What Does a Zoologist Do?
Zoologists are biologists who study animal species. Their studies involve researching animal behavior and characteristics to determine how they interact with their ecosystems. Typical duties for a zoologist include research projects, writing reports, ensuring animal welfare, and promoting conservation efforts. They are also responsible for managing animal populations in both captivity and the wild.
A zoologist can specialize their work across a related group of animals or concentrate their studies on a single species. They must enjoy the outdoors, where most of their research and management takes place. Excellent critical thinking and communication skills are essential for zoologists to draw conclusions and effectively communicate them.
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National Average Salary
Zoologist salaries vary by experience, industry, organization size, and geography. To explore salary ranges by local market, please visit our sister site zengig.com.
The average U.S. salary for a Zoologist is:
Zoologist Job Descriptions
It’s important to include the right content in your job description when hiring a zoologist. The following examples can serve as templates for attracting the best available talent for your team.
ABC Company is currently seeking a full-time Zoologist to provide world-class animal care to a wide variety of species, with a focus on our large carnivores (tigers, jaguars, black bears), avian (psittacines, waterfowl, birds of prey), primates (callitrichids, spiders, capuchins) and small mammal collection.
We are in the process of re-imagining of our beautiful tropical Zoo, and are looking to bring in new expertise and enthusiasm. The Zoo staff work in a positive, team-oriented environment to support our mission to inspire people to act on behalf of wildlife. Zoologists promote increased environmental awareness and conservation through excellent animal care and management practices, coupled with positive visitor experiences.
The ideal candidate will have a strong animal care background with a deep experience in operant conditioning, welfare input/outputs, habitat design criteria, animal nutrition and animal social interactions, including introductions and breeding. They will also have experience engaging visitors with formal and informal animal encounters where they share their passion for animal wellness and preservation of wild places. Finally, they will demonstrate a solid track record of workplace competency performance, including communication, teamwork, efficiency, emotional intelligence, leadership, planning, change management and administration.
- Minimum of 2 years’ paid experience in a zoological facility caring for animals
- Bachelor’s degree (Biology, Psychology or a related field) is preferred
- Experience with the husbandry and behavior of a variety of birds, mammals and primates
- Physically able to stoop, bend, reach, lift, carry or push at least 50 pounds in a south Florida climate
- Must have valid driver’s license, able to work weekends, holidays and special events as needed
- Demonstrated ability to research and write effectively
- Participation in AZA programs and other zoo related organizations
- Use hand and power tools for minor carpentry and habitat modification projects
- Demonstrated initiative and problem solving
- Competence in behavior analysis and animal training
- Excellent communication skills with co-workers, managers and veterinary staff
- Be familiar with AZA, USDA and FWC regulations and expectations
- Integrity/Trust — Maintaining social, ethical, and organizational values and norms; building trust and confidence with the staff and with internal and external customers; respecting the confidentiality of personal and proprietary information.
- Initiative — Taking actions to achieve goals; self-starting and proactive; asserting oneself to support others in the achievement of their goals; originating action rather than responding only to the actions of others; anticipating the needs of both internal and external constituencies.
- Customer Focus – Demonstrates courtesy, cooperation and friendliness with staff, volunteers and customers. Actively listens, anticipates and evaluates the customer’s needs. Ensures that customer satisfaction is a priority in all areas of responsibility. Actively engages our customers while fulfilling job responsibilities.
- Analysis—Obtaining relevant information and identifying key issues and relationships from a base of information; comparing data from different sources (both interactive and written); defining underlying problems or opportunities and recognizing trends; defining and structuring functions and teams based on key strategies and goals.
- Teamwork — Supporting, facilitating, and participating in activities that promote team effectiveness; demonstrating sensitivity for the feelings and needs of team members and supporting team goals.
- Professional/Technical Knowledge and Competency — Remains current on developments in the field within and outside the organization; maintains proficiencies
- Planning and Organizing — Establishing a course of action with specific long-range goals for the Zoo; setting priorities among competing requirements and allocating resources in the most efficient and effective way; developing contingency plans that participate changes in the work environment.
