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.
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