Career Profile: Zookeeper
Career Profile: Zookeeper
Signs You Should Keep Exploring:
- You love animals.
- You always loved going to the zoo, and still do!
- You love watching wildlife documentaries.
- Animal trivia is your jam.
- Steve Irwin is your hero.
- You subscribe to channels on YouTube for aquariums or zoos.
- If you could donate $1Million dollars to a charity of your choice, you would consider donating it to causes for animals.
- When you travel, you are always down to check out a local zoo, sanctuary or aquarium.
If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, that’s your cue to keep reading! The sooner you start to explore the ins and outs of a career, the more prepared you will be to make the right decisions that lead you to a satisfying career.
A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper
While there are many science careers that can allow you to work with animals, one of those options is to be a zookeeper. To be specific, a zookeeper is an animal caretaker that works in a zoo. And to prevent any possible confusion, a zoologist is generally someone that observes animals in their natural habitat, although many zoologists can be zookeepers too.
There are a variety of responsibilities that could come at any stage of your career as a zookeeper. Here are just a few:
- Prepping meals and keeping a feeding schedule.
- Working with veterinarians to provide / administer health care.
- Building life-long relationships with animals (and some of those animals may live longer than you!).
- Training animals and getting into a routine.
- Rehabilitating animals that are temporarily in your care to re-enter into the wild.
- Adopting animals that won’t survive in the wild and helping them adjust to their new lives in a zoo.
- Promoting wildlife conservation for visitors of the zoo, and alongside potential partners of the zoo.
- Working with a network of scientists and contributing to research that benefits animals and humans alike.
- Cleaning up animal habitats (which includes picking up poop!).
- Observing and recording animal behaviors.
- Working with teams around the clock to support animal care. (Some require more full-time attention than others).
- Training animals for educational events and purposes.
- Working in the community to raise awareness for the animals that you care for.
Pick an Expertise
Saying you are a zookeeper feels like a very specific thing, right? Well, the neat thing is that there are so many unique opportunities in zoology as a career path.
As mentioned previously, you can transition in roles that allow you to observe animals in their natural habitat and then later help care for those animals in a zoo – or the other way around. The thing that can be most robust about studying zoology and having a career with animals is that there are so many different types of animals! Fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and more! The level of expertise you want to have in a type of animal or a specific animal is up to you. You may decide you want to study bears, but did you know there are 8 different species of bear? You could spend your whole life learning about or caring for just one type bear! And who knows – you may be THE expert on that bear and helping consult for a movie or wildlife documentary. If you follow your passion, there are many exciting opportunities that can be available in the future.
Being a zookeeper is a very unique job. It comes with a lot of perks, but it’s important to understand the not-so-exciting qualities of each job to ensure that the pros outweigh the cons. To start, here are some general requirements to consider for a future at a zoo:
- To be a zookeeper, this will depend on the location that you want to work, but most jobs require or prefer an undergraduate degree in biology, zoology or related area of study.
- This very much depends, but most zoos are impressed with having a lot of examples of work, studies or experiences that showcase your passion for a particular type of animal.
- You will be outside a LOT. This means wearing attire focused on weather and being okay with getting a little dirty on the job.
- Depending on the animal, there can be a lot of heavy lifting. It’s certainly not a desk job, but may require some desk time to input some information or plan for things. For the most part, you will be on your feet and walking a lot.
- Even though animals may spend their entire lives at a zoo, they are still very much wild animals. There are many possible dangers that come with working with different types of animals, so being safety conscious is a requirement to be a zookeeper.
- Wildlife Biologist
- Veterinarian – Domestic
- Veterinarian – Wildlife
- Pet Trainer
- Pet Groomer
- Pet Caregiver
- Science Writer
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN LEARN MORE:
Still undecided? Check out some suggested steps to explore further:
- Research blogs or vlogs online.
- Visit a local zoo and visualize yourself behind the scenes.
- Ask for an informational interview with a zookeeper.
- Find movies or documentaries about characters or real people that are zookeepers and imagine yourself in that role.
- Make a pros and cons list to determine if it’s the right fit for you.
- Check out course requirements for required degrees to see if you have any concerns.
- Work with a career counselor.
- Take a personality test like Myers-Briggs to see if a role like this is a good fit for your personality.