Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist
A zoologist or wildlife biologist could...
|Design physically and mentally stimulating habitats for zoo animals.||Track whales during their migrations to monitor population sizes.|
|Educate park visitors about local wildlife.||Take blood samples from raccoons to monitor levels of rabies and other diseases.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Ever wondered what wild animals do all day, where a certain species lives, or how to make sure a species doesn't go extinct? Zoologists and wildlife biologists tackle all these questions. They study the behaviors and habitats of wild animals, while also working to maintain healthy populations, both in the wild and in captivity.|
|Key Requirements||An intense interest in animals and good logic skills|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, geometry, calculus, English; if available, environmental science, statistics|
|Projected Job Growth (2010-2020)||Average (7% to 13%)|
Training, Other Qualifications
A bachelor degree in an natural sciences field such as zoology, ecology, general biology, animal science, or wildlife biology is the minimum requirement for a career in zoology or wildlife biology. However the job market is extremely competitive so higher degrees, like a masters or doctoral degree, may increase chances for career advancement.
In addition to formal education, informal job training through internships and volunteering is recommended. Informal training is a way of showing prospective employers your dedication as well as a valuable way of gaining real world experience. Local museums, aquariums, zoos, and nature preserves often offer volunteer opportunities.
Education and Training
A bachelor's degree in an natural sciences field such as zoology, ecology, general biology, animal science, or wildlife biology is the minimum requirement for an entry-level position as a zoologist or wildlife biologist. Additional coursework in statistics, data modeling, and computer science are an advantage for zoologists and wildlife biologists who will be focusing on research and need good data-analysis skills.
Because competition for jobs is high, a master's degree can be an advantage. Also, some employers require a master's degree for advancement beyond entry-level positions. A PhD is required for most university-based positions, such as a professor in a zoology department.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists interested in conducting research in the field need to be physically fit and capable of carrying packs full of equipment.
Nature of the Work
Watch this Real Scientists video from PBS Kids' Dragonfly TV. Do chimpanzees recognize faces? How would you even study that question? Watch primatologist Lisa Parr, a wildlife biologist who studies monkeys and apes, tackle that very question.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists study every aspect of wild animals—their origins, behaviors, diseases, habitats, life cycles, population structures, and genetics. Some experiment with live animals in controlled or natural surroundings, while others dissect dead animals to study their physiology and health. Zoologists and wildlife biologists may also collect and analyze biological data to determine the impact that human uses of land and water resources have on local animal populations.
Some zoologists and wildlife biologists are involved in conservation work, helping to understand and preserve at-risk populations of animals. They may also work to set up and maintain good environments for animals in nature preserves and zoos. Zoologists usually are identified by the animal group they study. For example, ornithologists study birds, mammalogists study mammals, herpetologists study reptiles, and ichthyologists study fish.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists, particularly those in academia, may spend a significant amount of time writing. This can take various forms, including scientific articles discussing research results, ecology reports, and funding requests.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists work in a wide variety of positions both indoors and outdoors. They conduct research both in the field and in laboratories or other controlled settings, analyze data using computer models and statistics, and educate the public about their findings.
Research that involves direct observation of the animals in their natural habitat may require long spans of time outdoors in rustic conditions. Occasionally these positions require the zoologist or wildlife biologist to live in remote locations, like in the case of an ornithologist studying the nesting behaviors of King Penguins in Antarctica.
Federal and state agencies, like the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, employ a large number of zoologists and wildlife biologists. Jobs can also be found with universities, typically as professors, zoos, non-profit organizations, museums, environmental consulting firms, and hunting ranches.
On the Job
- Study animals in their natural habitats, assessing effects of environment and industry on animals, interpreting findings and recommending alternative operating conditions for industry.
- Inventory or estimate plant and wildlife populations.
- Analyze characteristics of animals to identify and classify them.
- Make recommendations on management systems and planning for wildlife populations and habitat, consulting with stakeholders and the public at large to explore options.
- Disseminate information by writing reports and scientific papers or journal articles, and by making presentations and giving talks for schools, clubs, interest groups and park interpretive programs.
- Study characteristics of animals such as origin, interrelationships, classification, life histories and diseases, development, genetics, and distribution.
- Perform administrative duties such as fundraising, public relations, budgeting, and supervision of zoo staff.
- Organize and conduct experimental studies with live animals in controlled or natural surroundings.
- Oversee the care and distribution of zoo animals, working with curators and zoo directors to determine the best way to contain animals, maintain their habitats and manage facilities.
- Coordinate preventive programs to control the outbreak of wildlife diseases.
- Prepare collections of preserved specimens or microscopic slides for species identification and study of development or disease.
- Raise specimens for study and observation or for use in experiments.
- Collect and dissect animal specimens and examine specimens under microscope.
Companies That Hire Zoologist and Wildlife Biologists
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- Animal Magnetism: Do Large Mammals Align Themselves with Earth's Magnetic Field?
- Antlion Pits in Open Sand or Under Leaf Cover
- Are There Bugs Under Your Feet?
- Are We There Yet? Test How Migratory Birds Navigate
- Ask a Cricket, 'What is The Temperature?'
- Attractants and Repellants
- Bat Detector: Listen to the Secret Sounds of Bats
- Biodiversity Survey
- Bug Vacuums: Sucking up Biodiversity
- Can You Predict a Bird's Lifestyle Based on Its Feet?
- Crystal Ball Math: Predicting Population Growth with Models
- Day or Night?
- Do Migratory Birds Like It Hot?
- Do Milkweed Bugs Show a Color Preference for Egg-Laying Sites?
- Does Temperature Affect the Rate of Butterfly Development?
- Dog Toys: What Makes One a Favorite or a Flop to Fido?
- Feeding Earthworms: Do Different Diets Affect Them and the Soil They Enrich?
- Finding Phyla
- Froggy Forecasting: How Frog Health Predicts Pond Health
- Get Rid of Those Leftovers: How Much Organic Waste Can Composting Worms Eat?
Do you have a specific question about a career in Zoology that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- BLS. (2009). Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2008-09 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://www.bls.gov/oco/
- O*Net Online. (2009). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://online.onetcenter.org/
- ThinkQuest participants Alyssa and Moriah. (2001). Interview with Chris Nadareski, Wildlife Biologist and Peregrine Expert for NYC Department of Environmental Protection. Retrieved August 8, 2009, from http://library.thinkquest.org/J0110524/chris.html
- Susman, T. (1996, November 14). Re: What is it like to be a zoologist? Retrieved August 8, 2009, from http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/1996-12/847866722.Zo.r1.html
- TPT. (2006). Real Scientists: Steve Blair. DragonflyTV, Twin Cities Public Television. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from http://pbskids.org/dragonflytv/scientists/scientist49.html
- TPT. (2006). Real Scientists: Lisa Parr. DragonflyTV, Twin Cities Public Television. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from http://pbskids.org/dragonflytv/scientists/scientist22.html
- Houston Zoo. (n.d.) Melanie Powell. Retrieved August 29, 2009, from http://www.houstonzoo.org/melanie-powell