How to Become a Zookeeper

Zookeepers are some of the few people on Earth who are able to interact with wild and exotic animals as part of their day-to-day jobs. Read further to learn more about entering this exciting field. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Zookeepers care for wild animals that are housed in zoos. They also educate the public about the wildlife that inhabits our planet. The chart below shows the education requirements, job duties, and salary of zookeepers.

Degree Required Associate's degree; bachelor's preferred
Key Responsibilities Feeding of animals, cleaning of animal enclosures, education of the public
Job Growth (2016-2026) 22% (all animal care and service workers)*
Median Salary (2019) $12.50 per hour**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics **Payscale.com

What Are the Job Duties of a Zookeeper?

Caring for animals in zoos is far more complicated than simply feeding and cleaning up after them. Zookeepers must carefully observe the animals that they care for and determine when they are unwell, design and maintain enclosures for the animals, and educate the public about the animals they care for. Additionally, in some zoos zookeepers may engage in animal husbandry and the raising of young animals if they have a breeding program.

What Are the Educational Requirements of a Zookeeper?

At a minimum, zookeepers must have an associate's degree. It is preferred, however, that they have a bachelor's degree. Their degree can be in a field such as animal science, zoology, or a similar area. Some zoos allow applicants to replace educational requirements with previous experience. However, the American Association of Zookeepers states that it is very rare for one to have a career in a zoo without some form of degree.

Is Zookeeper a Dangerous Job?

There is always an element of danger when working with any animal. This is especially true when working with wild animals. Zookeepers run the risk of being bitten by the animals they care for, including venomous animals, and risk being attacked by large, strong animals. Those who work in aquariums also have the risk of drowning. However, zookeepers are highly skilled individuals who are experts at handling their animals. The necessary skills to remain safe around wild animals in zoos are taught as part of degree programs, on-the-job training, and safety certification programs.

What Certifications Are Beneficial?

There are several certifications that the American Association of Zookeepers recommends one have on one's resume. For all zookeepers, they recommend current certification in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. For those who intend to work in aquariums, a SCUBA license and an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 24-Hour Hazardous Waste Operations Certificate of Completion are recommended. Additionally, the American Association of Zookeepers recommends that one earn other safety certifications as they become available.

What Personal Traits Does a Zookeeper Have?

Zookeepers are responsible for the health and welfare of the animals under their care. This requires that they be extremely observant. They see their animals daily and must catch if an animal's eating habits or daily habits change to ensure it continues receiving proper care. Zookeepers must also be skilled public speakers. A large part of a zookeeper's job involves interacting with the public and teaching them about the animals in the zoo.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • The George Washington University

    The George Washington University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The George Washington University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Trident University

    Trident University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Trident University:

    • Doctoral

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster

    Penn Foster responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster:

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • University of Florida

    Campus Locations:

    • Florida: Gainesville
  • Fortis College

    Fortis College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Fortis College:

    • Certificates

    Campus Locations:

    • New Jersey: Wayne
  • Cornell University

    Campus Locations:

    • New York: Ithaca
  • Duke University

    Campus Locations:

    • North Carolina: Durham
  • University of Georgia

    Campus Locations:

    • Georgia: Athens