Last Updated: July 20, 2021

Zoology as a Career

Zoology is a scientific discipline that involves the detailed study of animals - their forms, species, evolution, habits and behaviors, functions, and processes. It is, therefore, alternatively known as animal science. Zoology is a direct classification of Biology. Based on the area of focus or specialization, the subject consists of various subdivisions, or sub-disciplines such as Mammalogy, Entomology, Ichthyology, Malacology, Invertebrate Zoology, and so on.

Why specialize in Zoology?

Charles Darwin, Jane Goodall, and even Steve Irwin are popular names that we come across because of their various contributions to nature, the environment, and the animal kingdom. They are great examples that testify the significance of Zoology as a field of study that helps to observe and understand how nature and wildlife function, how they are all connected, and the scope it has to bring about great improvements if required, apply the knowledge in real-life situations, and even make a major impact on the world by spreading awareness.
The profession of a zoologist is synonymous with the subject itself. However, there is a multitude of other areas of focus or directions to take with a career in zoology. At a minimum, full careers in zoology require a bachelor's degree or a Master's degree; higher levels of education are preferred for other areas of work where experience will be a bonus.

Educational Requirements

  • Bachelor's Degree: A four-year bachelor's degree in zoology or a related field is the basic requirement to find work as a zoologist, or veterinary assistant, or even lab assistant. (entry-level). Typical undergraduate classes that are included with zoology include chemistry, physics, cellular biology, mathematics, ecology, animal anatomy, and so on. Specialized classes present more detail on particular types of animals such as mammals. Additional courses in statistics and computer science equip future zoologists to analyze data and use computer-modeling software.
  • Master's Degree: A master's degree in zoology gives a student an advantage in the employment market, improves the chances of promotion, and qualifies them for jobs like wildlife biologist, conservation scientist, or teaching positions at many two-year colleges. Typical master's zoology degree requirements include approximately 30-semester units of coursework and include both research and a thesis.
  • Ph.D. Degree: A student of zoology will need a doctoral degree for jobs such as project director, research team leader, college professor, or scientist with higher prospects of extensive and independent research. A doctoral degree emphasizes research and requires approximately six years additional years after the bachelor's degree. For example, candidates for a doctorate in zoology at any US University must complete 90 semester hours of work if they begin the program with a bachelor's degree.
  • Internships: Most employers tend to select students who have acquired any sort of practical experience or training during their college years. Working or volunteering as a zoology student improves technical abilities and communication skills and teaches the student to work as part of a team. Possible opportunities include volunteer jobs at animal parks, part-time work for government agencies, or assisting college faculty with research. Some colleges include formal internships in the zoology curriculum or offer class credit for research work.

Career Options for Zoology Graduates

As far as options are concerned, zoology poses a wide range of career paths, with the most stereotypical being a zoologist to more technical fields like scientific research, observing and studying animals, collecting data, or else at a zoo - tending to and monitoring animals, maintaining or modifying their environments, studying health and ecosystem habits. Employment through an established zoo provides on-site study and hands-on access to work with animals and their environments. Building upon the popular options, wildlife centers, parks, and aquariums are possibilities for a zoology career.
Beyond the standardized job options, a career in zoology is like many other fields within science - a typical career path can move to further research and in-field study. Many careers involve hands-on work, traveling extensively, observing animals in their natural habitats to understand the environment, and concluding how everything affects their lifestyle. Research not only provides methods to understand different animal lifestyles and behaviors but can also affect the way humans co-exist and have an influence on the environment.

Working as a Zoologist

Being a zoologist involves extensive research on animals according to their groups or their species, through the observation of their entire system of living (behaviors, needs, habitats, and interactions), while also conducting experiments. These experiments may include checking samples of blood to trace DNA, or certain viruses and diseases, or even diets. The research includes the impact of humans on animals and their ecosystems. The job also involves formulating research papers based on the experiments and new findings and simultaneously take up projects to spread awareness among people. Zoologists do not always necessarily research the outside environment, but may also work in their laboratories, depending on the kind of research. In the preliminary level of being a zoologist, a student may start with an undergraduate degree. In order to be promoted to a higher level and conduct detailed research or take up independent projects, one might require a Master's degree or a PhD.

The average income of a zoologist is around $54,000 annually, and the amount may vary depending on the location or branch of study. Zoologists may be categorized according to their specific discipline or branch of study such as:

Primatologist

They are zoologists who conduct research and experiments and monitor primates, for example, gorillas, orangutans, to learn and understand their behavioral patterns, way of living, the process of evolution, and other habits. Primatologists may work in labs, zoos, or stay out in the wild in the animal's natural habitat.

Herpetologist

They carry on scientific research on animals that are amphibians and reptiles, which include crocodiles, lizards, toads, tortoises, and salamanders. Sometimes research is also done for endangered species under the category of reptiles or amphibians. The study is done to gain knowledge about the ecosystem, genetics, health, and the impact of humans on their habitats. Herpetologists are to analyze the obtained samples or data and may have to publish any new findings within their work as articles or journals.

