Zoos, Is Formal Education Enough to Get a Job at the Zoo

Hand feeding a white tiger in captivity is a real thrill!
Hand feeding a white tiger in captivity is a real thrill! | Source

WHY ISN'T MY DEGREE GOOD ENOUGH TO GET A JOB AT THE ZOO?

Zoos are a popular career choice among animal lovers, many wish to gain employment in the field of zoo management and exotic animal conservation. What a perfect way to make a living! Knowing the reasons why a formal education is just not enough to get that zoo job you want is important. It's tough to find the person with formal education as well as practical education to fill zoo positions; hands-on experience is considered priceless in the world of animal care. Zoo management and staffing teams want see that you have exposure to a specific field of animal work. It is important that you have a bit of parchment hanging on your wall however, knowing what positions exist and which draw your particular interest within the animal-world can only be achieved through working with animal-specific organizations. Don't get me wrong here, having a professional degree is imperative, yet knowing the inside-scoop and living it day to day is what can set you apart from the rest of the good zoo employment resumes.

ZOO JOBS

Inside the white tiger enclosure, we had the chore of  feeding this tiger up close and personal. She loves raw chicken breast.
Inside the white tiger enclosure, we had the chore of feeding this tiger up close and personal. She loves raw chicken breast. | Source
Having hands on interaction with the big cats staying in the medical exhibits, was just one area of practical experience required to work in zoo management.
Having hands on interaction with the big cats staying in the medical exhibits, was just one area of practical experience required to work in zoo management. | Source

A CALIFORNIA BIG CAT SANCTUARY

(Below) This young female tiger was enjoying a playful roll as I visited inside her enclosure. She had a mild eye condition that was being treated and so she was isolated during the 3 day treatment. The massive size of this tiger was more intimidating than imagined as I looked through my camera lens. I could feel her power exuding throughout the area even as she playfully rolled-around at my feet. She seemed to enjoy having her picture taken and posed in some very unexpected positions. It was a brilliant experience and one I will treasure always.

ZOO FUN

This white tiger gazed right into the lens as I snapped this picture. She was just laying around, getting ready to roll on to her back like a regular house cat!
This white tiger gazed right into the lens as I snapped this picture. She was just laying around, getting ready to roll on to her back like a regular house cat! | Source
Here we see this white tiger in full kitty-cat roll. It was just  amazing to witness how alike our house cats are to these big zoo cats.
Here we see this white tiger in full kitty-cat roll. It was just amazing to witness how alike our house cats are to these big zoo cats. | Source
More Zoo Big Cat  rolling around on the deck for good feline morning yoga!
More Zoo Big Cat rolling around on the deck for good feline morning yoga! | Source
And for her finally; this white tiger takes a big cat roll in the dust, ending it with a super sized white tiger stretch!
And for her finally; this white tiger takes a big cat roll in the dust, ending it with a super sized white tiger stretch! | Source
After a good roll on the deck, this beautiful white tiger nuzzles the fence to make sure her scent markings are up to date!
After a good roll on the deck, this beautiful white tiger nuzzles the fence to make sure her scent markings are up to date! | Source

ZOO JOBS

ACTIVITY OUTSIDE OF THE SCHOOL HOUSE

If you want to find that perfect job with the zoo of your dreams, showing knowledge and interest in animals by serving as a volunteer or obtaining work experience will be looked upon as a very positive addition to your resume. It may also be the only thing that makes you stand-out in a crowd of animal loving applicants. To find success in an animal-rich career you must be lead by your curiosities about the world of critters. Finding your niche interest within the zoo environment will send you in the right direction toward loving what you do for a living for the rest of your life.

HOW DO I BEST PREPARE FOR A ZOO JOB FROM THE START?

An understanding of animals and the habitats where they live adds a big boost to acquiring that future zoo job you desire. Most people start by taking classes in biology, zoology, natural science and even ecology at the high school and college level. Some zoos will offer classes here and there, and even a trip to your towns museum can offer some great education to a better understanding of the natural sciences. Modern "away-camps" that are dedicated to the study of nature can be a top-notch resume item—providing that you're lucky enough to make it on the attendance list. Be sure to check credentials and reputations of those who run these camps, as you want to be sure the information you learn is taught by knowledgeable staff.

Image compliments of flickr.com

Find this Husky Animal hat with Mittens by clicking on the item at left!

