What Does a Zoologist Do? (Skills and Education)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 19 October 2022 | Published 12 June 2021

Updated 19 October 2022

Published 12 June 2021

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.

Zoology is an area of biology that studies animal life. The purpose of zoology is to expand scientific knowledge and utilise it in wildlife management, conservation, agriculture and medicine. A zoologist studies the behaviours, functions, natural environments and ecology of animals. In this article, we discuss what a zoologist does, the types of jobs they have and the skills and education they need.

What does a zoologist do?

A zoologist studies animals in their natural habitat and captivity. By observing animals, zoologists gain a deep understanding of their behaviours. As climate change transforms the natural habitats of many species, zoologists can identify and track how they interact within their ecosystem.

Zoologists track and measure the physical characteristics of different animals. These characteristics may include their diet, migration habits and rate of reproduction. Zoologists consider the threats different animals are facing. For example, disease, invasive pests, seasonal changes and the human impact. They can also be involved in conservation plans and the management of hunting programs.

A zoologist's role takes place indoors in laboratories, as well as outdoors, with travel often being a requirement. It is a heavily research-based role. It includes collecting data, conducting experiments and compiling reports of their findings.

Daily duties of a zoologist

There are many types of zoologists with different specialties. However, the general daily duties of a zoologist may include the following:

  • Investigating the relationship between animals and their environment.

  • Performing experiments to identify species and expand knowledge on their development, diet, reproduction and predators.

  • Studying animal function.

  • Addressing potential threats to the species' quality of life.

  • Devising methods of population control (usually for pests).

  • Developing population management programs to increase the number of wild animals.

  • Proposing conservation solutions.

  • Mapping habitat ranges.

  • Tracking migration patterns.

  • Overseeing hunting programs and protocols.

  • Undertaking surveys and preparing reports.

  • Preparing scientific papers.

  • Speaking to wildlife and conservation groups.

  • Conducting lectures at educational facilities.

  • Supervising technical officers and technicians.

  • Participating in public wildlife awareness programs.

  • Networking with scientists, professionals and advocacy groups.

What employment opportunities exist for zoologists?

There are several avenues of employment for zoologists. It's common to find zoology graduates working in laboratories as research assistants. Post-graduate zoologists often work in universities and colleges teaching and conducting research. They may also find employment in zoos, museums, government agriculture departments, national parks and conservation organisations. Sometimes zoologists work in the genetics industry to assist with animal breeding.

What kind of jobs do zoologists have?

Zoology is diverse, offering several types of zoologist jobs which we explore below:

Specialist zoologist

A specialist zoologist usually works with one type of animal, for example:

  • Entomology (insects)

  • Parasitology (internal and external parasites)

  • Ichthyology (fish)

  • Mammalogy (mammals)

  • Ornithology (birds)

  • Herpetology (reptiles)

A specialist zoologist studies a type of animal's environment, well-being and interactions with humans, predators and prey. Working in a specialised field usually requires a master's or a doctoral degree.

Zookeeper

Zookeepers work with wild animals in zoos, nature parks, aquariums and other attractions where there are animals. Generally, zookeepers work with one type of animal, for example, they may work with African mammals, reptiles or take care of a zoo's aviary. The role of a zookeeper aims to ensure the well-being of the animals in their care. An essential duty of a zookeeper is engaging with the public and teaching them about various zoo residents. Being a zookeeper can mean working year-round, through holidays and over weekends.

Wildlife biologist

A wildlife biologist studies the behaviour of animals that live in the wild. Their role is to observe wildlife and to determine the species' role in an ecosystem. Often wildlife biologists work in teams on research projects concerned with migration, reproduction, survival and habitats.

Wildlife biologists spend a lot of their time travelling and working outdoors, observing animals in their natural environments. So, this type of zoology career is ideal for a keen adventurer who is open to working in remote locations, sometimes without access to modern conveniences.

Ecologist

An ecologist studies ecosystems, specifically, the relationship between life forms and their environment. Ecologists usually specialise in an area, for example:

  • Freshwater

  • Marine

  • Fauna

  • Flora

Entry-level ecologists spend their time monitoring species and their habitats through surveys. Senior-level ecologists may have the opportunity to work in policy and management roles.

