Common work duties include cleaning enclosures, feeding, observing and recording behavior, constructing enrichment items, training animals, administering basic veterinary care, and educating zoo visitors. Some zookeepers work with more than one type of animal, while others specialize in a group like primates or carnivores.
These professionals spend a lot of time with animals and are sometimes at risk for bites, scrapes, and scratches. In order to create a zookeeper career, you will need to learn as much as possible about animal care.
Degree Level Associate degree; bachelor's degree preferred Degree Field Zoology, animal science, any life science Experience Entry-level job experience may substitute for education, higher-level positions may require 1-5 years zoo experience in addition to education; internships available Key Skills Strong decision-making, independent thinking, observation, and record keeping skills; ability to manage animals and perform a certain amount physical labor; proficient in Microsoft software Median Salary (2020) $31,068 (for zookeepers) Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, University of Florida, American Association of zookeepers, Payscale.com Depending on the program, students can choose elective courses to specialize in an area such as herpetology, aquatic biology, or animal behavior.
A student interested in pursuing primate behavior should pick a school that offers courses in the subject, and has faculty that are active in researching the animals. If not enrolled in a program that offers courses in animal handling or training, you can get this experience by volunteering or interning at a local humane society, wildlife rehabilitation center, or zoo.
After a time, the volunteer or intern will gain more experience working with different animals and earn positive references from supervisors. Paid internships are commonly available to those still in college and recent graduates, and they're sometimes a prerequisite for hire at a zoo.
These programs support students in getting experience, college credit, and sometimes even a good paycheck. Once you find a job as a zookeeper, you can move up to the positions of lead keeper or curator.
Become an Expert in a Certain Area As zookeepers work with and learn more about particular animals, they can take part in research. This involves working with researchers both in the zoo and in the animal's natural habitat.
If you are going to pursue post-secondary education, you will need either an associate's or a bachelor's degree as you work on becoming a zookeeper. Of course, any qualifications that you can get in animal care, zoology, biology, and conservation will likely be of great help to you.
Zookeepers need a bachelor's degree in biology, zoology, zoo technology, or some field related to animal management. Gaining experience through volunteer work or an internship is really important to landing a job in this field.
Parts of the job are incredible and will leave you with once in a lifetime experiences that will make your grandkids eyes go wide with amazement when you recount them. Just because you’re working with animals every day doesn’t mean you won’t face problems people have in most other jobs, such as co-worker and management issues, short staffing, low budgets and stress.
Picture sitting in a cubicle every morning listening to the hum of a water cooler and the clicking of keyboards in an otherwise silent office space, waiting for a coworker to say hi to you just so you can engage in a time-wasting bout of useless small talk. Now picture putting your steel toe boots and uniform on, walking outside only to be greeted by the hooting of gibbons, the howling of wolves and the bellowing call of a donkey, all eagerly awaiting your arrival and their morning food.
Now although I’m being slightly facetious and have never actually worked an office job a day in my life, the latter of those scenarios should sound much better than the former, or you might as well stop reading this guide. Feeling the cold slowly nip at your fingertips as you push a wheelbarrow full of food and water buckets across a field, due to the fact that your fancy automatic drinker has frozen for yet another winter.
One of the main things most facilities will be looking for especially during a probation period or during an entry level job will be just common sense around animals in general. So maybe you a high school student and live in the city, there are still plenty of ways to work with animals and build that experience base.
Generally most Zoos require a university degree in biology or a college diploma with equivalent experience in order for you to become a zookeeper. If University is something you want to do then be sure to major in zoology, wildlife or general biology as a bachelors degree will qualify you for almost all keeping positions around the world.
Most zoos have a student zookeeper program or various entry level jobs doing interpretive work, and even landscaping and maintenance. For instance, the construction and maintenance skills I acquired from that job are put to use every day maintaining exhibits and building enrichment items for the animals in my care.
Don’t get to hung up on the job, go out there and get your foot in the door with an open mind and an eagerness to learn and people will take notice! Just remember, if your ever having a hard day or doubting yourself or your career choice, be sure to take a step back and look at the smiling animal and human faces around you.
