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Zoologist


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Zoologist Job Description

A zoologist is a type of biologist who specializes in the animal kingdom, from unicellular organisms and pet iguanas to rare species living deep under the sea. 

Zoology is the study of animals and the environments that influence them. Animal science experts may focus on wild animals, livestock, or pets. They may study the whole creature, just its cells, or the entirety of its social system and habitat. College-level study in this life sciences discipline can lead to many different kinds of jobs. 

Zoologists hold many job titles. They might work as, for instance, predator managers, wildlife rehabilitators, or animal pharmacologists. Most spend significant time in indoor labs and offices, crunching data and running experiments. Many also work outdoors, raising offspring in controlled conditions, for example, or observing animals in their natural habitats.


Zoologist Duties

On a typical work day, a zoologist might:

  • Manage wildlife or livestock population numbers
  • Apply an expert understanding of animal biology and disease to quality control processes
  • Identify the characteristics, behavior, and habitats of different animal species
  • Collaborate with colleagues on zoological research projects
  • Conduct experiments to solve practical problems related to animals
  • Teach and advise students in a university setting
  • Write out research reports and present findings
  • Carry out independent research and publish work


Alternative Job Titles

  • Wildlife biologist
  • Animal biologist
  • Animal scientist


How To Become A Zoologist

The extent of a zoology education depends on the specific career desired. A zoology student may want to become a full veterinarian or simply a sales rep. In the latter's case, a bachelor's degree and sales experience may be sufficient. A veterinarian, on the other hand, will need many more years of training, including 3 to 6 years of veterinary school, plus board certification.


Zoology scientists who want to conduct independent research and make contributions to the zoologic field of knowledge should aim for a Ph.D. This will enable them to research in a variety of settings, including academia. Alternatively, a master's degree in zoology or a related specialization is competitive for many government jobs.


Some students earn both an M.S. and Ph.D., one after the other. Still others begin work with only a bachelor's degree, though doing so can constrict a bachelor's career options compared to a research-capable zoologist with a graduate education.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Zoologist?

It takes 4 years to earn a bachelor's degree in Zoology. Master degrees typically takes around 2 years to complete, and Ph.D.s can take another 5 to 7 years, depending on the area of research and supervisory committee requirements.


Education Requirements

In many government positions, a combination of education and experience contribute to hiring outcomes. Those with higher levels of education will have the widest opportunities, while those with less education can get an edge by demonstrating industry experience.

The ideal job applicant, of course, has both experience and high levels of education. Many positions emphasize such a combination; for this reason, it's recommended that even undergraduate students participate in real-world work settings. They should find ways to observe the research process among practicing zoology professionals. These kind of eye-opening experiences are also helpful preparation for graduate school.


Certification

There is no prevailing national certification for zoologists per se, although particular emphases in this field of study may have their own certifications. Someone pursuing zoological science into the veterinary sector, for example, may become certified as a veterinarian with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners.


Licensing

It is not necessary to obtain a license to practice zoology, although some positions may be subject to regulations.


Job Outlook

Zoologists along with wildlife biologists will see moderate job growth of about 7 percent for the 2010–2020 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Because a majority of zoologists are employed by government agencies, the availability of jobs tends to vary with the flow of government funds. However, areas like animal conservation and food safety inspection have become more important and will sustain future job opportunities for qualified zoologists. Detailed Zoologist salary data is available here.


States With Highest Employment Levels

State Hourly mean Wage Annual mean salary # Employed Employment/1000 jobs
California $33.32 $69,300 2,310 0.16
Washington $33.29 $69,250 1,880 0.68
Florida $25.11 $52,220 1,350 0.19
Oregon $31.55 $65,620 1,330 0.83
Alaska $32.47 $67,540 860 2.71


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