Conservationist

Conservationists study the behaviour, diet and reproduction of a species. Their goal is to ensure the animals' health and well-being. They work to protect and improve their environments, for example, bushland, rivers and coastal areas. A conservationist creates awareness, an understanding and interest amongst populations, surrounding native species and environments. Conservationists may be involved in developing local and national environmental policies.

Related: How to Be a Wildlife Conservationist (With Duties and Skills)

Marine biologist

A marine biologist studies all life forms in the sea. This includes plants, animals and other organisms in the deep seas, tidal flats and laboratories. They collect information to expand knowledge of the marine world. Marine biologists seek to understand marine ecosystems and predict changes as a result of natural and human disturbances. The general tasks of a marine biologist include gathering and analysing samples, report writing and teaching university students.

Zoology professor

Many zoologists find their ideal career in being a professor at universities and colleges. Zoology professors don't only run zoology lectures for students. They do extensive research, develop and publish academic journals and other educational resources, and supervise zoology graduates.

What skills are useful for a zoology career?

More than a love for animals is needed to fulfil a role as a zoologist. Zoologists can use a combination of hard and soft skills to succeed in their careers. Some of these skills include:

Communication skills

Zoologists work alongside other people. They work on collective research projects, give presentations and partner with policymakers. Because of this, communication skills are essential for zoologists. Communication skills are the ability to express ideas clearly through speech and writing. Communication skills are largely developed with practice. So, the best way to improve your communication skills is by putting them into action.

Active listening skills

To handle the responsibilities of their role, zoologists can listen to and understand others. Active listening skills are the ability to be both present and responsive when somebody is talking to you. As a zoologist, you can have regular one-on-one interactions with other individuals. You'll also receive verbal instructions often. So, active listening skills ensure you can understand, ask the right questions and carry out your duties. Like communication skills, active listening skills come with practice.

Computer skills

As zoology is a heavily research-based career, zoologists often use scientific rules and methods. Zoologists can log important data, send emails and learn new programs. They can also make use of advanced systems and modelling software. Because of this, computer skills are essential for zoologists. There are many online courses and resources available to enhance your computer skills.

Time management skills

A role as a zoologist can be fast-paced with a broad range of duties and responsibilities. As such, zoologists can use good time management skills to manage their schedules and accomplish their daily goals. You can develop time management skills by learning to prioritise tasks. It also helps to understand your patterns of productivity and give yourself needed breaks.

Critical thinking skills

Critical thinking skills are a important for zoologists. They can adapt sound reasoning to arrive at conclusions from observations, experiments and tests. Zoologists are responsible for using their critical thinking skills to develop solutions to wildlife threats. They can apply logic to evaluate the pros and cons of an idea or action. They can also think of new ideas to solve aged issues. To improve your critical thinking skills, practise active listening, ask questions and assess existing evidence.

Teamwork skills

Being able to work as part of a team is essential to your success as a zoologist. Working well with clients, colleagues and other people in your workplace or the field can help you complete tasks efficiently. It can also assist in creating an enjoyable environment both for yourself and others. To enhance your teamwork skills, focus on maintaining a positive mindset. Also, practice managing your time well and being a great communicator.

What education is needed to become a zoologist?

To become a zoologist you can at least complete a bachelor's degree in science or applied science, majoring in zoology or biological sciences. It's a usual prerequisite of universities that you have obtained an ATAR or done the necessary bridging courses. Universities have different entry requirements. So, it is important to contact your institution of interest for specific information. It typically takes four years to earn a bachelor's degree in science majoring in zoology. Becoming a zoologist can take anywhere from 4 to 7 years.

Many employers require a master's degree or Ph.D. Check with your undergraduate university to see if it offers a graduate program in zoology. You may consider a Ph.D. program if you're looking for researching and teaching opportunities in zoology. Earning a master's degree usually takes two years with 30 hours of fieldwork. A Ph.D. program may take at least five years of academic instruction.

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