Zoology degree 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, fish or mammals, or on a topic, such as environmental physiology. A high school diploma and placement exams are required for entry into a bachelor's program, a bachelor's degree in zoology or related field for a master's program, and a master's degree in zoology or related field for a doctoral program. A thesis or dissertation are required for many programs as well.
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. These programs also include general education courses, in addition to introductory and advanced courses in zoology. Some course topics include:
- Biology of primates
- Genetics and evolution
- Marine ecology
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, 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. Students may have the option of a thesis or non-thesis track. Some course topics include:
- Animal behavior
- Marine biology
- Environmental physiology
- Amphibians and reptiles
Doctor of Philosophy in Zoology
Doctoral candidates engage in extensive academic research, as well as 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. Students conduct original research in preparation for their dissertations and may have responsibilities as teaching assistants. Students' course loads are comprised mainly of classes related to their specialization, such as:
- Evolutionary genetics
- Ecology of fishes
- Biology of reproduction
- Animal behavior
Popular Career Options
Baccalaureate degree programs prepare students for entry-level employment where typical job responsibilities may include providing lab assistance to researchers, collecting samples or performing research activities under supervision. Some possible career options for degree holders are:
- Research assistant
- Park ranger
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
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Zoologists and wildlife biologists can expect slower than average job growth of 4% from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As of May 2015, the BLS also reported that zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a median annual salary of $59,680.
Continuing Education 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 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 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.
There are many different levels of degree programs available to those individuals interested in zoology. After a combination of coursework and field work, these programs will prepare you for a wide array of careers in the field.