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Zoology Degree, Certificate and Certification Program Overviews

Read about educational programs in zoology. Learn about the topics covered, career options, employment outlook and continuing education for graduates.

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Essential Information

Individuals interested in studying animals can earn a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in zoology. Programs combine courses, lab studies and hands-on fieldwork to teach students about animals as individuals, groups, and members of a species. Topics explore animal biology from the cellular to ecosystem level, in addition to animal behaviors and social structures. Graduate students can choose to concentrate on a particular animal, such as elk or salmon, a group of animals, such as birds, fishes or mammals, or on a topic, such as environmental physiology.

Certificates in zoology aren't usually available, and professional certification is not typically required for employment unless career goals include working as a zoology or biology science teacher.

Bachelor's Degree in Zoology

A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Zoology generally requires a greater number of science courses than a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Zoology. In both programs, students are introduced to the origin and life processes of animals, from the cellular level to whole ecosystems. An understanding of animals' social and behavioral traits is also gained, along with the skills necessary to use data to determine environmental effects on animals. Students typically earn a high school diploma and complete college entrance exams prior to beginning studies at the college level.

Program Coursework

A bachelor's degree program includes required general education courses as well as introductory and advanced courses in zoology. Some course topics include:

  • Chemistry
  • Biology of primates
  • Genetics and evolution
  • Marine ecology

Popular Career Options

Baccalaureate degree programs prepare students for entry-level employment where typical job responsibilities may include providing lab assistance to researchers or collecting samples and performing research activities under supervision. Some possible career options for degree holders are:

  • Research assistant
  • Park ranger
  • Zookeeper

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Employers may require a minimum of a bachelor's degree for entry-level employment providing research assistance and support. Students interested in career advancement can obtain a master's degree in zoology or another related field. Doctoral degrees are also often required for those who'd like to perform original zoological research.

Students with a zoology degree may be able to become middle school or high school biology teachers. Teaching certification must typically be earned, with requirements for certification varying by state. College or university instructors usually hold a master's degree, with most college and universities preferring a doctoral degree.

Master's Degree in Zoology

A Master of Science (M.S.) or Master of Arts (M.A.) in Zoology program continues to build upon the principles and theories learned at the bachelor's level. An M.S. program generally has a stronger science requirement than an M.A. degree program. Students continue working closely with animals, like documenting life cycle and ecological events and changes through observation, collecting samples and monitoring wildlife habitats. They take advanced coursework in a variety of specialized topics and continue to enhance their laboratory skills and knowledge. Often at the graduate level, students can pick an area of concentration to study, such as birds, mammals, amphibians or marine life.

Educational Requirements

Students entering a master's degree program must first have a bachelor's degree in zoology or a closely related field, such as biology or chemistry. Select programs may require the recruiting of a faculty sponsor prior to application.

Program Coursework

A master's degree program curriculum is comprised of advanced seminar courses. Students may have the option of a thesis or non-thesis track. Some course topics include:

  • Animal behavior
  • Marine biology
  • Environmental physiology
  • Insects
  • Amphibians and reptiles

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Zoologists and wildlife biologists can look forward to a modest 7% increase in employment from 2010-2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( As of May 2012, the BLS also reported that zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a median annual salary of $57,710.

Doctor of Philosophy in Zoology

Doctoral candidates engage in extensive academic research, as well as gaining invaluable hands-on experience in field research and observational study of animals. Students in Ph.D. in Zoology programs often have the chance to perform highly focused work in a particular area of interest like neurobiology or behavior. Students may continue hands-on advanced research on the physical, biological and sociological aspects of animals, marine life and wildlife at specialized research centers and labs as well as out in the field. Some schools require that applicants hold a master's degree in zoology or a closely related field, while others simply require sufficient undergraduate coursework in math, chemistry and physics.

Program Coursework

Students conduct original research in preparation for their dissertations and may have responsibilities as teaching assistants. Students' course load is comprised mainly of classes related to their specialization, like:

  • Evolutionary genetics
  • Ecology of fishes
  • Biology of reproduction
  • Animal behavior

Popular Career Options

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a doctorate is generally required for careers that incorporate research responsibilities. Graduates of a doctoral degree program may embark on a career in zoology in some of the following capacities:

  • College or university instructor
  • Animal researcher
  • Animal behaviorist
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