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Zoology Major Overview

People’s interests are diverse, and animals are too! So, if you’re not quite sure what you want to do yet, but are interested in working with animals, consider majoring in zoology. Zoology focuses on how different types of animals are shaped by their environments. Zoology prepares students for a wide range of careers – both related to animals and not.

So, to learn more about zoology and see if it’s the right fit for you, keep on reading!

Also see: Top veterinary scholarships

What is a zoology major?

Foremost, zoology is the study of animals. As a zoology major, students study everything there is to know about animals. This includes the environments they live in, the animals themselves, and all of their parts – from their cells and organs to the chemical makeup of their bodies. How animals change and evolve is also a topic of study for zoology majors, who learn to understand how it works in both controlled and natural environments. 

Over the course of undergrad, this information accumulates. So, by graduation, zoology majors typically acquire a fundamental understanding of the natural and physical sciences, including biology, chemistry, and even physics. Such knowledge is a good basis for careers in animal conservation or animal-related businesses and federal agencies. Alternatively, such information gives students a good foundation for further schooling, especially if they plan on pursuing medical or veterinary school.

Related: Biology major overview

Coursework to expect

What types of courses can zoology majors expect to take in college? Well, zoology majors typically begin their undergraduate careers with foundational math and science courses. Such classes help students develop an understanding of organisms at both an individual, molecular level and a bigger-picture level of the roles that each plays in their ecosystems. Zoology majors then go on to take courses like anatomy and genetics. These classes deepen their understanding of evolution – a topic that is essential to the field. 

Further on in undergrad, some colleges allow zoology majors to specialize in a specific subtopic. Here, they dive deeper into an area of zoology that they may want to pursue. Such concentrations include topics like ecology, animal behavior, marine biology, or even conservation. Zoology students are typically encouraged to help faculty conduct research. Doing so helps students better understand the scientific research process, gain some real zoology work experience, and looks good on one’s resume! If you aren’t sure how to get involved in research at your college, emailing professors about your interest in working with them is a great way to get started.

Don’t miss: How to become a zoologist

Below are some potential courses you may encounter as a zoology major:

  • Genetics
  • Wildlife Biology
  • Animal Physiology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Animal Behavior and Ethology
  • Entomology
  • Microbiology and Immunology
  • Conservation

Also see: Scholarships360’s college major guides

Opportunities after graduation

Zoology majors have many opportunities post-graduation, including in academia, the government, and the private sector. So, what one pursues is really up to their own, individual interests. If you’re interested in creating policies to help animals or the environment, you may want to pursue work in government. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in how animals impact their environment (or vice-versa) and other scientific questions, consider going into research. For now, here are just a few of the jobs you can get with a degree in zoology (however, some may require further schooling):

  • Animal biologist
  • Park ranger
  • Policy maker
  • Researcher
  • Ecologist
  • Zookeeper
  • Zoologist
  • Nature conservation officer

Not interested in getting a job right out of college? Furthering your education is also an option (and is quite common amongst zoology majors!). Doing so opens students up to more job prospects, allowing them to lead and create their own research projects, work in pharmaceutical industries, become a veterinarian, and more. Alternatively, students can use their extra degree(s) to go into education and become a teacher or professor.

Also see: How to find a job after graduation

Jobs you can get with a zoology degree

For now, here are just a few of the great jobs that one can pursue with a degree in zoology (with salaries included!).

1. Conservation Scientists and Foresters

If you’re passionate about saving the environment, conservation, or anything along those lines, becoming a conservation scientist or forester may be great choices for you. As a conservation scientist, you will be responsible for overseeing conservation activities to make sure they comply with government regulations, establishing plans to manage forest lands and their resources, and more. On the other hand, as a forester, your duties will include monitoring the regrowth of forests, aiding in forest fire suppression, preparing sites for new trees, and more. To become either a conservation scientist or forester, you will typically need a bachelor’s degree in a related field.

2020 Median Pay: $64,010/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 7%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

2. Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and wildlife biologists have many duties, most of which surround animals, and how such animals impact their environments (and vice-versa!). Duties include collecting biological samples for analysis, studying animals’ characteristics, analyzing the human impact on ecosystems, and more. Such findings are presented and used to create programs for wildlife preservation, among other causes. While a bachelor’s degree is needed for entry-level zoologist or wildlife biologist positions, master’s degrees and PhDs may be required for higher-level investigative work.

2020 Median Pay: $66,350/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 5%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. Veterinarian

One of the better known occupations that you can secure with a zoology degree is a veterinarian. Primarily responsible for assessing and maintaining the health of animals, veterinarians treat wounds, perform surgery, vaccinate, and diagnose illnesses in animals. They can also give animal or pet owners advice on how to care for their furry (or not-so-furry) friends, and prescribe medication if need be. To become a veterinarian, one must receive a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and a state license.

2020 Median Pay: $99,250/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 17%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

P.S.: If you’re interested in becoming a veterinarian and want some help funding your education, check out our top veterinary scholarships!

4. Animal Trainer

Animal trainers are typically responsible for training and preparing animals for riding, harnesses, performance, obedience, and security. They can also train animals to become service animals and prepare them to assist people with disabilities. Further, animal trainers get their animals accustomed to human voices. They teach them to respond to commands. Generally, one only needs a high school diploma or GED (general equivalency diploma) to become an animal trainer. However, specific positions may require that applicants have bachelor’s degrees.

2020 Median Pay: $31,520/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 33%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Related: Top 20 highest paying careers to consider

Advanced Degrees You Can Pursue with a Zoology Degree

After graduating with a bachelors in zoology, many students decide to pursue further graduate or professional schooling. While graduate, veterinary, and medical school are some of the most popular options for zoology majors, here are just a few of the advanced degrees you can pursue with a zoology degree:

  • Masters/Ph.D in Zoology
  • Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
  • Masters/Ph.D in Animal Science
  • Master of Science in Agriculture

Related: Grad school financing options

How do I know if a major is right for me? 

Knowing whether or not you’re majoring in the right subject is tricky. Even after being in college for multiple semesters or years, it is not uncommon for students to wonder whether they truly enjoy their major. However, many students also love their majors, and end up sticking with the same one for their entire college experience. So, if you’re thinking about majoring in zoology, ask yourself these questions first:

  • Are you curious about how living organisms work and interact with one another?
  • Do you plan on working in the medical field or an animal-related industry?
  • Are you interested in biology and the natural sciences?
  • Do you enjoy working with animals?

If you answered “yes” to a majority of these questions, then zoology may be a great fit for you. We wish you good luck and have fun in college!

Also see: How to pick a major

Frequently asked questions about zoology majors

Can I become a veterinarian with a zoology degree?

Definitely! However, if you want to become a veterinarian with a zoology degree, you must earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. On the other hand, if you’re not interested in pursuing further schooling but still want to work with animals, another option is becoming a Veterinary Technician. Veterinary Technicians assist Veterinarians, helping them carry out major and minor procedures, medical testing, and checkups on animals.

What’s the difference between a zoo veterinarian and a zoologist?

Great question! Zoo veterinarians provide medical care to “zoological companion animals” or exotic pets. Zoologists are researchers who study the relationship between wild animals and their ecosystems.

Don’t miss: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool