How to Become a Zookeeper

If you love all different types of animals, then you might like to become a zookeeper.

Zookeepers see to the health, happiness, and well-being of animals in a zoo.

They also help to educate the public about animals, and raise awareness about conservation projects.

To become a zookeeper you will need to have a genuine interest in animals.

You’ll also need to not mind a bit of hard work and getting dirty.

The tasks of a zookeeper are more strenuous than you might think.

To become a zookeeper you’ll need a college degree.

Entrance into this occupation can be competitive, and many start out as volunteers who are later promoted to paid employees.

Education Requirements to Become a Zookeeper

If you’re in high school and would like to become a zookeeper then a good idea is to study math and science.

Getting any experience with animals will be helpful, and you could volunteer at an animal shelter or national park in your area.

At college you’ll need to complete a four year bachelor degree in biology or zoology.

While this isn’t a formal requirement for the role, the amount of competition surrounding it means that it is rare for a person to get a position without this practical experience.

If you can complete an internship in a zoo or wildlife park while you are at college then this would be particularly helpful.

Most candidates start out as volunteers in zoos.

They may work in this capacity for a while, and when a paid position comes up, volunteers are often considered before outside applicants.

If you want to become a zookeeper you may have to work for free, at least for a little while.

Zookeeper Job Description

A zookeeper looks after the health of the animals in a zoo.

When you become a zookeeper, it will be your responsibility to feed and water the animals at specific times.

You will have to monitor their diet and make sure they are eating well.

You’ll also need to clean their enclosures.

A zookeeper also looks after recreation for animals.

They will set up games and toys for animals to play with, and may hide food or other things that will keep their interest.

Zookeepers monitor the health of animals in the zoo, often keeping charts on their habits.

If an animal is unwell, it’s the zookeeper who notices first.

When a veterinarian is called, a zookeeper stays on hand to help with examinations and treatments.

Some zookeepers assist in raising animals when they are very young, particularly if their parents are not able to.

When you become a zookeeper, you also become involved in public education.

You may design education campaigns, or hold demonstrations with animals.

Often zookeepers give talks to school groups, and also answer questions or seek to promote the protection of endangered species.

Even as a volunteer, zoos like to hire people with experience handling animals.

Work experience at a veterinarian clinic, boarding kennel, or pet store would be very valuable.

A part-time job in this vicinity is desirable.

Here are some of the tasks of a zookeeper:

  • Feeding animals
  • Cleaning enclosures
  • Setting up toys for animals
  • Communicating with veterinarians
  • Supervising breeding programs
  • Monitoring animal health
  • Giving talks and demonstrations

Zookeeper Salary and Career Path

Most zookeepers start out working as a volunteer in a zoo or wildlife park.

With a bit of experience, they will gain a paid job.

Some zookeeper go on to become specialist animal trainers.

Others undergo further training to become veterinary assistants or veterinarians.

Some work in animal breeding programs or as conservationists.

The median salary for a zookeeper is around $22,000 a year.

Growth is expected to be faster than average in this field, but competition is predicted to stay strong.

Some similar jobs to that of zookeeper include:

  • Veterinarian
  • Veterinary technician
  • Animal trainer
  • Biologist
  • Microbiologist
  • Ecologist

Working as a zookeeper is a job that gives a high level of job satisfaction.

Working with amazing animals, feeding them, and playing with them can be very rewarding.

Because of this, entry into zookeeping is competitive.

If this is your career of choice, you should definitely pursue it, but just prepare yourself to put in a year of two of hard work before you secure a paid position.

Find a Program