Let's start with the obvious: if you're a zoologist you must be interested in animals. In fact, a fascination with all things feathered and furry could be the most important characteristic of a successful zoologist. Yet, this enthusiasm might not be enough by itself to see you through a career that can include everything from catching wild badgers to handling elephant dung.
As a zoologist, you may find yourself waiting for 10 hours in a tree for a particular type of deer to walk past. Or you might end up counting 5,000 different types of butterfly species in a laboratory. Or, you might have to gently persuade a sick rhinoceros to start feeding again. All of these require lots of patience and concentration. Zoologists often have a calm, patient manner -- something that also helps them stay relaxed around wild animals. If you're jittery, prone to sudden outbursts or simply can't keep still for more than a few minutes, then you may find zoology a poor fit.
There's more to zoology than just feeding animals and cleaning up poop. Many zoologists spend long, tiring hours in the research lab processing data and scientific samples. So you'll need a brain that can handle math, reasoning and interpretive skills. Zoologists must also communicate well with humans as well as animals. They often work in teams and have to explain new ideas and discoveries. So it helps to be easy to get along with and a good talker.
Animals are unpredictable. What seems like a friendly chipmunk at one moment is biting your thumb the next. And that's before you even consider working with lions and tigers. So, zoology is a potentially dangerous career. And it can also take you to some weird and wonderful places, from the deepest ravines to the summits of the highest mountains. You'll need a healthy appetite for adventure. Of course it also helps to be physically fit and mentally tough.
A zoologist must wonder about the world. Perhaps when you were a kid you wondered why baby chickens come from eggs, while the rest of your friends were just eating omelettes. This curiosity helps zoologists make interesting discoveries about animals and birds. Keeping an open mind about what you observe helps you to stay alive to new ideas and zoological breakthroughs. And that includes being open to investigating the various dungs and droppings of the animal kingdom.
2016 Salary Information for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
Zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a median annual salary of $60,520 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $48,360, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $76,320, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 19,400 people were employed in the U.S. as zoologists and wildlife biologists.
Based near London, U.K., Peter Mitchell has been a journalist and copywriter for over eight years. Credits include stories for "The Guardian" and the BBC. Mitchell is an experienced player and coach for basketball and soccer teams, and has written articles on nutrition, health and fitness. He has a First Class Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Bristol University.