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Zookeeper: Job Duties, Outlook and Salary

Zookeepers require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if caring for zoo animals is the right career for you.

Zookeeping involves managing and maintaining zoo animals and their environment. A typical zookeeper has a bachelor's degree in a relevant field and earns around $30,000 a year. While job openings for zookeepers are only increasing slowly, general animal care and service workers are expected to see growth at a higher than average rate.

Essential Information

Zookeepers feed, clean and monitor zoo animals to ensure their health and comfort remains consistent. Potential zookeepers face strong competition for positions and can increase their employment opportunities by graduating with at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant field and gaining experience working with animals.

Recommended Education Bachelor's degree in animal sciences, biology, zoology or related field
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% for all animal care and service workers (may be slower for zookeepers)
Median Annual Salary (2016)** $29,897

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **PayScale.com.

Zookeeper Job Description

Zookeepers are responsible for the wellbeing of the animals living in zoos. The job requires a keeper to routinely complete a number of tasks for the animals, such as bathing, feeding and exercising.

Zookeepers must follow very specific feeding instructions for each animal, and keepers are often expected to work weekends and holidays to ensure the animals are fed routinely. They must provide drinking water for the animals, keep their living spaces clean, and help train or entertain them.

Much of a zookeeper's job involves monitoring the animals and making sure they do not become sick or injured. They keep notes on their eating habits, watch for odd behavior, and provide veterinarians with relevant information about their health.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted an 11% increase in the employment for all animal care and service workers between 2014 and 2024; however, employment of zookeepers was predicted to grow more slowly than other positions (www.bls.gov).

Although there are no formal education requirements, many zookeepers are expected to have earned a college degree in a relevant field. Bachelor's degree programs in zoology, biology, animal science and marine biology provide potential zookeepers with the knowledge and skills to work with animals. In these programs, students are taught a range of subjects including animal behavior, nutrition, genetics, microbiology, reproduction and physiology.

Other ways for potential zookeepers to prepare for careers include gaining entry-level work experience in veterinary offices, animal shelters or farms. Volunteering with a zoo will also give potential keepers a strong opportunity for advancement.

Salary Info

According to PayScale.com, the salary range for zookeepers was $18,074-$39,725 per year in January 2016. Factors that influence the salary of a zookeeper include years of experience, size of zoo, geographic location and current economic conditions.

For those who wish to become zookeepers, a bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline is strongly advisable as job competition is intense, even though job growth is strong. Zookeepers must know how to handle different types of animals and their temperaments. Salaries vary, depending on experience and the employer, but the median pay for zookeepers in 2016 was around $30,000.

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