Working Conditions of Zoologists & Wildlife Biologists

Marine biologists may spend the greater part of their working life on and under the sea.
i George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Marine biologists may spend the greater part of their working life on and under the sea.

Zoologists and wildlife biologists – they are actually the same occupation – may be found in just about any corner, niche, nook or cranny of the globe. People in these occupations often have some of the most physically demanding jobs anywhere. Although some zoologists may spend much of their time in zoos, laboratories or offices, even these folks are often found out in the wilds studying various kinds of wildlife. Dr. Jane Goodall, for example, has spent many years in the jungle studying chimpanzees in Gombe, Africa.

Education, Salaries and Travel

Zoologists need an extensive education before they can start their careers. A bachelor's degree is the minimum qualification and many zoologists have doctorates, especially if they want to do research. Zoologists earned an average annual salary of $57,240 in 2011, according to ONET Online. Zoologists should definitely not mind traveling; even if they are located close to their usual workplace, field trips may take them just about anywhere, in any kind of weather or climate conditions.

Marine Biologists

Zoologists who focus on ocean wildlife are typically called marine biologists, but within that discipline they may specialize in dolphins, whales, fish – these scientists are called ichthyologists – or any other kind of marine life. They may spend months at sea on a research ship in all kinds of weather, collect specimens and observe marine animals by skin-diving, or perform research on shellfish in controlled laboratory conditions. Marine biologists may work in shark-infested waters inside shark cages or snorkel in areas where barracudas or manta rays pose a risk.

Reptiles, Butterflies and Snakes

Herpetologists, lepidopterists and entomologists, who respectively study reptiles, butterflies and insects, observe these critters in their natural habitat whenever possible. A herpetologist may travel to the desert to learn about sidewinder rattlesnakes, and must know how to handle the snakes to prevent the possibility of being bitten. Lepidopterists may spend their winters in Mexico, studying migration patterns of Monarch butterflies. An entomologist may simply go out into a nearby park to study insects such as a praying mantis or may travel to a foreign country to research a more exotic form of insect life. Although butterflies are unlikely to be dangerous, many insects bite, sting or can carry diseases.

Work Settings

Some zoologists travel to a particular area and stay there for long periods, observing wildlife that remains within a well-defined territory. Jane Goodall spent months living in tents in Gombe when she began her studies of chimpanzees. Other zoologists might follow migratory birds from birth to death, and cover thousands of miles in the process. A fisheries biologist may be able to spend her entire working life in a relatively small area, working in a fish hatchery or a laboratory. A zoologist who specializes in animal genetics might spend her entire career in the lab and an office environment.

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.

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