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Helping you find a career in the Zoology industry

Zoologists and zookeepers are concerned with the conservation, study and care for animal species.

Zoologists can work in a wide variety of professional environments (and also, of course, in a wide range of physical environments!), from working in a laboratory to a wildlife reserve or even in the field. Zookeepers will focus more on caring for animals kept in captivity (in zoos, wildlife or safari parks), typically these will be open to the public and roles as zookeepers will involve a significant amount of public education.

Outside of academic research, zoologists can also work in a number of private and non-profit organisations, although non-profit organisations (including wildlife associations/charities, museums and government departments) predominate. Examples of private sector organisations which might have zoologists include: animal nutrition companies or medical research/pharmaceutical businesses.

Both roles will involve specialisation in specific animal groups – as a zoologist you might specialise in mammals (Mammologist), or reptiles/amphibians (Herpetologist), or birds (Ornithologist). Zookeepers might instead focus on particular classes of animals (e.g. Great Apes) within these, as dictated by these classes’ care requirements.

If working as a zoologist in the field you will need to be comfortable working in potentially dangerous environments, quite often with basic facilities. Depending on your area of specialisation, you might be able to spend significant time abroad, which can be both rewarding and challenging. Both zoologists and zookeepers need to be comfortable handling and being around potentially hazardous animals and will therefore need to be diligent and highly safety-conscious.


Skills & interests required for a career in Zoology
Zoology can be a highly competitive field, so you will need to display both a sincere passion for studying animals or their welfare and conservation.

Zookeepers will need to be capable of working in a physically demanding outdoor role, while also able to educate the public on important aspects of animal conservation: you will often be the main public face of the zoo, which can provide you with the opportunity to discuss your passion for the group of animals under your care, but also requires you to ensure that members of the public adhere to safety procedures at all times.

As a zoologist, you would need to display the academic skills necessary for research (e.g. scientific and observational methodologies, anatomy, and writing reports for a mixture of specialist and non-specialist audiences). You may often be required to solve problems while out in the field, so practical skills will be important.
Graduate schemes & other typical career progression routes in Zoology
Zoologists working in an academic context will have quite a structured career progression to begin with – typically beginning as a research student, and then moving onto a postdoctoral research position (once you have completed your PhD) after which you might progress to become a senior researcher/lecturer and possibly a professor.

Outside of academia, progression for zoologists can be more variable, depending on the organisation you are working for. Often you will begin as a field/zoological assistant, with a heavy focus on hands-on field-/lab-work. As you progress, you might find yourself less hands-on, but with more responsibility for managing a team and presenting information to non-specialists.

Zoos, aquaria or aviaries (including wildlife/safari parks) will often offer structured training programmes. There is a Diploma in the Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals (DMZAA) which many employers will support trainee zookeepers to complete. Progression as a zookeeper typically involves taking on responsibilities for broader categories of animals, including oversight for longer-term conservation programmes. You may also find yourself collaborating with zoologists on research projects. This can be slower than in many other careers, so you may need to be prepared to move between employers to progress.
Tips for getting into the field
  • Speak to your university’s careers department to discuss your interest in working in Zoology; your university may have partnerships with specific organisations which could involve some work experience programmes.


  • As zookeeping is an over-subscribed profession, you may need to be prepared to apply to a wide variety of organisations with a specific specialism in mind. Not all zookeeping vacancies will be advertised publicly. Many zookeepers start off on short-term contracts, so you might need to be prepared to travel between different assignments until you secure a longer-term deal.


  • You may also be entitled to attend conferences and events related to aspects of the zoology through your university. Attending these will allow you to broaden your knowledge and potentially make connections with individuals at organisations in the sector that can help you find your first role.
How much can graduates earn in Zoology?
Zoologists will typically start off earning £18,000 to £25,000. Experienced Zoologists can earn up to £45,000, by which point they may be managing large teams.

Zookeepers’ salaries tend to be lower, starting off between £12,000 and £14,000 per annum. Salaries will grow over time, however zookeeping is not a highly paid role.
What qualifications do I need for a career in Zoology?
To be a zoologist you will usually need at least an undergraduate degree in Zoology or Biology (or a related field). Many employers may require a postgraduate qualification too: a Master’s or even a Ph.D.

While zookeepers are usually not required to have a degree or an HND, increasingly applicants to zookeeping roles have them, so in practice you may boost your chances of securing a position with a qualification in a biological science.
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