WHAT ARE THE PRACTICAL THINGS I NEED TO STUDY TO BE A ZOO KEEPER?

Right from the start, taking a serious interest in learning strong skills in science, math and biology will give you a step up towards a zoo career. Even at the pivotal elementary level, finding strength in these subjects will lay the foundation for future success in these much needed classes.

In high school, taking a more daunting class load consisting of calculus, physics, and of course biology and chemistry will further strengthen your path to a great zoological education. Some college prep courses on these subject will excel your course work once you actually get to college level.

When you arrive at the college level, keep your eye on the zoological ball by making an appointment with your career counselor. She will be able to help you determine the classes needed to pinpoint your degree right where you want it to be. Go into this meeting knowing that you are going to hear requirements like, anthropology, organic and inorganic chemistry, bio-chemistry, biology, micro biology, genetics and the not-so-unexpected zoology. These are some serious math and science classes, but if you have laid out your pre-college educational foundation accordingly, you will be just fine. Achieving a master degree or Ph.D is a much needed componant to gain the super zoo career you have worked so hard for. So, you must consider graduate school from the start of your formal education planning.

ZOO JOBS

Being a zoo volunteer may not be all that glamorous...

Zoo interns don't always get the best jobs to start with...
Zoo interns don't always get the best jobs to start with...

FORMAL EDUCATION MAY NOT BE ENOUGH. WHERE DO I GAIN REAL EXPERIENCE?

Volunteering at a local zoo or getting an internship with a zoo makes for a great hands-on learning experience. Working with a veterinarian as a volunteer or employee is also helpful. Some colleges offer particular programs dedicated towards a zoo career. In Florida, for example, there is a teaching zoo; Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida. In California you will find a college that teaches a program for Exotic Animal Management; Moorpark College, California. Keep in mind that being a zoo volunteer may not be all that glamorous...

The Less Than Glamorous Side Of A Zoo Internship

Be prepared to jump some hurtles when trying to obtain the zoo career you seek. It is a job that requires the zoo keeper to be in relatively good health and condition. You, as a zoo worker will be subjected to possible animal related injuries or disease due to the close proximity to the creatures. The contact is generally limited and only conducted under the strictest of zoo management practices.

You also must take into consideration the fact that animals don't take a day off, thus they require around the clock care everyday of the week and on weekends and holidays. So, a zoo career makes for a pretty ridged schedule; every day of the year. Zoo keeper pay is generally low when you consider the educational hoops you have to jump through to get the job in the first place. But, even as this is the case, zoo keeper careers are premium careers—in terms of demand. You need to be prepared for initial frustration that comes with the difficulty of getting your foot in the door for any zoo animal care profession. But, know that the field is expanding, so the future need for zoo workers is high, for both women and men.

Elephant image compliments of land-force.com

SANTE FE COLLEGE, FLORIDA

A marker3000 NW 83rd Street · Gainesville, FL 32606 -
3000 NW 83rd St, Gainesville, FL 32606, USA
[get directions]

MOORPARK COLLEGE, CALIFORNIA

A marker7075 Campus Road, Moorpark, CA. 93021 -
7075 Campus Rd, Moorpark, CA 93021, USA
[get directions]

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Comments for ZOOZ - Why formal education may not be enough to get a job at the zoo 4 comments

K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 5 years ago from Northern, California Author

SweetyPie~ How cool that you have a passion for the big cats! I have long admired them as well. Kinda scary to think how close a mountian lion was to you, but how cool that you have that experience to recall. Thank you for stopping by today!

K9


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 5 years ago from Southern California, USA

To me this hub is beautiful because I love big cats. I have drawn leopards and mountain lions, and I simply love looking at them. I even once saw a mountain lion up in the mountains, although I think I was a bit silly not to be more scared at the time. I saw him in the distance for one second, and then he was gone. This is good info for anyone contemplating a zoo career.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 5 years ago from Northern, California Author

Hi Gus! Thanks for the nice comments. I am hoping that those students seeking employment in the zoo industry will gain some perspective by reading this article. I really appreciate you stopping by.

K9


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA

K9 - You scored again with this in-depth and helpful article. Personally, I am chicken about wild animals, but I know folks who really get along well with all sorts of critters. Your article is going to be helpful to those who are certainly not like me.

Gus :-)~

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