How to Become a Zoologist: Career Path Guide
If you want to become a zoologist, you’re in luck; below we've outlined what you'll need to get started in your career as a zoologist in the United States or Canada.
We've also included helpful information for a zoologist career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!
Education Needed to Become a Zoologist
To become a zoologist, you need to begin by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology or a closely related field such as environmental science or biology.
Completing undergraduate coursework in wildlife biology, conservation biology, ecology, zoology, chemistry and mathematics is a great way to build an educational foundation for your prospective career as a zoologist.
Depending on where your career ambitions and interests lie, you will likely need a graduate degree in zoology or biology to become a zoologist.
Depending on the requirements of the employer, a Master’s degree in zoology is typically sufficient for many applied research positions.
To become a zoologist who works in research and university teaching positions a Ph.D. in Zoology is needed. Zoologists must also complete continuing education throughout their careers in order to keep their skills current stay up to date with advancements in the field.
Zoologist Job Description
Zoologists observe animals in their natural habitats and in laboratories in order to study animal life. They must study the origin and development of animal species as well as their habitats and behaviors. Zoologists also study how animal traits are passed from one generation to the next.
Zoologist Job Duties
• Study the life functions and behavior of single animals and groups of animals
• Dissect and examine animal specimens
• Prepare slides in order to observe disease tissue and chemical reactions under light or electron microscopes
• Keep laboratory animals such as guinea pigs, fruit flies and mice
• Study mating practices, aggression, life histories and group behavior of animals
• May test the effects of drugs on animals
• Direct the work activities of biological technicians
How to Make Zoologist Career Preparations in High School
Coursework: Taking courses in math, biology, physics and chemistry is a great way to get a head start on becoming a zoologist. These courses will give you a solid understanding of the scientific principles at work in zoology and other areas of biology.
Learn what zoologists do: Speaking with zoologists and related scientists can give you a great idea of what it’s like to become a zoologist. You can also speak with professionals in related occupations, such as veterinarians, zookeepers and naturalists in order to gain an idea of what other careers related to zoologist are like.
Choose a university or college to attend: Deciding where to go to college and what to study is a daunting and thorough task. Make it a little easier on yourself by talking to your school’s guidance counselor. They will be able to help you find schools that suit your professional ambitions and interests, as well as provide you with tips on which programs will be of interest to you.
Tip for Success: Speaking with your school’s guidance counselor will also provide with confidence in knowing you have support!
Where Do Zoologists Work?
Zoologists don't just work as research scientists; there are a number of organizations within commerce and industry that can utilize the skills, knowledge and competencies of zoologists. The following is a list of employers that typically hire zoologists:
• Federal, provincial/state, and municipal government departments
• Colleges and universities (in teaching and/or research capacities)
• Private research firms
• Environmental consulting firms
• Other industries, for example pharmaceutical research, agriculture and food production
• Biotechnology companies
• Zoos and wildlife centers
• Not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations
• Self-employed (as a consultant)
Find Job Postings for Zoologists
Getting Zoologist Work Experience as a Student
As zoologist jobs are highly competitive, it is extremely important to acquire practical experience during your undergraduate years.
Most university departments offer a number of summer job opportunities for research assistants. There may also be similar openings for summer students in government agencies and private industry. Be sure to ask your school’s career resources counselor to give you information about any such opportunities.
These opportunities not only provide you with valuable work experience, they allow you to network and get your foot in the door with an organization in your field. This will be extremely useful when you apply for graduate school or a permanent job.
Salary levels can vary greatly for zoologists, depending on their level of education, where they work, their amount of experience and many other factors.
Zoologist Salary United States: The U.S Labor and Statistics Bureau reports that the median salary for workers in the Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists occupational group is $57,430 USD per year.
Zoologist Salary Canada: According to ECO Canada, wildlife biologists (who generally perform the same duties as zoologists) with several years of education and experience can earn between $47,300 and $78,500 per year.
Work Conditions for Zoologists
The work settings, conditions and duties of zoologists can vary greatly from one field of specialty or one employer to the next. Below are examples of the primary types of settings for zoologist careers:
Office: Zoologists working in an office setting provide advice and counsel to businesses, environmental groups or government agencies. Zoologists that work in office settings typically work during normal weekday hours.
Classroom: These zoologists typically conduct lectures, grade papers and advise students. They have working hours that can fluctuate from very few hours a week to a very heavy workload. They may work normal weekday working hours with extra hours put in for preparing lesson plans, grading papers and performing other duties during evenings and weekends. Some zoologists teaching in universities and colleges may teach classes exclusively, or they may be involved in research as well.
Laboratory: These zoologists spend the majority of their time conducting, documenting and analyzing research in a laboratory setting. Working in a laboratory typically involves working directly with animals, and may involve working with hazardous organic materials and inorganic chemicals. These zoologists typically work during normal weekday hours.
Fieldwork: Field zoologists are involved in the identification and documentation of species, ecosystems, populations and habitats, as well as the collection of biological samples. Zoologists who perform work in the field are subject to a variety of weather conditions and work hazards. Their work also has an element of danger, as they must often deal with wild animals.
Careers Similar to Zoologist
Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Zoologist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.
References: Zoologist Career Path
Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a zoologist.
Alberta Learning and Information Services website: alis.alberta.ca
Canadian Society of Zoologists website: www.csz-scz.ca
ECO Canada website: www.eco.ca
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website: www.bls.gov
Scholarships for Becoming a Zoologist
Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Zoologist can be found on our Biology Scholarships page.
Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!
Becoming a Zoologist: Applicable Majors
Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a zoologist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!