Zoologist Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Zoologist, or Research Zoologist, is responsible for studying a wide variety of animal species and how they interact with themselves and their environments. Their duties include planning animal care needs like feeding schedules or habitat conditions, overseeing a team of professionals in administering daily care to animals and conducting research projects to learn more about a particular species.

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Zoologist duties and responsibilities

The job of the Zoologist includes a number of important primary functions and, in order to excel in the position, the person should possess a few critical traits such as being able to plan and organize, as well as be observant with good attention to detail and have the ability to record and analyze data.   

The daily duties include a number of tasks such as:

  • Studying animal behaviors, habits and characteristics
  • Designing and completing research projects to study animals
  • Publishing research reports that disclose and explain findings
  • Promoting the conservation of wildlife
  • Developing captive breeding programs
  • Examining the relationship and interactions between animals and their environment
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What does a Zoologist do?

Zoologists typically work for zoos, aquariums, wildlife rehabilitation facilities and other establishments within an office or laboratory environment. They work closely with other Zoologists to create hypotheses, conduct research and use their knowledge to enhance animal care at their workplace. Their job is to use their passion for wildlife to ask important questions that drive research initiatives. They may also be responsible for compiling their research into scientific reports or more conversational articles so both their colleagues and the general public can learn more about a species and its characteristics.

Zoologist skills and qualifications

There are a few prerequisite skills needed to be successful as a zoologist. Zoologists must be effective communicators, particularly in writing, as publishing research reports and papers is a major component of the job. Candidates should be observant in order to notice changes in animal appearance, behaviors and the surroundings. A zoologist must be good at analyzing and drawing conclusions from observation, experiments and research. Candidates must be problem-solvers and have the ability to provide solutions in regards to possible threats. The zoologist should be comfortable with technology and adept at handling data management software. Other qualifications needed include:

  • Proficiency with statistics and mathematics for advanced data analysis
  • A portfolio of published research papers with excellent communication skills
  • Attention to detail with advanced observation skills
  • Excellent social skills
  • An aptitude for continued learning 

Zoologist salary expectations

There is no data on Zoologists’ salaries published on Indeed.com, however, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for Zoologists in the U.S. is $63,420 a year. The publication is from May 2018. The salaries depend on the state and industry in which candidates work, as well as the branch of zoology.

Zoologist education and training requirements  

The training for a career as a Zoologist includes having a master’s degree in Zoology, and a Ph.D. is preferred. Some entry-level positions specify an undergraduate degree as a minimum requirement. Courses in the field of zoology or wildlife biology include anatomy, ecology, cellular biology and wildlife management. Entry-level candidates should be well-grounded in these fields. 

Additional courses in veterinary animal science, animal husbandry, animal behavior and ecology may be required for completion of the degree. Networking and certification through the Wildlife Society is an asset, and The Association of Zoos and Aquariums offers animal management information sessions, conferences and business benchmarking data to further participation in the field. Other resources for training and education are the Zoological Association of America and the International Society of Zoological Sciences

Zoologist experience requirements

Candidates should have previous experience working as a zoologist for a minimum of four years or have some experience in a related field. Those with experience volunteering at either animal shelters or the Humane Society may also be considered. Having worked part-time at a zoo or conservation camp will also be beneficial.

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There are different branches of Zoology, and growth in the field may be slower than other areas. This description may not be totally suitable for the position you’re seeking to fill, but there are scores of similar job descriptions on Indeed from which you may choose

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Frequently asked questions about Zoologists


What is the difference between a Zoologist and a Zookeeper?

The difference between a Zoologist and a Zookeeper is their levels of seniority and respective job duties. For example, Zoologists usually need to earn a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in wildlife biology. In contrast, Zookeepers need a high school diploma followed by onsite job training to qualify for their role. Because of their differences in education, Zoologists are much more focused on research. Although they may interact with animals, they spend most of their time in a laboratory or office setting. 

In contrast, Zookeepers work at zoos and participate in daily interactions with animals at their facility. They’re responsible for preparing food for different animal species, cleaning enclosures and notifying Zoo Veterinarians if an animal appears sick or injured.


What are the daily duties of a Zoologist?

On a typical day, a Zoologist starts by reviewing upcoming research deadlines and checking their email or voicemail to respond to time-sensitive messages. Throughout the day, Zoologists divide their time between reading scholarly articles, analyzing lab samples, writing reports and meeting with their colleagues. Zoologists working at facilities like zoos, aquariums or wildlife centers spend their downtime visiting with animal caretakers, asking them questions about their observations and interacting with animals up-close.


What qualities make a good Zoologist?

A good Zoologist has an investigative mindset that motivates them to develop new hypotheses and perform research activities. They value continued education and make sure they devote time to reading scholarly articles or studying new species. They also have excellent written communication, allowing them to write comprehensive research reports for others to review. Further, a good Zoologist enjoys fieldwork, inspiring them to travel to different locations to interact with and observe animals in their natural habitats. A good Zoologist also has the ability to work as part of a team to accomplish research projects.


Who does a Zoologist report to?

A Zoologist usually reports to different roles depending on their place of employment. For example, Zoologists who work for zoos or aquariums usually report to the Zoo Director. However, they may also report to the Director or Research if their employer has a large research facility in addition to public viewing areas. If Zoologists work specifically for government agencies or biology laboratories, they likely report to a Senior Zoologist or Program Manager.

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