How to Become a Zoologist in 6 Simple Steps (With FAQ)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 16 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Zoologists are science professionals who study the behaviour, functions and habitats of animals, insects and parasites. These professionals can work in a variety of roles but often lead research teams to aid conservation and rehabilitation programs. If you love animals, enjoy researching new topics and have strong analytical skills, you may enjoy becoming a zoologist. In this article, we share the steps you can take to learn how to become a zoologist and review frequently asked questions about the career, including salary information, job duties and work environment.

How to become a zoologist

Follow these steps to learn how to become a zoologist:

1. Earn a Senior Secondary Certificate of Education

As a prerequisite to enrolling in a university, earn a Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. This allows you to gain some of the foundational education knowledge you need, such as language skills, historical knowledge, science and mathematics. If you're still in secondary school and wish to follow this career path, consider taking additional science courses, if possible, as the study of zoology requires the knowledge of Earth sciences, biology and chemistry.

2. Pursue a bachelor's degree

The minimum education requirement for becoming a zoologist is a bachelor's degree. Professionals in this field typically major in zoology or biological sciences. Bachelor's degrees typically require the completion of three years of full-time study. While pursuing your bachelor's degree, you might consider internship opportunities and developing research skills, as these abilities and experiences can help you create a more effective resume later in your career.

Related: 11 Benefits of an Internship (With FAQs about Internships)

3. Consider a specialisation

As you earn your bachelor's degree, you might also consider developing a specialisation as a zoologist. Zoologists can study many species and environments but specialisation allows you the opportunity to focus on an area in which you have a special interest. Here are some specialisations you might consider:

  • Ecology: the study of an animal's environment

  • Entomology: the study of insects

  • Ethology: the study of animal behaviour

  • Mammalogy: the study of mammals

  • Physiology: the study of animal functions and movement

  • Parasitology: the study of both internal and external parasites

  • Ichthyology: the study of fish

  • Herpetology: the study of reptiles

  • Aquatics: the study of marine life and aquariums

  • Ornithology: the study of birds

To pursue a specialty, take additional courses on the topic and seek internship opportunities that can help you explore the topic.

4. Decide on a career path

During or after the completion of your bachelor's degree, consider what career path you're most interested in. Zoologists can work in many settings, so it's helpful to consider where you might want to work. This is important because some environments may require more education than others, such as the role of a zoology professor. The areas in which you specialise can also factor into the environment in which you work. For example, if you focus on aquatics or ichthyology, you might find a job at an aquarium.

5. Continue your education if desired

Once you decide what environment in which you would like to work, consider whether additional education is necessary. If you want to develop more skills in your area of specialisation or want to earn a professor or research manager role, you might consider earning a master's or doctorate. For many zoologist careers, this step is optional. Earning advanced degrees may allow you to increase your earning potential and earn an advantage over other candidates when searching for a job.

6. Apply for jobs

Once you complete your educational journey, you can begin applying for jobs. Create a resume or CV tailored to zoologist positions and consider writing personalised cover letters for each job for which you want to apply. This can help your application become more effective and may help you make a better first impression on hiring managers. Consider looking on job search websites for listings for which you can apply. You might also consider reaching out to your professional network to see if any of your contacts have a lead on a job you can apply for.

Related: Your Online Career Coach: Advanced Job Search Tips To Get the Job

Zoologist FAQ

If you're interested in becoming a zoologist, it's helpful to learn more about the career. Review these answers to frequently asked questions to help decide if becoming a zoologist is the right career for you:

What do zoologists do?

The job duties of a zoologist can depend on their specialty, employer and job title. Generally, they complete the following tasks:

  • studying animals in their natural surroundings, in captivity and lab settings

  • investigating relationships between animals and other animals, humans and the environment

  • researching the functions of animals

  • analysing possible methods of population control

  • developing programs to help manage and raise animals in captivity

  • overseeing animal rehabilitation programs

  • surveying plants and habitats

  • conducting lectures at universities and networking events

  • raising public awareness regarding animal protection and wildlife conservation

Related: What Does a Zoologist Do? (Skills and Education)

How long does it take to become a zoologist?

It takes between three and five years to become a zoologist. This is because earning a bachelor's degree may take longer if you study part-time. If you want to become a professor of zoology or continue your education to earn a master's, it may take more time. Even when pursuing higher education opportunities, you can find zoologist positions after you earn a bachelor's degree.

If you want to shorten the amount of time it takes to become a zoologist, you may be able to earn your degree in three years if you enrol as a full-time student. You can also often find more scheduling flexibility by taking online courses if the university you attend offers them.

What types of courses do you take when studying to become a zoologist?

The courses within a zoology major involve both specialised courses related to zoology topics and prerequisite knowledge. Some of the prerequisite courses may include biology, anatomy, mathematics and physics. This degree also requires many additional Earth science and biology courses relating to zoology, including:

  • vertebrate anatomy

  • environmental toxicology

  • behavioural ecology

  • aquatic biology

  • conservation sciences

  • mammalogy

  • principles of animal behaviour

What skills do you need for this role?

Zoologists often develop their skills during their educational experience and through work experiences such as internships and entry-level positions. They also use many soft skills to help them work better on research teams and cultivate a great work environment. If you're interested in this career, here are some skills you may want to develop:

  • animal care and handling

  • experiment design

  • research

  • observation

  • problem-solving

  • analysis

  • oral and written communication

  • teamwork

  • reliability

What is the work environment like for zoologists?

The work environment for zoologists can depend on the type of job they obtain. These professionals can work in office and laboratory settings, in zoos, at universities, in museums and in public and private parks. Zoologists often conduct a lot of fieldwork, which may require travel to study the particular species or habitat they're researching.

These professionals work both on teams and individually and typically work a regular full-time schedule, although when in the field, zoologists may adapt their work schedule to fit the animal they're studying. For example, if they're researching a nocturnal animal, they may work at night rather than during daytime hours.

Related: 20 Jobs That Work With Animals (With Salaries and Job Duties)

How much do zoologists earn?

A zoologist's salary can depend on several factors including their location, employer, level of expertise and educational background. Another aspect that affects a zoologist's salary is their job title and specific focus. Since many zoologists focus on a certain topic, such as mammals, animal environments or reptiles, they may have different titles and salaries. Here are some common job titles and salaries for this profession:

  • Ecologist: $92,852 per year

  • Marine biologist: $59,977 per year

  • Wildlife biologist: $96,294 per year

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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