Doctoral Degree in Zoology: PhD Program Overviews

Oct 26, 2019

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Zoology program provides advanced studies of a variety of animals, including reptiles, fish, mammals and birds. Graduates with a Ph.D. in Zoology qualify for research work as well as academic positions.

Essential Information

Individuals who study zoology at the doctoral level explore the animal world through biology, ecology, physiology and development, as well as behavior and psychology, reproduction and evolutionary traits. Some schools feature interdisciplinary specializations like ecology, evolution and marine biology, which allows zoology students access to faculty and labs in those departments. Submission, defense and publication of an original dissertation research project are the key elements of the Ph.D. program. Students are also required to participate in a teaching experience as part of earning the doctoral degree.

Candidates for a doctoral program in zoology should have first completed a master's degree in zoology or a related science area containing courses in physics, chemistry, calculus and statistics. Some schools allow those with only a bachelor's degree to apply, but they are required to complete extra coursework in the first two years of study. Applicants must pass a diagnostic examination to assess their zoological comprehension.

Ph.D. in Zoology

The curriculum of a Ph.D. in Zoology program is highly flexible, allowing students to focus on their own personal research interests and career goals. Coursework consists of classes in topics such as:

  • Animal behavior and psychology
  • Developmental and reproductive biology
  • Ecology of marine environments
  • Population biology and ecology
  • Methods in environmental toxicology
  • Integrative biology
  • Neuroendocrinology

Popular Career Options

Earning this advanced degree may result in employment at the highest levels in the fields of zoological and biological science. A graduate's specific occupation is largely dependent on her or his specialized area of research. Receiving a Ph.D. allows the holder to conduct independent research. Careers available to graduates include:

  • Zoologist
  • Wildlife biologist
  • Environmental specialist
  • Zoo scientist
  • Zoology professor

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that postsecondary teachers, in biological sciences, would see a 12% increase in employment opportunities from 2018-2028. The mean annual salary for biological science professors was $97,340 in May 2018.

Continuing Education Information

Those who have received their Ph.D. may opt to become postdoctoral fellows. A postdoctoral fellowship provides students with an opportunity to participate in specialized research and publish their research findings. It is also beneficial to those looking for a permanent research position. Postdoctoral fellows in zoology seek the funding and grant money necessary to conduct research through organizations such as the National Science Foundation.

Students interested in research, animals, biology and ecology can earn a Ph.D. in Zoology to work in a variety of careers in the field. Graduates can expect positive job growth as professors and may decide to become postdoctoral fellows.

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