Becoming a Zoologist: Job Description & Salary Info

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A zoologist's average salary is around $63,000. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a zoologist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Zoologist

Zoologists learn about the habitat and behavior of animals. You can learn other pros and cons to being a zoologist by reading below.

PROS of Becoming a Zoologist
Work can be rewarding when helping animals*
Variety of work settings: laboratories, offices and the outdoors*
Career advancement opportunities can allow you to pursue your own research*
Government employment opportunities*

CONS of Becoming a Zoologist
Extended amount of work time can be spent out in the field*
Physical stress can occur from fieldwork labor*
Irregular and long work hours are common during fieldwork*
Advanced education is necessary for higher-level positions*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Occupational Information

Job Description

The research a zoologist is assigned often determines what job duties he or she performs. For example, a zoologist might observe and tag animals in order to learn what their population is in a specific area. Tagging an animal also helps with learning migration patterns. Some zoologists take blood samples of animals to answer questions such as whether the animals in a particular area receive the necessary nutrition. The research a zoologist performs is often used to help make sure animal populations can continue to sustain themselves. Zoologists work to address any issues threatening the animal populations they study.

Salary Information

In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that zoologists earned about $63,000 on average annually. This resulted in an hourly average income of $30 or so. The zoologists in the top ten percentile of wage estimates earned about $97,000 per year. If you want to work in one of the best-paying states for zoologists, you'll want to look for employment in District of Columbia, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, or Massachusetts.

Job Outlook

Five percent growth in employment for zoologists nationwide was projected from 2012-2022 by the BLS. This growth, in comparison to growth for other occupations, is slower than average. Federal, state and local employment of zoologists by government agencies is dependent upon budgets. However, as human populations expand and grow, zoologists will be needed to observe wildlife and report changes that occur with animal populations in the territory upon which humans are encroaching.

Vocational Requirements

Education and Training

Entry-level zoologists require a bachelor's degree. You'll want to major in zoology or wildlife biology. Ecology or similar majors are typically considered acceptable as well. If you have an interest in a specific subcategory of animals, you'll want to take classes on that group of animals. For example, if you want to study birds, you would take ornithology courses. In order to advance as a zoologist, a master's degree is recommended. A doctoral degree is preferred if you want to get involved in independent research or teaching.

What Do Employers Want?

Many employers want zoologists with excellent speaking skills, because zoologists often given presentations or educate groups of people. Observation skills are also a must, since you need to notice even the tiniest changes in animals. Lastly, problem-solving skills are important; you have to come up with solutions to the changes and problems you've observed. You can learn what real employers looked for in zoologists by reading some information below that was summarized from job advertisements in November 2012.

  • In Texas, zoologists were needed for on-call positions that required travel to anywhere in the state or neighboring states.
  • An opening in Washington D.C. for a research zoologist required applicants to pass a background check and undergo a probationary period.
  • A Pennsylvania university preferred invertebrate zoologist applicants to have prior college teaching experience.
  • An academy in California looked for a collections manager with knowledge of invertebrate zoology.

How to Stand Out as a Zoologist

Studying computer science is one way you might be able to stand out from your peers. Modeling software and geographic information systems (GIS) are important tools used by zoologists. Familiarizing yourself with computer science technology can help you better understand and use these tools effectively. Interpersonal skills are considered important as well, since you often work with colleagues out in the field. Interpersonal communication also comes into play when you talk to locals about the wildlife. Local inhabitants can often tell you a lot about an area and they can assist you in making your research easier.

Other Career Choices

If you want to conduct research on animals for food safety purposes, you could look into being a food scientist. In this occupation, you research animals to see how their diet and health impact the food people eat. You can also make new food products or create better packaging, delivering or processing systems for food. The BLS projected 10% employment growth for food scientists from 2010-2020. Food scientists earned about $64,000 on average annually as of May 2011.

If you're interested in making sure animals stay healthy, you may want to consider a career as a veterinarian. These professionals treat and diagnosis medical problems in animals. A doctorate degree and a state license are typically necessary for this occupation. The average yearly salary for veterinarians in May 2011 was around $91,000. Veterinarians were expected to see a 36% growth in employment from 2010-2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.

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Johns Hopkins University

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Kaplan University

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Argosy University

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Grand Canyon University

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The George Washington University

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Penn Foster Career School

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