Careers Working with Zoo Animals

Nov 30, 2017

Those wishing to work with zoo animals have several job options in different fields. Learn about some of the career options, their median salaries and expected job growth rates.

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Career Options Working with Zoo Animals

There are several different kinds of careers that involve working with zoo animals, including those with direct contact with the animals. These careers range in job duties, education requirements and other factors. Here we discuss a handful of the available careers working with zoo animals.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Veterinarians $88,770 18%
Animal Trainers $27,690 11%
Zookeepers $34,557** 22% (nonfarm animal caretakers)
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists $60,520 8%
Curators $53,360 14%

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale

Career Information for Careers Working with Zoo Animals


Some veterinarians may specialize in diagnosing and treating exotic animals, like those found in zoos. Just as they would with companion animals or livestock, these veterinarians examine animals and perform any necessary medical treatment, like administering medication or performing surgery. They also administer preventative care, like vaccinations, and may euthanize an animal if necessary. Veterinarians must hold a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and obtain a state license to practice.

Animal Trainers

Some animal trainers may work with various zoo animals to train them for vet examinations, zoo outreach programs or zoo performances. They train these animals to perform a particular action when presented with a specific voice or hand signal. Animal trainers usually know the animals that they work with very well and may help care for the animal and monitor the animal for any signs of illness or injury. Animal trainers may need a bachelor's degree, but some positions may only require a high school diploma.


Zookeepers are responsible for caring for various animals in a zoo. They provide the animals they are responsible for with food, water and clean living areas, as well as check the animals for any signs of illness or injury. Zookeepers help answer questions from the public about the animals and may help raise young animals in certain situations. These professionals typically need a bachelor's degree in animal science, biology or a closely related field.

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Some zoologists and wildlife biologists may conduct their research and observations with zoo animals, as well as help zoos with their conservation efforts of a particular species. In general, these scientists study various characteristics of a species, including social characteristics, population dynamics and reproduction, and apply their findings to conservation initiatives. They also examine how humans impact an animal and its habitat and usually present their findings in scientific reports, papers and presentations. Most zoologists and wildlife biologists conducting research need a master's or doctoral degree, but some entry-level jobs may only require a bachelor's degree.


Zoo curators are responsible for acquiring various animals and exhibits for their zoo. Zoo curators must ensure that their facility has the appropriate exhibit space for each animal they obtain and handle the logistics of any loaning and exchanging of animals from different zoos. They may also oversee the various research projects at the zoo that involve animals, as well as help plan and manage educational programs for the public. Curators usually need a master's degree and some experience working at a zoo.

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