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How to Become a Zoologist

Do you love animals? Do you find animals fascinating? Is biology your favorite subject? If you answered yes to all of these questions, a career in zoology may be perfect for you. 

Zoologists are biologists who study various animal species. This includes both animals in the wild and in captivity.  A zoologist’s goal is to understand how animals interact with their environment. 

Related: Top careers for the future

What does a zoologist do? 

Zoology has a wide field of applications. Depending on where a zoologist works, they will have a lot of different responsibilities. 

These include, but are not limited to:

Observe animals Analyze Data
Speak publicly Network with other scientists
Track animal life cycles Track migration patterns
Write reports Monitor an animal’s diet

In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about how to become a zoologist. Let’s get into it:

1. Earn a college degree

To become a zoologist you most likely will need a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or even a Ph.D. 

Recommended undergraduate degree programs include bachelor’s of science in the following fields:

A bachelor’s degree is necessary for an entry level zoologist position, while a master’s degree or Ph.D are recommended for advanced research or teaching occupations. 

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An entry-level zoologist position would look like: 

  • Caring for animals 
  • Assisting in a location’s general needs

An advanced zoologist position would look like: 

  • A professor at a university
  • Research technician or scientist 

Also see: What is the average starting salary out of college?

2. Gain experience 

Gain hands-on experience through internships, volunteer work or a science related job while receiving your undergraduate degree. 

You can obtain these opportunities by reaching out to zoos and local organizations such as an animal sanctuary to see if they are hiring. A typical zoologist internship would look like working alongside a zookeeper or zoologist as they tend for the animals. This will provide you hands-on experience in an animal sanctuary or zoo. 

However, you can also gain valuable experience from participating in experiences that are not immediately relevant to the profession of being a zoologist. An example would be a tour guide at a local zoo. This will demonstrate interest in the field and enable you to make connections at the zoo to further your connections.                                                                                                            

This will make your resume stand out. It will also give you a taste of what your future career in zoology will look like. 

Related: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

3. Build your skills

Becoming a zoologist can be a physically and emotionally demanding occupation. To make sure there is success in this position – build up your skills! 

Skills zoologists will need: 

  • Communication skillsZoologists may need to write papers and give speeches
  • Critical thinking skillsZoologists may need to draw conclusions from scientific observations
  • Outdoor skillsZoologists may need certain outdoor skills such as chopping firewood, navigating rough terrain, or performing other activities in remote areas
  • Problem solving skillsZoologists should be able to find solutions to any threats affecting the animals they are studying
  • Emotional staminaEmotional stability is necessary for being a zoologist as animals may become sick or injured
  • Observation skillsZoologists will need to notice changes in the animals they are studying
  • Comfort with technologyZoologists may need to work with new technologies and scientific equipment

Related: Top biology scholarships

4. Choose a location to work 

As a zoologist, there are a variety of opportunities as to where you can work. 

Locations where zoologists can work include:

  • Zoos
  • Parks
  • Wildlife Centers
  • National Parks
  • Aquariums
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Rehabilitation groups
  • Museums
  • Offices
  • Universities 
  • Laboratories
  • Pharmaceutical companies

These locations all have slightly different responsibilities for a zoologist to complete. For example, a zoo may need a zoologist to care for the animals while a laboratory may need a zoologist to test new animal drugs. 

Also see: How to find a job after college

Frequently asked questions

How much money does a zoologist make? 

Zoologists make a median salary of $66,350 per year in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Are there different types of zoologists? 

Zoologists may have a specialization in studying particular types of animals. Therefore, a zoologist can become an expert on a particular species. 

Here is a list of a few of the specializations: 

  • Mammalogist: studies land mammals (example: monkeys) 
  • Cetologists: studies marine mammals (example: whales) 
  • Herpetologist: studies reptiles (example: snakes) 
  • Entomologist: studies insects (example: beetles) 
  • Paleozoologist: studies ancient animal remains (example: fossils) 
  • Ornithologist: studies birds (example: owls) 
  • Ichthyologist: studies wild fish (example: sharks)