Career Development

What Does a Zoologist Do?

Find out what a zoologist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a zoologist.

Zoologists study the animal kingdom and all its inhabitants. They observe, research, and document the characteristics of different animals in order to better understand how they live, interact with one another, and adapt to their environments.

Zoologists may focus on a specific area of interest within this field, such as wildlife management or conservation biology. Zoologists who work in these areas may be tasked with managing animal populations or preserving endangered species.

Zoologist Job Duties

Zoologists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Conducting research on animals in their natural habitats, including studying their diets and reproductive cycles
  • Observing behavior patterns of animals in order to identify factors that may affect their health, such as disease or stress
  • Studying the physical characteristics of animals such as size, coloration, weight, body structure, and habitat requirements
  • Identifying new species of plants and animals and researching their habitats, habits, and characteristics
  • Conducting experiments to study animal behavior in controlled settings
  • Identifying and collecting samples of plants and animals for study
  • Preparing reports on findings, including detailed drawings or diagrams of unique features
  • Communicating findings to the public through articles, books, lectures, or other media
  • Teaching undergraduate or graduate courses in biology, ecology, animal behavior, or other related subjects

Zoologist Salary & Outlook

Zoologists’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of work they do. Those who work in private industry typically earn more than those who work for government or nonprofit organizations.

  • Median Annual Salary: $55,000 ($26.44/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $122,000 ($58.65/hour)

The employment of zoologists is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Zoologists will be needed to study the effects of human activity on wildlife and to preserve biodiversity. In addition, continued interest in the field of conservation biology should lead to more jobs for zoologists.

Related: In-Depth Zoologist Salary Guide

Zoologist Job Requirements

A zoologist typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Zoologists need a bachelor’s degree to get hired. A zoology degree can be earned at the associate, bachelor’s or master’s level. A bachelor’s degree in zoology takes four years to complete and includes coursework in biology, chemistry, physics and math. Courses in zoology include animal behavior, animal physiology, animal ecology, genetics, anatomy and physiology.

Training & Experience: Zoologists typically receive on-the-job training in the form of an internship during their doctoral program. Internships allow students to gain practical experience working with animals and in a laboratory setting. They also help students network with professionals in the field who can help them find a job after graduation.

Zoologists can also receive training through entry-level jobs. For example, many zoologists begin as research assistants. As research assistants, they learn how to work with animals and how to perform experiments. They also learn how to record and analyze data.

Certifications & Licenses: Zoologists do not need a license to work in their field. However, many employers prefer candidates who have professional membership in a relevant association, which shows a dedication to the industry.

Zoologist Skills

Zoologists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Zoologists often communicate with other zoologists, veterinarians, animal handlers and members of the public. They use verbal and written communication skills to convey scientific information, explain animal behavior and share research findings. They also use communication skills to collaborate with other professionals and share information about animals.

Interpersonal skills: Zoologists often work in teams with other zoologists, veterinarians, animal caretakers and other professionals. Effective interpersonal skills can help you collaborate with others and work toward a common goal.

Observation skills: Observation skills are the ability to notice small details and changes in the environment. This is important for zoologists because they need to notice changes in animal behavior that may indicate a health issue or other problem. They also need to notice small details about animals, such as their eating habits, to properly care for them.

Problem-solving skills: Zoologists use their problem-solving skills to find solutions to animal-related issues. For example, they may need to find a way to treat an animal that’s injured or find a way to keep animals safe from human interference.

Research skills: Zoologists use research skills to conduct studies and experiments. They also use research skills to review scientific literature and data to identify trends and patterns in animal behavior. This information can help them develop new methods to care for animals and improve animal welfare.

Zoologist Work Environment

Zoologists usually work regular hours in offices or laboratories. They may spend considerable time in the field, however, conducting research on animals in their natural habitats. Fieldwork may require travel to remote locations and long hours in difficult conditions. For example, zoologists who study marine animals may spend months at sea. Zoologists who study animals in the rainforest may have to contend with harsh weather, dangerous animals, and difficult terrain. Some zoologists work in zoos, where they may have to work evenings or weekends to care for the animals.

Zoologist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how zoologists work. Zoologists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Growing Importance of Animal Welfare

The importance of animal welfare is growing in the eyes of the public, which is leading to an increased demand for zoologists who can provide care and treatment for animals.

Zoologists can capitalize on this trend by becoming certified in animal care and welfare. This will allow them to work with both captive and wild animals, and it will give them a competitive edge in the job market.

More Focus on Conservation

As conservation becomes more important, zoologists will need to focus their efforts on helping to preserve species and habitats.

This trend means that zoologists will need to be well-versed in a variety of areas, such as wildlife management, habitat restoration, and research. They will also need to be able to work with other professionals, such as biologists and ecologists, to achieve common goals.

A Greater Emphasis on Animal Health Care

As society becomes more aware of the importance of animal health care, zoologists will be in high demand.

Zoologists are experts in the care and treatment of animals, and they are needed in a wide range of settings, from zoos and aquariums to veterinary clinics and research facilities. As the importance of animal health care continues to grow, zoologists will be in high demand to help keep animals healthy and happy.

How to Become a Zoologist

A zoologist career path can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s important to consider the many different directions you could take. You could work in a zoo or aquarium, researching and caring for animals; you could work in conservation, protecting endangered species and their habitats; or you could teach biology at the high school or college level.

No matter which direction you choose, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest research and developments in your field. Read scientific journals and attend conferences and workshops. Network with other professionals in your field, and ask them about their experiences and advice.

Related: How to Write a Zoologist Resume

Advancement Prospects

The majority of zoologists and wildlife biologists work for state and federal governments. Many begin their careers as technicians, conducting field research or working in laboratories. With experience, they may advance to research positions or become supervisors. Some may eventually move into management positions.

Zoologists and wildlife biologists who manage their own research projects may have the best job prospects. Those with a master’s degree or Ph.D., and especially those with experience in a related occupation, such as teaching or environmental science, will have the best prospects.

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