- Collaboration — Works well with people outside their immediate work group.
Minimum duties & responsibilities:
- Perform animal husbandry tasks (feed, clean, train, etc) for terrestrial animals (mammals, birds, primates, reptiles) – daily
- Clean, maintain and improve animal care facilities, including service areas and surrounding spaces – daily
- Enhance the welfare of the animals by observing and understanding animal behaviors and analyzing welfare outputs to increase mental stimulation and choice within the animal’s environment -daily
- Plan, prepare and feed out nutritious diets – daily
- Assist veterinary team during animal health diagnostic and care procedures – as needed
- Complete animal records including: animal feeding habits, diets, breeding behavior, health status, physical conditions, enrichment and training – daily
- Communicate safety and health concerns to appropriate staff – as needed
- Participate in the capture and restraint of animals for transfer and veterinary procedures – as needed
- Participate in animal behavioral training program and commit to learning training techniques – as needed
- Design and execute behavioral shaping plans for all animals under their care – as needed
- Participate in exhibit concept design and collection planning discussions – as needed
- Provide informal guest presentations – daily
- Initiate informal talks and encounters – daily
- Participate in educational programs as assigned (zoo camp, fee based encounters, etc) – as needed
- Handle program animals for events and encounters – as needed
- Participate in drills and emergency response and provide feedback on the experience – as needed
- Safely operate vans, pickup trucks, golf carts, hand tools, power tools, personal computers, laboratory equipment and general office equipment. – as needed
- Proactively seek out experiences and information to enhance professional skills and knowledge – daily
This is an entry-level position, on-call position in animal care, following established protocols to provide outstanding animal care for species in the section: food preparation, feeding, exhibit maintenance, pest control, and reproductive management. This is a non-benefited position working up to 29 hours per week for up to 6 months.
Specific duties and responsibilities
- Provide overall daily care of assigned animals and exhibits to ensure animal health, safety, and welfare, staff and public safety as set forth by AZA, USDA, and DZM to include:
- Observe and monitor animals’ general health and behavior, reporting any abnormal behavior to supervisor and/or veterinary staff;
- Prepare and provide food for assigned animals, following written instructions, provide water and administer medication as instructed to ensure proper nutrition and health;
- Clean animal exhibits, holding pens, food prep areas, and equipment, maintaining a high level of sanitation, conducting pest control activities and reporting any mechanical defects that would endanger the animal, zoo staff, and/or guests;
- Achieve the highest standards of animal welfare and wellness by providing environmental enrichment and training sessions, using operant conditioning, as applicable;
- Participate in or assist with the capture and restraint of a variety of taxa including dangerous species
- Prepare and update animal records, reports and surveys, assisting in research projects as necessary to ensure thorough documentation and enhanced knowledge of animal biology;
- Perform general maintenance and repair of exhibits: painting, repairing fences and shelters, abating erosion, planting ground cover and removing weeds;
- Provide assistance with animal transfers and/or procedures as directed;
- Interact positively and professionally with animal care and veterinary staff and volunteers;
- Actively encourage interest in wildlife through positive interaction with zoo guests via educational presentations focused on animals, biology, conservation, and environmental issues;
- Utilize the enrichment item/device proposal form to create new enrichment ideas and items to be added to taxa repertoires and properly record the results of enrichment items after each use;
- Collaborate with other zoo personnel as needed to meet the zoo’s mission. This can include, but is not limited to, assisting and participating in media events, special tours, and public relations projects;
- Participate in and support zoo-wide initiatives, committees, and work groups;
- Understand and support ABC Zoo’s Strategic and Master Plans and departmental collection plans;
- Study specific reference materials pertinent to animal care, behavior and natural history as assigned;
- Follow all safety protocols and understand the animal keeper’s role in emergency procedures, responding to emergencies as required;
- Be able to supervise and train volunteers and interns within department as needed;
- Assist with the beautification of our park by removing trash and debris whenever you see
- Assist with and raise awareness for AZA SAFE programs;
- Perform other duties as assigned.
