Zoology Jobs and Careers
What does a zoologist career involve? Many people think, quite understandably given the nature of the title, that a zoologist works in a zoo. This is incorrect.
A zoologist is a scientist in the wider field of Biology who is involved in the study of animals and their habits. There are many branches of zoology and a huge range of areas in which those qualified in the subject can gain work.
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Research opportunities exist to study the many species that have not yet been studied in detail. Conservation organisations and projects field opportunities for laboratory research into breeding and management of rare species, with knowledge on the interaction of species and ecosystems always required.
Zoologists are often employed by government wildlife and quarantine agencies, environmental agencies, fisheries departments and veterinary research institutes, as well as museums. In the private sector, zoologists can be employed as conservation resource and wildlife management consultants. Health departments, hospitals and medical laboratories can also seek out zoologists for technical and research positions in human medical research. A few work for pharmaceutical companies or biological supply companies. Others are involved in biomedical or agrochemical research and development.
Educational opportunities abound. All zoologists are in possession of knowledge that others are eager to access. Teaching roles exist in all levels of education and academia, not to mention with the public via conservation organisations, museums and the media.
At policy level, zoologists can also make a contribution, advising and contributing data to policy formulation in the public health and agricultural arenas, as well as natural resource management.
Day-to-Day Activities of Zoology Jobs
With such a wide range of different zoology jobs, daily tasks vary enormously. Here are a few of the key tasks in some of the roles.
The part of the work that most people consider exciting is the fieldwork, usually conducted by zoologists who study the evolutionary history of living creatures. These researchers spend time collecting specimens. Back in the laboratory, the researchers will photograph specimens, dissecting and examining them and recording all data electronically. Some researchers will breed specimens in controlled conditions to study their growth and behaviour.
Other research supports the management of environmental needs for particular species. Ecologists and environmental zoologists will study habitats and work out which factors determine survival of a specific species.
All researchers prepare and write papers reporting the results of their findings. These are usually written to an academic standard and are refereed by their peers before publication. Linked to this are educational presentations, usually to undergraduate or postgraduate students, and preparation of funding proposals for future work. Attendance at conferences is also a significant area of work.
On the conservation front, zoologists will be directly involved in the care of ill, injured or orphaned animals and birds. Those working for major organisations will also research, educate and advise on policy and protocol. Their work requires a large degree of liaison with government agencies and other wildlife agencies.
Zoologists working in museums also research the collections, classifying specimens and maintaining classification databases. Many are also involved in educational work with the public. They may also prepare displays.
Zoologists who work in zoos will be working with animals, caring for them, cleaning enclosures and ensuring the good health of the animals. On the research side, some staff will also be involved in monitoring and recording behaviour. Some will educate the public through talks and displays.
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Would a zoologist Job suit you?
A zoologist is first and foremost a scientist, so a liking and aptitude for science subjects, and particularly biological science, is essential.
Most zoologists work in full-time positions, although conditions vary. Time can be spent in laboratories or environmental habitats, or a combination of both. Working with living creatures brings with it an obvious risk, from contact injuries, kicks, bites and stings. Conversely, in some jobs, there is little contact with other people. In some research jobs, too much time is spent in educational establishments and there is little contact with living creatures.
Given the strong research aspect to the work, plus the high level of specialisation into individual species, a postgraduate degree is usually required. This means a minimum of 4-5 years academic study, usually in biology at undergraduate level, with specialisation in zoology at postgraduate level.
The ability to formulate and undertake one's own research is essential in most positions, requiring a doctorate of some description, usually meaning another 3-4 years of unpaid study (unless a grant is obtained, but this still only offers low-level income).
Salary and Prospects for Zoology Jobs
Salaries vary as much as the areas of work. They depend on the assignment and the nature of the employer.
Despite the range of jobs in which zoologists are employed, most people will work in educational institutions, undertaking a combination of research and teaching. Salaries in this sector are not as high as those offered within commercial research (although many commercial organisations will fund academic specialists to undertake research). Work in museums and zoos tends to be lower paid, as there are many people pursuing these jobs while organisational income tends to be low.
The higher paid commercial openings may also be limited, but zoologists are highly numerate scientists, so will always be in demand in the private sector. It depends upon the individuals desire to pursue a particular area of specialisation.
Zoology Jobs Sites
The broad range of these jobs means there is no single location for finding them. Proceed by searching for a particular job title or organisation type (e.g. environmental, conservation, etc). Websites that advertise academic jobs will yield some results, as well as science job websites. Ultimately, it's a matter of tailoring your search to a specific career goal. Assuming a zoologist has progressed through a postgraduate or doctoral degree, it is most likely that you will already know the locations where the kind of job you are interested in is advertised.