A Guide to Becoming a Zookeeper
Are you interested in working at the zoo and making a career out of your passion for animals? Are you looking for a job where you can spend time outdoors, work with exotic and interesting creatures, and be part of a team? If so, then a job as a zookeeper may be the ideal role for you.
Step 1: Gain Work Experience
To become a zookeeper you will need some relevant experience. Volunteering at a zoo or getting a job with an animal charity is a great way to get your foot in the door. Allow yourself plenty of opportunities for observation and practical animal care. Also, do some research and familiarize yourself with relevant species, their habitat and their behavior.
Step 2: Obtaining Qualifications
Most employers will require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in zoology, environmental sciences or a related field. However, specific relevant degrees may be required such as a master’s degree in zoology, animal science or wildlife biology. Along with a degree, many employers prefer that applicants have a basic knowledge of animal husbandry, wildlife preservation, and animal medicine.
Step 3: Getting Certified
Getting certified as a zookeeper is also becoming more common. The American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) offers different levels of certification, such as “Certified Professional” zookeeper and “Level One” zookeeper. Certification can show employers that you have an advanced understanding of a specific animal species or environment; and the associated risks, safety protocols, and habitat maintenance needs.
Step 4: Search for Open Positions
Once you have gained all the experience and qualifications you need, it’s time to start searching for open positions. There are several websites which can help you with this, such as:
- Zoo Job Guide: a database of 36,000+ zoo and animal care vacancies worldwide.
- Simply Hired: an all-in-one job search engine with current jobs in the zookeeper field.
- AgCareers: a job search site with open zookeeper positions.
Step 5: Get Creative
If you don’t have any luck with the above job sites, you’ll need to get creative in your job search. Use your existing networks such as family, friends, and LinkedIn connections to reach out to zoo professionals who may know about available positions. You can also attend local events such as zoo lectures and workshops; as you may be able to find job postings or make some useful contacts in the animal care field.
Working in animal care can be a rewarding but challenging career. With preparation, research and commitment, you can become a zookeeper and make your dreams come true. Good Luck!