Zookeepers care for animals of all sizes, manage their habitats, feed and bathe them, and watch out for their health. A zookeeper is a popular job that often has many applicants for a single opening. Finding the best way to differentiate yourself from other applicants starts as early as picking the right degree.
High School Degree
Technically, a zookeeper only needs to have a high school degree. However, competition is so fierce for zookeeper jobs that a bachelor's degree is necessary in most places to get the job. Having only a high school degree may not even get you an interview.
Zoology or Animal Science Degree
A bachelor's degree in any life science major will qualify you to be a zookeeper, although a zoology or animal science degree might be favored at some zoos. Most importantly, make sure that your degree focuses on an animal-related field, such as conservation, ecology or animal behavior, and take as many animal-related courses as possible.
Keeper Training Programs
Although not a requirement, zookeeper applicants who have taken a zookeeper specialty program might have an advantage over the competition. Only a few keeper training programs are available in the United States. One such program is at the Santa Fe Community College Teaching Zoo in Gainesville, Florida. Volunteering at a zoo or conservation program in addition to having a relevant bachelor's degree can also help.
Being a zookeeper is fun, and the competition is fierce. The job involves a lot of hard work, requiring long hours, less-than-glamorous moments, and a real commitment to the animals and their health. But anyone with a passion for animals would truly enjoy the work and not mind the commitment.
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.