Wild Animal Park Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

You could work with and around wild animals as a wildlife biologist or zoologist, park ranger or zookeeper. Some of these careers require a doctorate in animal science or natural resources, especially careers in the federal government. Others require only a bachelor's degree. Read on to learn more about the education requirements and careers for wildlife enthusiasts. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Wild Animal Park Professional?

Parks can be the home of wild animals, but these animals are not typically left to their own devices. On the contrary, park organizations hire professionals who can help monitor, protect and care for wild animal populations. These professionals include wildlife biologists, zoologists, park rangers and animal caretakers. Zoologists and wildlife biologists find workspaces in laboratories, zoos or even offices. Wildlife biologists typically have a specialty: cetologists work primarily with dolphins and whales, mammalologists work with mammals such as wolves or bears, and entomologists specialize in insects, from ants to zorapterans. Park rangers often patrol national forests to ensure that specific wildlife protection laws, such as game licenses, are being observed, but they may also be invited to act as educators at events or in schools. Animal caretakers might work in a zoo as well, feeding and training animals, cleaning pens and performing other basic daily tasks.

What's the Career Outlook and Salary of a Wildlife Biologist or Zoologist?

As a wildlife biologist or zoologist, you have a chance to observe animals in their native habitat while taking inventory and tracking animals for population surveys. You could be involved in public outreach, talking with the community in regard to ordinances and rules relating to wildlife. Or you may be tasked with handling wildlife that proves to be a nuisance. You could also oversee the preparation of specimens for preservation or the identification and classification of animals. Aspiring wildlife biologists and zoologists may need a Ph.D. in order to pursue careers in research, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS notes that in 2014, there were 21,300 individuals working as zoologists or wildlife biologists in the United States (www.bls.gov). According to the site, most of those individuals earned between $39,180 and $97,390 annually as of 2015.

What Are the Career Requirements and Salary for a Park Ranger?

One potential career for you is that of a park ranger or park naturalist. As such, you are responsible for interacting with wildlife park visitors to answer questions or present lectures and interpretive talks about the animals and other park features, according to O*Net Online (www.online.onetcenter.org). The same source notes that a park naturalist may be responsible for supervision of employees, scheduling of programs and operating visitor centers. Another common duty you may be asked to perform is providing community outreach and publicity.

According to the National Park Service, a park ranger can be responsible for forest and structural fire control, as well as enforcing state and federal laws on park land (www.nps.gov). O*Net Online also notes that you could earn a median wage of $61,110 annually in a permanent role, depending on experience and education. According to the BLS, a minimum of a bachelor's degree and some work experience are typically needed to become a park ranger.

What Are Job Duties and Salaries for Zookeepers and Animal Caretakers?

If you'd like to work directly with wild animals, you could seek employment as an animal caretaker, which spans numerous animal service titles, including that of zookeeper. In this role, you examine animals to ensure their health and track their general condition. You treat sick or injured animals and monitor their intake of food and medication. You could also be responsible for maintaining animal quarters or grooming. The BLS notes that a bachelor's degree in animal science or biology is often required, along with experience. According to BLS, the median salary for animal caretakers is $21,260 annually, as of 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Environmental scientists also study the biology of a natural space, although their focus is typically on protecting an entire ecosystem or human health. Their work may overlap with wildlife biologists, or they may even cooperate as a team to confront certain ecological issues. They need a bachelor's degree.

Animal scientists work for the welfare of farm animals. They typically help farmers create housing and care regimens to optimize certain qualities in the animals and/or their quality of life. Some animal scientists opt for a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

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