.

A rehabilitater will:

  • Care for ill, injured or orphaned wild animals and birds.
  • Release them back in to their habitat.
  • Acquire relevant permits from state and federal wildlife agencies; etc.

Would a zoologists career suit you?

To pursue a career in zoology, you first need to gain knowledge in biology, mathematics and chemistry. A degree in education is important: you'll need at least a first degree in biological science. If you want a zoology career within research then a masters and doctoral degree are necessary.

Working conditions vary widely. Most zoology careers offer full-time positions, and involve either working in a laboratory, or outside in the animals' habitats. Travel to conferences or other organisations is more likely if there is more responsibility with the position. There are always low risks when working with animals, such as bites or stings, kicks or contact injuries. In many positions, there is a low level of social contact with other people.

Teaching in academic institutions can inspire some, but others may find it boring and too distant from the subject: the animals.

Salary and prospects for careers in zoology

After years spent studying, the majority of zoologists work in academic institutions, researching and teaching. A smaller number work for government agencies in wildlife management, conservation, and agriculture. A few work for pharmaceutical companies, biological supply houses, or other private organisations involved in areas such as biomedical or agrochemical research and development. Relatively few zoologists are employed by museums and zoos, or within conservation organisations, where salaries tend to be modest and applications far outweigh jobs available.

Being numerate scientists, the skills and expertise of Zoology graduates will always be in constant demand in the private sector.

Salaries vary depending on the education, experience, assignments, area of specialisation, and type of employing organisation. Career prospects in zoology will depend on your speciality, the type of organisation with which you are seeking employment, and the general economic condition of that region.

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