Difference Between Veterinarian & Zoologist

Although veterinarians and zoologists are in professions that involve working with animals, they type of animals they work with and the nature of their tasks are very different. Continue reading to learn more about how these careers differ.

Comparing Veterinarians to Zoologists

Veterinarians and zoologists work with animals in a professional capacity. Veterinarians primarily provide medical care to animals that are kept as pets or livestock on a farm. Zoologists are researchers who primarily focus on understanding the relationship between wild animals and other animals or their habitat.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Veterinarian Doctoral Degree $88,770 9%
Zoologist Bachelor's Degree $60,520 (for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists) 4% for (Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Laboratory Animal Medicine
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Responsibilities of Veterinarians vs. Zoologists

Veterinarians work with animals in a hands-on capacity. They touch and handle animals as they assess their health and administer vaccinations and medication. They often work with pets or farm animals, and part of their job often involves educating pet owners about the care of their pets. Zoologists work with wild animals. They may have some hands-on involvement if they're tagging animals to track their population, if they're taking samples for study or if they're involved with a breeding program. A large part of their work involves observing animals and testing samples.


A veterinarian must complete a doctoral degree in veterinary science and be licensed. Their work involves providing medical treatment for animals. Many veterinarians work in a veterinary office or hospital and they may work some evenings and weekends. Veterinarians may also specialize in the care of farm animals. Those who work with farm animals may need to travel to farms or ranches regularly. Veterinarians need to be comfortable working with different types of animals, and benefit from having strong communication skills so that they can explain a diagnosis and treatment options to the animal's owners.

Job responsibilities of a veterinarian include:

  • Performing check-ups with animals
  • Discussing health concerns with the animal's owner
  • Ensuring animals are vaccinated
  • Operating on animals
  • Providing prescriptions for medication


Zoologists can begin their career with a bachelor's degree, but a master's or doctoral degree can increase job prospects. Zoologists can also pursue promotion to supervisory positions with experience and a graduate degree. Zoologists perform some of their work in laboratories, but they also travel to the habitats where the animals they're studying live. They may need to work at night, depending on the focus of their research, and can expect their hours to vary. They perform research related to different animals and how they interact with other animals and the environment they live in. Zoologists may opt to specialize and focus on insects or fish or another group of animals.

Job responsibilities of a zoologist include:

  • Analyzing biological samples from animals
  • Observing animal behavior
  • Monitoring the population of specific types of animals
  • Documenting findings
  • Determining how changes to the habitat will impact the population
  • Proposing breeding options for threatened species

Related Careers

Those who are considering a career in veterinary medicine may also be interested in being a doctor and focusing on diagnosing and treating people instead of animals. Another option for prospective zoologists is to consider a career as a conservation scientist, since these scientists study areas to determine how land development will impact the species that live there and the environment and can make recommendations about how to protect sensitive areas or threatened species.

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