Ethologist

Being an ethologist involves scientific research on the overall behavioral patterns of animals. They may look into the animal's instincts, emotions, reproduction, and may even observe any kind of unnatural behaviors if any. This may also involve the study of environmental changes and human activities that have an impact on the nature of these animals.

Mammalogist

They are biological scientists that conduct research, study, collect data on the evolutionary processes, classifications, populations, mating process, migration patterns, psychology, ecosystems, and physiology pertaining to mammals. They also pay attention to the health of these animals along with the impact of pollution, human activities, and other environmental changes on their life.

Marine Biologist

Marine Biologists are those who specialize in branches of zoology like marine mammalogy, ichthyology, etc, and conduct scientific research on life under the sea, oceans, estuaries, and such saltwater bodies. This involves an extensive understanding of marine organisms, their distribution, various processes, behaviors, species, abnormalities, effects of human activities, and so on. It is also their responsibility to take care of the marine animals if they are injured, restore aquatic ecosystems, detect pollutants or any new organism, accumulate various samples, and test them. Based on the research work, they may also publish research papers on new findings, and take up projects based on public awareness.
A Bachelor's degree or master's is usually sufficient for this job. Special attention is given to those who are physically fit, are trained in swimming, boating, or scuba diving, and have first aid training as well. The job of a marine biologist can be further compartmentalized into, aquarists, ichthyologists, oceanographers, fishery biologists, or hydrologists. They may be hired to work in research laboratories under the government, the US Navy, a university, or private companies. The research work happens mostly outdoors, but it can also be executed in zoos, aquariums, or museums. The average annual income of a marine biologist is approximately $53,000.

Zoo Educator

Being a zookeeper is often strenuous as an occupation as it requires high levels of patience, hard work, physical fitness, and love for animals. A zoo educator is responsible for imparting factual knowledge, information, and tips about different animals, to the people who visit the zoo, while restoring the environment around the animals in the zoo, and taking good care of them. They are also required to detect health issues, nurture, feed according to diet requirements, research on the needs of animals and report them to the seniors, discharge healthcare duties like medications and treatments, and a lot more. They will also have to keep the visitors updated about the animals in the zoo.
Along with zoology as a subject, the candidate can also take up courses like animal husbandry, animal behavior, ecology, etc. A bachelor's or master's degree is enough to get the position, but employers also pay more attention to overall practical skills and training. Zoo educators are required to have great communication skills, public speaking, as well as social skills to keep up with the crowd. They should also maintain physical fitness and be devoid of any allergies, as the job requires taking care of various kinds of animals in various environments. IT skills. and first aid training is a plus. The average income for a zoo educator is around $32,000 annually.

Veterinarian

Zoologists may specialize in veterinary medicine along with zoology to work as licensed doctors to treat and diagnose animals. Veterinarians are required to cure sick or injured animals, euthanize, neuter, or vaccinate them, along with providing the necessary advice to the owners of the animals. Necessary tests, examinations, and research are essential for this job. There are separate vets for different kinds of animals like horses, cats and dogs, reptiles, and exotic animals. They can be further categorized according to the areas of specialization like dentistry, nutrition, pharmacology, dermatology, etc.
Zoology students may get enrolled in a college of veterinary medicine for specialization. A doctoral degree is essential for this job along with the clearance of an examination for a license. Students with a bachelor's or master's degree may start their career as veterinarian assistants for practice. Veterinarians are mostly employed by the government, farms, hospitals, zoos, or universities. The average annual income of a veterinarian is around $86,000.

Major Employers

Though location does affect the salary and type of career path within zoology, overall the state and federal governments are the largest source of employment for those seeking employment in zoology. Government employment focuses on national parks and wildlife refuges, preserves, national and international studies, and research foundations; agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency all employ zoologists. Research companies hire zoologists to complete studies and tests to see the extent to which new products and operations affect nature and animal life.

Zoology students may opt for jobs as teaching faculty either in schools or in colleges and universities. The subjects of teaching may not be specifically related to zoology only, as it may include science and maths in general, or the subject of biology, especially in schools. One can also choose to conduct research and publish papers or articles based on the area of specialization and work as a professor in universities.
A Bachelor's degree along with training is required to teach in schools. Students need to acquire a master's degree in case they wish to start as an assistant professor in any institution, and a doctoral degree is essential in order to conduct research, publish books, articles, or thesis on the specialized field, as well as educate students as a professor in a university.

Some other compelling jobs based on a zoology major may include a conservation scientist, science writer, environmentalist, animal physiotherapist, animal trainer, wildlife care specialist, sustainability officer, and many more. To fulfill the duties required of a zoologist in any career, a strong skill set is required. Strong mathematical and computer programming skills are a plus. One should also be technologically proficient; much of zoology requires calculations and input of data, as well as learning new equipment and methods to study animals and their ecosystems by causing the least amount of disturbance. A zoologist should have strong physical endurance, especially when completing research and studies on sites; gathering information can take long, strenuous periods of time and effort.


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