How to Become a Zookeeper

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Zoos are popular public facilities that house a variety of exotic animals and it is essential that they receive constant care. Zookeepers are trained professionals that provide the necessary care to a variety of zoo animals.


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What does a zookeeper do?

Zookeepers work with a variety of animals from all over the world such as land mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, marine mammals, and fish. They provide many aspects of care such as preparing food, watering, bathing, exercising, and cleaning their living areas. They also engage in training exercises and provide the necessary assistance to other professionals. Zookeepers must also keep constant observation and report any potential health issues or usual behavior to zoologists or veterinarians. They are very knowledgeable about the animals in their care and they provide information to other professionals and visitors. Zookeepers often take care of a broad range of animals, but some work with more specific groups such as large cats or primates.

What kind of training does a zookeeper need?

Zookeepers typically need at least a bachelor degree in animal science, zoology, biology, or other related field. Most employers prefer candidates with previous volunteer or work experience with large animals. Prospective zookeepers typically complete courses in biology, animal science, nutrition, animal behavior, wildlife management, and zoology. Many aspiring zookeepers complete volunteer experiences or internships at zoos, wildlife reservations, and veterinary clinics to gain practical experience and establish valuable contacts. Zookeepers typically complete continuing education and additional training throughout their careers to improve their skills and keep up to date with advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as a zookeeper?

Employment of zookeepers is expected to grow must faster than average for all professions, increasing 21% from 2008 to 2018 (1).

Job prospects should be good with strong competition. Zookeepers with advanced training and extensive experience will have the best job opportunities. Some job openings will arise from the need to replace zookeepers that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do zookeepers make?

As of January 2010, zookeepers with 1 to 4 years experience earn average hourly rates between $8.84 and $11.75. Those with 5 to 9 years experience earn average hourly rates between $10.96 and $15.55 (2).

A career as a zookeeper is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in providing the essential care to zoo animals. Zookeepers must have a solid understanding of the behavior and care techniques of a variety of exotic animals. Patience, sensitivity, physical stamina, flexibility, and good problem solving skills are essential characteristics. Zookeepers must be able to handle undesirable conditions and they must always take the proper precautions to maintain the health of themselves and animals and minimize injury. They must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills because they often deal with other professionals and the public. They must be able to effectively work independently as well as part of a team.

Joshua T Osborne

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