Career Path to Becoming a Zookeeper

Career Path to Becoming a Zookeeper

Are you passionate about animals and conservation? Do you dream of working closely with a variety of species in a zoo setting? Becoming a zookeeper may be the perfect career path for you. In this article, we will explore the steps and requirements needed to pursue a career as a zookeeper, including education, experience, and skills necessary to succeed in this rewarding field. Whether you are a seasoned animal lover or just starting to consider a career in zookeeping, this guide will provide valuable insights to help you achieve your goals.

Education and Training

High School Education

In high school, aspiring zookeepers should focus on taking science courses such as biology, chemistry, and environmental science. These courses will provide a solid foundation of knowledge that will be beneficial when pursuing a career in zookeeping. Additionally, students should consider participating in extracurricular activities related to animals, such as joining a wildlife club or volunteering at a local animal shelter.

College Degrees

Most zoos require zookeepers to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as biology, zoology, or animal science. These degrees provide a deeper understanding of animal behavior, biology, and conservation, which are all crucial aspects of zookeeping. Some colleges also offer specialized programs in zoo and aquarium science, which can provide hands-on experience working with animals in a zoo setting.

Internships and Volunteer Work

Gaining practical experience through internships and volunteer work is essential for aspiring zookeepers. Many zoos offer internships for college students that provide hands-on experience working with a variety of animals. Additionally, volunteering at a local animal shelter or wildlife rehabilitation center can help aspiring zookeepers gain valuable experience working with animals and develop important skills such as animal handling and husbandry.

Job Responsibilities

As a zookeeper, you will have a variety of job responsibilities to ensure the well-being of the animals in your care. One of the main responsibilities is providing animal care, which includes feeding, grooming, and monitoring the health of the animals. Another important aspect of the job is habitat maintenance, which involves cleaning and maintaining the animals’ enclosures to create a safe and healthy environment. Additionally, zookeepers are also responsible for visitor education, which includes providing information about the animals and their habitats to zoo visitors.

Animal Care

Animal care is a crucial aspect of a zookeeper’s job. This includes feeding the animals a balanced diet, ensuring they have access to clean water at all times, and monitoring their health and behavior. Zookeepers also provide enrichment activities to keep the animals mentally and physically stimulated. This can include creating puzzles for them to solve, introducing new toys or objects into their enclosure, or setting up sensory experiences.

Habitat Maintenance

Habitat maintenance is essential for creating a safe and healthy environment for the animals. Zookeepers are responsible for cleaning the enclosures on a regular basis, removing waste, and ensuring that the habitat is free of any hazards. They also need to monitor the temperature, humidity, and lighting levels in the enclosure to ensure that it mimics the animals’ natural habitat as closely as possible.

Visitor Education

Zookeepers play a key role in educating visitors about the animals in their care. They may give talks or presentations, lead guided tours, or set up interactive exhibits to teach visitors about the animals’ behavior, diet, and conservation status. By educating the public about the importance of wildlife conservation, zookeepers help to raise awareness and foster a greater appreciation for the natural world.

Skills and Qualities

Becoming a successful zookeeper requires a unique set of skills and qualities. Here are some key attributes that are essential for excelling in this career:

Passion for Animals

One of the most important qualities for a zookeeper is a deep passion and love for animals. Zookeepers spend their days caring for and interacting with a wide variety of animals, so having a genuine love for them is crucial. This passion drives zookeepers to provide the best possible care for the animals under their watch.

Physical Fitness

Working as a zookeeper can be physically demanding. Zookeepers are often required to lift heavy objects, clean large enclosures, and even chase after animals on occasion. Physical fitness is important for being able to handle the rigors of the job and ensure the safety and well-being of the animals.

Communication Skills

Zookeepers must have strong communication skills in order to effectively work with both animals and other zoo staff. Being able to communicate clearly and effectively with colleagues and supervisors is essential for ensuring that the animals are well cared for and that tasks are completed efficiently. Additionally, zookeepers must be able to communicate with the public, answering questions and educating visitors about the animals in their care.

Career Growth

As a zookeeper gains experience and expertise in their field, there are several potential career paths they may choose to pursue. Some of the common roles that zookeepers may aspire to include:

Zookeeper Supervisor

A Zookeeper Supervisor is responsible for overseeing a team of zookeepers and ensuring that the day-to-day operations of the zoo are running smoothly. They may also be involved in training new staff members, developing and implementing animal care protocols, and coordinating with other departments within the zoo.


A Curator is a more senior position within a zoo, typically responsible for overseeing the care and management of a specific group of animals or exhibits. Curators may be involved in developing new exhibits, working with conservation organizations to promote conservation efforts, and collaborating with researchers and scientists to further our understanding of animal behavior and welfare.

Zoo Director

A Zoo Director is the highest-ranking position within a zoo, responsible for overseeing all aspects of the zoo’s operations, including animal care, visitor experience, budget management, and strategic planning. Zoo Directors may work closely with government agencies, conservation organizations, and community stakeholders to ensure the long-term success and sustainability of the zoo.

Overall, the career path to becoming a zookeeper offers a variety of opportunities for growth and advancement within the field of zoology and animal care. By gaining experience, pursuing additional education and training, and demonstrating a passion for animal welfare and conservation, zookeepers can progress to higher-level roles and make a significant impact on the conservation and preservation of wildlife.


Becoming a zookeeper is a rewarding career path that allows individuals to work closely with a variety of animals and contribute to their well-being and conservation. Through a combination of education, experience, and passion for animals, aspiring zookeepers can successfully pursue their dreams in this field. By following the steps outlined in this article, individuals can set themselves on the right track towards a fulfilling career as a zookeeper. With dedication and hard work, anyone can turn their love for animals into a lifelong profession caring for and protecting wildlife in a zoo setting.