I know a University called the University of South Wales which holds a course that allows you to travel all over the world tracking big cats and all sorts to do with animals. I'm thinking about taking that course and I would love to work with animals.
The first time my heart clicked was when I was 8 on junior keeper experience at Colchester zoo. Anon249943 February 23, 2012, I'm a 12-year-old girl and I love tigers.
Justme727 February 14, 2012, I am a college student majoring in zoo keeping technology at Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is hard, dirty, backbreaking work.
You spend a *lot* of time cleaning, plus lifting, hauling, preparing diets, observing animals, keeping detailed records and keeping up with paperwork. Attention to detail, being a driven worker, working alone and in teams, and no procrastination are important.
You can find tons more information or zoo keeping as a career online. Anon219384 October 2, 2011, I am a junior in high school, and am I looking at colleges for zoo keeping.
Unfortunately I have only found one that is located in California, and I live in Illinois. If anyone could help me find a college closer to my location, that would be great.
Anon171272 April 29, 2011, so I'm ten years old, and I'm wanting to become a zookeeper. Anon162130 March 22, 2011, I am 18 years old, and I have a great love for animals.
However, I live far from a zoo and the SPCA shelter is about half an hour away. Anon155784 February 24, 2011, I'm 13 and I would love to work at a zoo but I had back surgery, and I'm not allowed to lift heavy objects.
Anon152151 February 13, 2011, I have wanted to be a Zookeeper (Zoologist) for about three or four years. I would like to work with primates like gorillas, gibbons, monkeys etc.
Can you explain a bit more on what GCSE's, A-levels and college courses you need to take though? I'm 21 and was going to be a vet tech but I recently thought about becoming a zookeeper.
Anon131004 November 30, 2010, I'm 13 years old and have been working at a wildlife ranch with exotic animals since I was 10. I'm dead set on going to Moore Park University, but it is only a two-year college, so for the other two years, I wanted to go to one of the four US colleges where you can get a degree in zoo keeping.
Anon130707 November 29, 2010, This information is so very helpful with letting me know what I need to do to become a zookeeper. Anon130667 November 29, 2010, I'm currently studying Wildlife Conservation and Management, Zoology and Biology as well as Veterinary Assistant.
I am aiming to open my own wolf sanctuary here in Northern Ontario Canada. It's my dream to do it and when I do open it I want to do it in memory of my sister who passed away.
Anon118287 October 13, 2010, I am 13, and have always loved animals, preferably wild, such as carnivores, and other mammals. The other night, I was watching National Geographic Wild, and saw a show called Zoo Confidential.
When it was over, I knew right then that I wanted to work with big cats, or carnivores. Anon113274 September 23, 2010, I'm 16 years old and ever since I was little, I loved learning about animals.
Anon107956 September 1, 2010, I am 15 and love animals, and a zookeeper seems to be the perfect job. Vet science takes five years to complete.
If you want to work with zoo animals or care for lions or something like that, I recommend doing zoology as well! Anon102705 August 9, 2010, I'm 14 and I have been volunteering at my local zoo and this really helped me to know what I need to focus on in high school so I can be a zookeeper when I'm older.
I love sea lions and I read a lot about them. LoveTigers12 July 15, 2010, Oh sorry but I forgot to mention I am 12 years of age.
I have about 5-6 years before I want to start in the zoo keeping business. LoveTigers12 July 15, 2010, Thank you very much for your information and I hope it will help me become a great zookeeper.
Anon91227 June 20, 2010, I'm 13 years old and I would love to work with the tigers. Anon87616 May 31, 2010, This is to number 57: This has been a real help, I'm 17 and almost done with college, looking into what to take for university to be a zookeeper.
Anon86628 May 26, 2010, I am currently a wildlife carer myself, and it is true, it does take quite a lot of work. It includes early mornings and late nights, and you need to be physically fit as well, because the job causes quite a lot of physical strain on your body.
Every day you need to write down the conditions your animal/s are in, so that in case of an out of nowhere sickness or injury, you can look back on your notes and make sure you know exactly what is going on. Another thing you need to know if you want to be a zookeeper is that you aren't always working with the animals.