- A Bachelor’s degree in an animal science, biology, or related science field OR an Associate’s degree in an animal science, biology, or related science field plus up to one year of paid animal care experience is required;
- Must have knowledge of animal care and basic husbandry skills, and up to one year preferred of exotic animal care experience at an AZA-accredited facility
- Must be a flexible, efficient, self-motivated team player, and solution-oriented: finding creative solutions to complex challenges;
- Must have basic knowledge of research techniques and practices, with solid observation skills;
- Must be capable of practicing, or willing to learn, safe methods of capture and restraint for a variety of taxa (which may include potentially dangerous species);
- Must be able to establish and maintain an effective rapport with all levels of management, employees, interns, volunteers, and zoo guests;
- Must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing, following instructions and documenting animal care activities appropriately;
- Ability to represent the Zoo in a professional manner at all times;
- Ability to exercise sound judgment in emergency situations and to respond with appropriate action;
- Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationship with management, other employees & zoo guests;
- Must be able to walk, stand, sit, kneel, stoop, crawl, twist, reach above head, pull bend, climb stairs and ladders and carry up to 50 lbs;
- Must be able to work holidays and weekends, both regular and irregular hours as required;
- Regular, reliable and punctual attendance is an essential function of this position;
- Must be able to actively work outdoors in hot or inclement weather;
- Successful candidates must complete pre-employment drug screening, background check and TB test;
- Must have a valid driver’s license to operate zoo vehicles and reliable transportation.
- Responsible for providing consistent care and training of all assigned animals
- Work in a consistent, professional, and positive manner displaying consideration, tolerance, cooperation, open communication, and reliability
- Learn and demonstrate required training and handling protocols for any applicable animals
- Follow all husbandry, training, and safety protocols for the specified zoological area(s) including all daily SOP’s
- Demonstrate the ability to safely work with a very diverse collection of animals including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
- Experience with elephants, great apes, or big cats preferred.
- Lead and engage in all aspects of guest interaction programs both on and off property
- Maintain safe and sanitary animal habitat(s) and working area
- Enter daily, weekly, and monthly records using TRACKS record keeping system
- Create and administer animal enrichment to enhance animal welfare and training goals
- Maintain current behaviors for all applicable animals, train new behaviors to completion under minimal supervision
- Demonstrate the ability to recognize the overall health of each animal via daily observations
- Demonstrate knowledge of and the ability to discuss the natural history of the animals in assigned area(s)
- Demonstrate the understanding of the SOPs for an animal escape and the responsibilities of being onsite during this situation
- Participate as requested in animal outreach presentations including school visits, animal appearances in various media and stage presentations.
- Provide coaching and mentoring to Ambassadors as assigned
- Contribute to the review process for Ambassadors under their mentorship
- Deliver department seminars*
- Must have 5 years of Professional Zoological animal experience
- Must be at least 18 years of age High School diploma or GED required (College level courses or degree preferred)
- Must have a clean driving record and possess the ability to operate a company vehicle
- Must be able to spend long periods of time standing and be comfortable working outdoors in a variety of conditions in the state of Florida Proficient with the principles of Operant Conditioning, specifically the application of positive reinforcement training
- Excellent customer service skills
- Able to frequently lift/move 50 pounds, occasionally lift/move up to 100 pounds stand for prolonged periods of time
- Flexible schedule to work weekends, holidays, early mornings, and late evenings
- Strong written/verbal communication skills; ability to speak effectively before groups
- Willingness to work in any animal area as assigned
Sample Interview Questions
- Why have you chosen to pursue a career in zoology?
- Which experiences have prepared you for working with wildlife?
- How would you use data in your zoological research?
- Are there any animals you would prefer not to work with?
- Which events will significantly impact zoological research in the next ten years?
- How do you keep abreast of developments in the zoological community?
- What is your process for making difficult decisions when it comes to animal care?
- What motivates you to be the best zoologist you can be?
- Tell me about a time you went above and beyond the expectations of your position to care for an animal.
- As a zoologist, why is it important to closely follow policy and direction?