Studying Zoology: Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance
Degree programs in zoology focus on the study of animal life. Zoology encompasses animal behavior, life habits, body structure, and evolution. Associate's degree programs in zoology are typically designed to help you transfer to a 4-year degree program rather than prepare you for a career. However, associate's programs could prepare you to become a biological aide and assist wildlife researchers out in the field. A bachelor's degree could qualify you to work as a zookeeper or biological/wildlife technician. You might also have opportunities to assist in performing research as a zoologist or wildlife biologist.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of animal caretakers, which includes zookeepers, would grow 23% during the 2010-2020 decade. However, the BLS noted that employment of zookeepers specifically was expected to grow more slowly. The BLS also predicted that wildlife technicians would experience a 14% increase in employment, and zoologists and wildlife biologists would experience a 7% increase.
|Who is this degree for?||People who would like to learn more about animals and transfer into a bachelor's degree program||Students interested in working with animals and possibly assisting in research projects|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary)|| - Nonfarm animal caretaker ($20,000)*|
- Biological aide (unavailable)
| - Biological technician ($39,000)*|
- Zoologist or wildlife biologist ($57,000)*
|Time to Completion||2 years full-time||4 years full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements||No additional requirements beyond completion of typical coursework for associate's degrees||Some programs have an internship requirement|
|Prerequisites||Usually one of the following:|
- High school diploma
- Be 18 years of age
| - High school diploma |
- SAT or ACT scores
|Online Availability||Some courses available online||Some courses available online|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Associate's Degree in Zoology
An associate's degree in zoology can qualify you for a job as an animal caregiver or biological aide, or it can prepare you to transfer to a bachelor's degree program. These programs are heavily focused on the sciences, and you may take several chemistry and biology courses. The courses you take may be the same as the courses you'd find in the first two years of a bachelor's degree program in zoology. Animal caregiver positions usually don't require formal training, but an associate's degree could help you stand out from the competition. You may need to complete additional on-the-job training for caregiving jobs.
Pros and Cons
- If you love animals, an associate's degree program can prepare you to work with them.
- If you decide to continue your education after earning your associate's degree, it might take only two more years to earn your bachelor's.
- As a biological aide, your job might make a positive contribution to the health of local wildlife.
- There is a risk of bites and scratches from animals you care for.
- Animal caregiver jobs usually don't require formal training.
- Associate's degree programs in zoology aren't designed to train you for a specific career.
Common Course Requirements
Zoology programs that lead to associate's degrees usually require many related science courses in addition to zoology courses. Your other science courses might include general biology, ecology, and chemistry. General education courses, such as English composition, math, social science, and speech, are also required. Some programs culminate in a transfer degree, which usually guarantees that your courses will transfer to a bachelor's degree program at a specified university. This might be a good option if you want to earn a bachelor's degree in zoology, but want to save money during your first two years.
Online Course Info
Associate's degree programs in zoology are not offered completely online, but many schools do offer some courses online. You can keep an eye open for online courses that are approved for your major. General education requirements, such as English, are more likely to be offered online than science courses like biology or zoology since science courses usually have lab components, which require hands-on learning.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
Since career options are very limited if you have only an associate's degree in zoology, continuing your education may be necessary to qualify for a job that meets your interests; earning a bachelor's degree will open doors to many more careers in the field. If you're thinking of entering a bachelor's degree program in zoology after you earn your associate's degree, look into the program requirements for the schools you are considering. Some undergraduate programs are more competitive than others. To raise your chances of getting into the bachelor's program of your choice, keep a high GPA and take as many related science courses as your associate's program will allow. Courses in any of the life sciences and chemistry would be helpful in making your transcript stand out to an admissions officer.
Other Degrees to Consider
If it is difficult for you to find an associate's degree program near you that focuses on zoology, you might consider an associate's degree program in biology. Associate's degree programs in biology usually have degree requirements similar to those in zoology. You'll also qualify for the same jobs as you would with a degree in zoology.
Bachelor's Degree in Zoology
A career as a zoologist, zookeeper, wildlife biologist, or wildlife technician might be open to you as a graduate of a bachelor's degree program in zoology. While associate's degree programs focus on more general aspects of zoology, bachelor's degree programs might allow you to choose a concentrations or focus, such as marine biology, genetics, or animal behavior. As a bachelor's degree student, you might find internship and research opportunities that could later prove useful in securing a job.
Pros and Cons
- With a bachelor's degree in zoology, you'll be qualified for a broader range of jobs than with only an associate's degree.
- As a zoologist or wildlife biologist, you may travel all over the world to observe animals in your research.
- Depending on what organization or agency you work for, you might get the chance to be involved in research that contributes to the conservation of endangered wildlife species.
- As a zookeeper or wildlife biologist, your work might be conducted outdoors and in harsh weather conditions.
- Competition is very high for zookeeper positions.*
- A master's degree or Ph.D. is usually required for more advanced research positions in zoology or wildlife biology.
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 job outlook figures)
Common Course Requirements
Coursework requirements in a bachelor's degree program in zoology are designed to prepare you for a range of careers in the field of animal life. Some programs offer concentrations or electives to choose from, enabling you to tailor your program to your interests. If you're interested in animal behavior, you could choose courses that focus on neurology, development, genetics, and evolution. Courses that focus on animal nutrition, conservation, and ethics could develop your degree into one that prepares you for a career as a zookeeper.
Knowledge of chemistry, physics, and math are important to this field as well, so be prepared to take a combination of courses in each of these subjects. All this will be in addition to general education requirements.
Online Course Options
Currently, there are no online bachelor's degree programs in zoology. However, some schools allow you to take general education courses online, and some even have zoology-related courses available online.
Stand Out with This Degree
Because zookeeper jobs are so competitive, any work experience and extracurricular activities in the field might raise your chances of successfully acquiring the job you want. Some college internships at zoos are very competitive as well; if internships are unavailable to you, volunteering at your local zoo or wildlife department might be a good place to start gaining experience. As a volunteer, you'll receive on-the-job training that could be relevant to your field, giving your resume a boost when you apply for internships and jobs. If you're interested in working in research, look for opportunities to participate in research while completing your degree to gain valuable experience.