Sometimes if you are in a zoo, you may need to do speeches and shows for the public and confidence and knowledge of your subject is a must. Anon83564 May 11, 2010, I'm 14 and from Scotland and I was wondering what subjects I should take if I want to be a zookeeper.
Anon81171 April 30, 2010, I'm 13 and in year 9. I live in Western Australia and I was wondering if there are any colleges that offer zoology as a course in Western Australia as I haven't managed to find any. I started off wanting to become a zoologist but then I found out that becoming a zookeeper seemed so much better.
After high school, I plan in getting a bachelor's degree in zoology. I have debated the pros and cons of being a Vet Nurse, and I have decided that I will do that If I can 't find anything else that I want to do.
Haven't decided exactly yet, as I'm 14, but animal care is the path I want to take, and this article has helped me. Anon76789 April 12, 2010, I am 14 and have always loved animals, but I live in a smallish town where the only zoo around went broke and had to close down.
I am also highly allergic to some animals which doesn't help me but, it is not going to stop me! Anon72981 March 25, 2010, I'm 11, and I'm wondering if I should study on one species of animal.
Anon67963 February 28, 2010, I am 19, a freshman at Penn State University, currently majoring in “animal science”. Anon64627 February 8, 2010, to tell the truth I never thought about being a zookeeper until I was older.
I know in college I'll have to study Zoology or biology and I need to get some GSC in science and math and English but am close to my Business Diploma and going to get two GSC in science from my BTEC course. Anon59261 January 7, 2010, Very helpful post, however to all commenters, every place has different schools, volunteer opportunities, and totally different rules.
If zoo keeping is your dream, and it's something you are serious about doing, just keep researching if you have questions unanswered. There should be volunteer opportunities anywhere you live, and if there is a specific place you want to work check their website and talk to the zookeepers.
Anon58467 January 2, 2010, I am 12 years old and I want to be a zookeeper or a vet, but I don't know. Anon56627 December 16, 2009, So I am 17 getting ready to start my senior year.
Should I take biology and chemistry or do a zoological degree? I love animals, especially wolves, and I'm going to be working at a tiger sanctuary pretty soon.
But at school we are doing this task and tell the class a poster and present a speech of what we want to be when we grow up. Anon50285 October 27, 2009, I'm in eighth grade and 13 and would love to work in a zoo to be a keeper of the big cats like tigers.
Anon49100 yesterday Hey, I'm 11, and I was just wondering what colleges could people go to get a degree for zoo keeping? I plan to move to Australia and become a zookeeper for tigers.
I can 't volunteer at a zoo due to living in a country town far away from a city and there not many opportunities here. This article has given me the information I need to make my dream come true.
Anon30937 April 27, 2009, hey I'm 14 and I want to ask where are some good colleges that I can go to get a degree in biology or zoology? I am in grade 6. I have always wanted to be a zookeeper, but I could never speak out to people.
If I don't make it as a zookeeper I might find another job I like and I went to the zoo yesterday in Melbourne. Anon25867 February 4, 2009, I would appreciate it if you posted the 4 colleges that have zoology as a major.
I volunteer at a zoo, and I'm very good at biology, but I can 't find a college close to Texas that has a degree offered for zoology. I was wondering if there's a university in queen lands or sunshine coast Australia where you can do a course to be able to work in a zoo because I don't read much about animals and not that good at science but I love animals and want to work with them.
I've just never been good a science, but I love animals and I'm going to take a co-op at a zoo and I'm taking biology next year and the year after. I also do a lot of reading about animals, and watching the Discovery Channel.
I'm sort of just asking if I do all those other things could I become a zookeeper without taking any more sciences. It would be helpful if you would put any zoos near the place that the person who reads the information lives, so they know if they can go and help out there when they are 16 or older because I know I would I like to know where places are so I can go and volunteer.
Anon4207 October 7, 2007, You may also want to mention how extremely political the Zoo environs can be! Anon1139 yesterday needs to explain who what kind of people you will work with and where you will need to live.