Red panda licking its nose Photo by Michael Payne on Unsplash

Zookeepers take care of animals and educate the public to promote conservation.

It's a challenging yet emotionally fulfilling career.

If you like working with animals and you're ready to get your hands dirty, follow this path to become a zookeeper.

Earn Your Degree

Flaticon Icon Your first step is to earn a bachelor's degree. Due to the high level of competition in the field, you need a degree to be considered . According to the San Diego Zoo, recommended fields of study are:

  • Biology

  • Zoology

  • Botany

  • Ecology

  • Conservation science

  • Animal behavior

Penguin swimming underwater Photo by Atlas Kadrów on Unsplash

Gain Experience

Listen to Zookeeper Rick for ideas on where to gain experience working with animals:

You'll need 6 to 12 months of experience working with animals before you can be hired as a zookeeper, so start volunteering now!


Paula wants experience working with animals but the zoos in her city aren't hiring interns. What should she do? Select all that apply.

Grow Your Skills

Flaticon Icon Essential Skills

  • Flexibility

  • Patience

  • Physical fitness

  • People skills

  • Record-keeping

  • Willing to get your hands dirty

Flaticon Icon Helpful Qualifications

  • Driver's license : Required for many keeper jobs

  • Scuba license : Nice to have if you want to work with aquatic animals

  • First aid training : Ensure the safety of coworkers, guests, and yourself

Zookeepers must be prepared for a variety of situations both with animals and people. Animals need care 24/7, even in inclement weather and during holidays.

Zebra at a zoo Photo by Jeffrey Eisen on Unsplash

Be prepared to do the dirty work, such as cleaning animal feces, helping animals reproduce, and feeding animals an appropriate diet (that may consist of other animals). You may be "bitten, scratched, or kicked" by the animals in your care (thebalancecareers).

Advice From A Pro

Zookeeper Rick recommends patience and persistence while job searching:

I applied 6 times at the San Diego Zoo before I even got an interview and even then I didn't get that job. I applied again and finally landed a part-time keeper spot. So have patience, and be persistent.

Be willing to relocate to any zoo, and apply to positions at smaller zoos where there may be less competition.

Adult and baby elephants at a zoo Photo by Paul Griffiths on Unsplash

Take Action

Lion Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash

Zookeepers find fulfillment in supporting education and conservation and may even bond with the animals in their care!

Are you ready to do more than just cuddle animals and truly take care of them? Take your next steps:


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