Difference Between Zoologist & Zookeeper

May 30, 2020

Comparing Zoologist to Zookeeper

Zoologists are researchers who study wild animals and their relationship with their habitat. Zookeepers care for animals that live in zoos. Although these careers both involve working with animals, these professions differ considerably.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2019)* Job Outlook (2018-2028)*
Zoologist Bachelor's Degree $63,270 (for zoologists and wildlife biologists) 5% (for zoologists and wildlife biologists
Zookeeper High School Diploma or GED $24,780 (for nonfarm animal caretakers) 16% (for nonfarm animal caretakers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Zoologist vs Zookeeper

Zoologists focus on wild animals that are in their natural habitat. They travel to places where they can observe these animals, collect biological samples, track populations and gather other data that's relevant to the focus of their study. These scientists may monitor health conditions and population levels, and they may also use their data to determine if environmental changes are adversely affecting native species. Zookeepers work with wild animals that live in zoos. They maintain the areas where the animals live and ensure they're cleaned regularly. Zookeepers also monitor the animals to make sure that they're healthy.


Zoologists are scientists who specialize in understanding wild animals and their relationship with their environment. They often work odd hours when they're observing animals. When they aren't in the field they typically work in laboratories or offices. Zoologists must have a bachelor's degree to enter this field, although a master's or doctoral degree may be required for some positions. They can play a crucial role in helping us understand how development is affecting wildlife or the implications of invasive species that have been introduced into a new area.

Job responsibilities of a zoologist include:

  • Make plans for research projects
  • Gather samples
  • Observe animals and document observations
  • Assess how changes in the environment are affecting wildlife populations
  • Perform tests on samples
  • Present findings in written and oral form


Zookeepers can begin their career with a high school diploma or GED and can learn through on-the-job training, although experience working with animals is an asset. They take care of the animals that live in zoos. Zookeepers may spend a lot of time bending down or carrying heavy items, so they need to be fit. It also helps if zookeepers are observant, since they will then note changes in an animal's condition that may require medical attention.

Job responsibilities of a zookeeper include:

  • Ensure animals are fed regularly
  • Keep animal habitats clean
  • Inspect animals to ensure they're healthy
  • Assist veterinarians to vaccinate or euthanize animals
  • Educate guests about the animals

Related Careers

Those who are considering a career as a zoologist may also be interested in becoming an environmental scientist, since these scientists also study how environmental variables are affecting habitats and the species that live there, and they also develop strategies to combat pollution and contamination. Veterinary assistants perform some tasks that are similar to the work of zookeepers, since they are involved in assessing the health of animals they see and then assisting with their treatment, so that may be another career of interest.

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