Schools for Aspiring Zoologists: How to Choose

Dec 11, 2019

Students enrolled in a zoology or animal science program will spend a great deal of time studying animals in controlled or natural habitats. Coursework in these programs will teach students about animals' life processes, environments, relationships and behaviors. Zoology programs often allow students to specialize in a particular species of animal or the conservation of wildlife in general.

Potential students of zoology should first decide what level of education they wish to obtain and if they would like to be involved with research, animal care or wildlife management. While numerous options are available to those with a master's or bachelor's degree, research positions are generally reserved for PhD candidates (

Zoology Schools

The following 4-year schools offer degree programs in zoology:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2018-2019, In-state)*
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 4-year, Private Doctorate $29,500 (Graduate)
University of Florida Gainesville, FL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate $6,381 (Undergraduate) $10,770 (Graduate)
University of California--Riverside Riverside, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's $13,827 (Undergraduate)
Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's $14,460 (Undergraduate)
University of Wisconsin--Madison Madison, WI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate $10,555 (Undergraduate) $10,728 (Graduate)

*Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, Cornell University

School Selection Criteria

Considerations to keep in mind before selecting a school for zoology:

  • Prospective zoologists may wish to explore the specialization options available at the schools under consideration and look for the options that best match their career goals. Schools frequently offer a variety of specializations from animal health to wildlife ecology.
  • Internships and research projects can add a hands-on experience to students' academic programs, narrow the focus on a career path and increase one's potential for job placement, so students should seek programs with these opportunities.
  • Some schools may have valuable connections to organizations, such as state and local park services, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which can help with internship or job opportunities.
  • Students may want to attend a school with faculty members who have similar research interests to gain valuable experience and expertise in that area.

Bachelor's Degrees in Zoology

Bachelor's degree programs in zoology include general education classes, lab sciences and advanced mathematics. They also typically include core courses in cellular biology, zoology, botany and microbiology. In addition, students may enroll in specialized courses, such as marine biology, wildlife ecology, mammalogy, herpetology and ornithology.

Master of Science in Zoology

Zoology master's degree programs usually include seminars in zoological specialties, directed research opportunities and case study projects. Most programs prefer applicants to have a bachelor's degree or significant coursework in a biological field. Prospective students who have a bachelor's degree in a non-related field are usually advised to take undergraduate biological lab science courses as for preparation.

Doctor of Philosophy in Zoology

Doctoral programs also typically focus on a zoological and biological science specialty area. Students often participate in research or case study projects requiring the completion of formal doctoral thesis or dissertation in specialty areas. Prospective zoologists are expected to have completed a significant amount of study in zoology and are usually required to have experience in lab work and field research.

Aspiring zoologists can earn a zoology degree at the undergraduate or graduate level from institutions across the country. As they are choosing a program students should consider things like program specializations, internship opportunities and the school's connections with wildlife organizations.

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