Zoologist: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements for zoologists. Get the facts about job duties, employment outlook, salary and education to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Zoologist?

Zoologists study animals in their natural habitats and in captive conditions, such as zoos or aquariums. Their skills may be applied in a variety of areas, including wildlife conservation and management, rehabilitation of injured wildlife, research and teaching. Zoologists primarily research how wildlife interacts with its ecosystem. They may collect data and specimens to study, check animals for disease or parasites and monitor different wildlife populations. Zoologists can also use geographic information systems (GIS) and software to help track animals. These professionals often write research papers and articles or give presentations on their research findings and areas of study. Their work can often be used to help develop conservation plans and educate the government and public on environmental issues. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's for entry-level jobs; master's and/or doctorate for field research and academia
Education Field of Study Zoology; specialization such as birds, mammals or fish
Key Responsibilities Field research on physiology, habitat, ecosystems; wildlife care and/or rehabilitation; teaching
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% for zoologists and wildlife biologists*
Average Salary (2015) $64,230 for zoologists and wildlife biologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are the Duties of a Zoologist?

Research zoologists might study the behavior of animals in their natural habitat, conduct experiments on animals in captivity or dissect animals. Research zoologists may also be wildlife educators. In addition to research, you would create presentations and displays for visitors on field trips or exhibit animals you've raised.

Other zoologist careers include zookeepers and wildlife rehabilitators. As a zookeeper, you would prepare food for and feed captive animals, monitor their health and discuss animal care with zoo visitors. As a wildlife rehabilitator, you would care for injured or ill animals and release them back into the wild. In some occupations, you might not work directly with animals. For example, you might gather data about animals for environmental impact studies or monitor emissions and effluvia around a factory to make sure they are within safe tolerance levels for animals.

What Are My Employment Prospects?

You can find employment with scientific consulting firms, industrial firms and local, state and federal agencies, among other industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of people working as zoologists and wildlife biologists in 2015 was 17,910, with a projected increase of 4% from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). This is slower than the average for all U.S. occupations; it will be impacted by government agency budgets, as well as an increasing need for wildlife conservation and management brought about by climate change and the encroachment of human populations into wildlife habitat. The BLS also reports that in May 2015, zoologists and wildlife biologists earned an average annual salary of $64,230.

What Degree Programs in Zoology Are Available?

Bachelor's degree programs may be available in zoology or in biology with a zoology concentration. Master's degree programs in zoology are research-oriented at some schools and purely academically oriented at others. Doctoral programs in zoology are usually devoted to research. Zoology programs examine the physiology, evolution, behavior and ecosystem dynamics of animals. A specialization is typically required because of the broad nature of the field. Specializations can focus on particular areas of classification such as ichthyology for fish, herpetology for reptiles or ornithology for birds, or on sub-disciplines such as biochemistry, genetics or microbiology.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Alternative careers that are similar to zoologists include conservation scientists and foresters and environmental scientists and specialists. Conservation scientists and foresters require a bachelor's degree and work to manage natural resources, such as forests and parks. Environmental scientists and specialists also need a bachelor's degree. These professionals use science to protect the environment and human health by cleaning up pollution, reducing waste and more. For those interested in pursuing an advanced degree and working with animals, they can become veterinarians. Veterinarians need a doctoral or professional degree to treat medical conditions and monitor the health of various animals.

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