Those interested in working with animals might find themselves wondering what is the best degree to become a zookeeper. A zookeeper is someone who works closely with animals. They might gain experience working with a specific species or type of animal, or they might work with dozens of different animals every day. They also handle a variety of tasks behind the scenes, including applying for grants to keep the zoo running, working with vendors and arranging for special events at the zoo. Most zookeepers possess a Bachelor’s degree in one of two fields.
Duties of a Zookeeper
Some people think that zookeepers spend every day working with animals, feeding the animals and even playing with those animals. Zookeepers actually spend just as much time in the office and working behind the scenes. They’re the ones responsible for creating animal breeding programs to reduce the risk of animals becoming extinct. They also coordinate volunteers, hire new employees, order new supplies and even feed and clean the animal habitats when needed. Some zoos also hire workers capable of launching fundraising events and hosting special events that help the zoo increase its income.
Level of Experience Required
Regardless of what degree you hold, you also need some experience in the field before working as a zookeeper. College students have a number of opportunities available to them, including part-time jobs and internships. A part-time job at an animal shelter, a veterinary clinic, wildlife center or even a horse farm will give you a better understanding of what happens behind the scenes. You’ll spend time cleaning the stalls and habitats, training or exercising the animals and working with others in the facility. An internship in a zoo, animal sanctuary or an aquarium can also help you gain additional experience in the field.
College Degrees Available
According to Susan Danhauser, who is the Director of Human Resources at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, the best degree to become a zookeeper is a bachelor’s degree in either animal science or zoology. Danhauser points out that some zoos hire those with only a high school degree but that those workers must often start out at entry-level positions and work their way up to a zookeeper position. It might take years before you find yourself in one of the higher paid positions, and you’ll likely find yourself passed over for promotions in favor of those with a college degree.
Gaining More Experience
The best degree to become a zookeeper is a degree in animal science or zoology, but you also need to keep in mind that zookeeper positions have a high level of competition. The only way you can secure a job after graduation is with the experience that employers need. After finishing college, apply for internship and externship positions at local facilities. You often earn a small amount of money as you work for the center, but you also gain a high level of experience. Not only will you get the chance to work with animals, but you can also learn more about what happens behind the scenes. If internships and externships aren’t available, volunteer for one of these facilities.
Related Resource: Specialize a Business Degree
The love and passion that you have for animals will help you work as a zookeeper, but you also need a solid foundation in accounting topics, budgeting and fundraising. While the best degree to become a zookeeper is a degree in zoology or animal science, you also need to gain some experience before applying for open positions.