If you want to learn how to become a zoologist, you will need to study zoology. This type of profession will look at how species interact with each other. If you have a fascination with animal life, this might be the right career path for you.
Learning how to become a zoologist starts with understanding what they do. So, first, let’s look at the job duties of a zoologist and the steps to become one.
Job Duties of a Zoologist
As a zoologist, you will be a type of scientist. You will observe and research animals in both captivity and the wild. It’s common to travel to where the animals live to study them with this job.
Some of the common job duties of a zoologist include:
- Monitoring the diet of animals
- Measuring the physical characteristics of animals
- Identifying the population outlook of animals
- Tracking migration of animals
- Mapping out the range of habitat
- Coming up with solutions for conservation
- Providing information for conservation groups
- Working with advocacy groups and other professionals
One of the biggest duties of a zoologist is research. The research may be shared with several groups, including zoos, government agencies, or universities. It’s common to research a zoologist in many areas, including:
- Human impact on animals
- Animal diets
- Physical traits
- Environmental changes
If you decide to become a zoologist, you will likely do quite a bit of research.
How To Become a Zoologist in 4 Steps
Step #1 – Do Well in High School
Becoming a zoologist starts with high school or getting your GED. You want to do well and keep your GPA high. Take any AP courses in science you can and make sure you do well in those courses. Also, make sure you score high on the SAT or ACT. Getting the right test prep course can make a huge difference.
You will need to get into a good college or university. High scores in high school can make that a reality.
Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree
A bachelor’s degree will be required to work as a zoologist. You want to get a degree in wildlife conservation, wildlife biology, captive wildlife care, animal health and behavior, or a similar field. This is the basic level for a zoologist and will take around four years to complete.
You will need to take biology, physics, chemistry, and math courses to become a zoologist.
Step #3 – Complete an Internship or Volunteer
If you want to pursue a career as a zoologist, you need to complete an internship or volunteer. This will help you stand out and get the hands-on experience you need.
You might be able to start volunteering during college. It’s even possible to receive college credit for an internship or volunteer opportunity at a zoo or another local organization.
Step #4 – Get Your Graduate Degree
While a bachelor’s degree will allow you to work as a zoologist, you will likely need a graduate degree, as well. Many employers will require at least a master’s degree. Some look for a Ph.D.
Make sure you find a good graduate program in zoology. While a master’s degree can help, a Ph.D. offers more employment options.
A master’s degree will take about two years to complete. You will also need to complete 30 hours of fieldwork.
If you go for a Ph.D., you will need at least five years to complete the program.
Common Types of Zoologists
After you become a zoologist, you can specialize in one of many different career options, including:
- Zoologist specialty – There are several specialties to consider, including different types of animals and different environments.
- Ecologist – Zoologists often become ecologists. This career will put you in a specific type of environment.
- Marine Biologist – If you want to work with saltwater mammals, this is the right option for you.
- Wildlife Biologist – A common career choice, wildlife biologists study plants and animals in the wild. You will likely work in forests, jungles, and prairies.
- Conservationist – If you want to look at protecting wildlife as the climate adjusts, this is the field for you.
- Animal Behaviorist – Someone that studies how animals interact with each other is an animal behaviorist.
Any of these careers will fit if you become a zoologist.
Zoologist Specialized Studies
If you prefer to specialize in a specific area of zoology, there are ten you can choose from. These include:
- Paleozoology – The study of fossilized species and ancient animals
- Mammalogy – The study of land mammals, including bears, monkeys, and sloths
- Entomology – The study of insects
- Herpetology – The study of amphibians and reptiles
- Malacology – The study of mollusks, including snails and clams
- Parasitology – The study of parasites
- Teuthology – The study of cephalopods
- Ornithology – The study of birds
- Cytology– The study of marine mammals
- Ichthyology – The study of fish
Any of these areas can become your specialty as a zoologist.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Zoologist
How much does a zoologist make per year?
The average salary for a zoologist is about $66K per year. You can make more or less than this based on your location, experience, and actual job. Some employers pay a higher salary than this.
The top locations for higher-paying zoologist jobs include Virginia, Utah, Alaska, and California. Colorado also pays an above-average salary.
What are the most common benefits a zoologist gets?
Many employers will provide health insurance, along with vision, dental, and life insurance. It’s common for zoologists to gain access to loan forgiveness and paid time off, as well. Some will get flexible spending accounts and fuel compensation or discounts, too.
Where will I work as a zoologist?
There are many places you can work as a zoologist. Some will teach at universities and museums. It’s common for zoologists to research at aquariums, zoos, and other animal facilities.
You can work in the field with a wildlife conservation group or even travel for research purposes. Some of the most common employers of zoologists include:
- Marine Parks
- State government agencies
- Universities and Colleges
- Federal government agencies
- Consulting companies
- Research and development sites
- Environmental conservation groups
- Zoological Parks
You may end up working at any of these facilities, or you may be out in the field most of the time.
What type of work environment is common for zoologists?
It’s common to work indoors in a lab as a zoologist. However, you may also work outside to collect specimens, monitor animals, manage populations, and gather data. The job of a zoologist often requires quite a bit of travel, too.
The hours can be rather long and may vary. Sometimes, they are a bit regular, while others times, they are not so regular.
Is a zoologist a zookeeper?
No. Zoologists study the behavior of animals, while zookeepers take care of animals. These are not the same thing. As a zoologist, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree. Zookeepers may be able to start working with just an associate degree.
Is the field of zoology growing?
Yes, this field is growing. It’s expected to grow by about 5% over the next ten years. This is about the average of all occupations, so zoology is growing at about the normal rate.
How long will it take to become a zoologist?
You will need at least four years to become a zoologist. Since a bachelor’s degree is necessary, you will need to study for a minimum of four years.
Those earning a master’s degree will need around six years. If you want to work in the higher levels of this career, expect to spend another five to seven years getting a Ph.D.
What common skills are necessary to become a zoologist?
It’s necessary to be very good at science. So if you do well in your science courses in high school, it can help you along this career path.
Along with science, you should be a critical thinker with the ability to solve problems. Zoologists also need to be good decision-makers and have good communications skills.
Which professional associations should I join as a zoologist?
There are three common associations you will want to consider:
- American Association of Zoo Keepers
- Zoological Association of America
- Association of Zoos & Aquariums
All three of these associations can offer resources and plenty of networking opportunities to help you advance your career.
Becoming a zoologist requires a good understanding and passion for science. If you want to study animals and their environment, this is a great career path. However, it can take some time and plenty of years in school to get to the top of this field.
Those seeking a rewarding career with a high salary will want to earn a Ph.D. However, there are many paths you can take within zoology. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know what type of path you prefer before choosing your college major, especially when you reach the graduate degree level.