Cool Careers: Zookeeper
As a zookeeper, you may be in charge of feeding animals, cleaning up after them, maintaining their habitats, keeping records, etc. Basically your job is to keep the animals alive, healthy and stimulated.
Becoming a Zookeeper
A Demanding Job
Zookeeping is a great career for people who love working with animals. But the job is demanding. You’ll work unpredictable hours since animals need 24/7 care—that includes graveyard shifts or even 7 days a week! It’s also demanding physically, so don’t expect to be sitting around. You’ll be on your feet all day.
Aside from being a challenging job, zookeeping can also be a tough job to land. There are more people who want to become zookeepers than there are positions available. Chances are you’ll have to move in order to find an open position. If you luck out and land a job at your local zoo, congrats!
Volunteer with Animals
So how do you become a zookeeper? It’s like any other job: the more experience you have, the better your chances. In high school, volunteer at your local zoo, animal shelter, or any other place where you can work with animals. Ask the zoo authorities what they look for in their employees and what credentials they require. Then start working toward getting those credentials.
Brush Up on Your Wildlife Facts
The more you know about wildlife the better. And learning about animals is something you can do at home. Surf the net, or subscribe to wildlife magazines. Go to museums and attend conferences. Even watching the discovery channel will help.
Some colleges offer a degree in zookeeping. But not many. Your best bet is to study animal sciences like zoology, animal psychology, and animal nutrition. Or if you have a specific animal of interest, focus on that, whether it’s dolphins (take marine biology), gorillas (take primatology), etc.
People become zookeepers because of their love for animals, not for the money. While “zookeeper” is a general word for many different types of zoo jobs, zookeepers typically make in the $30,000 range. Hourly, they make $8.00-$16.00 per hour, depending on years of experience and position.