How to Become a Zoologist in the USA

feeding giraffes

From wildebeest migration to the unique behavioral tendencies of tropical animals, zoologists study animal behavior, their interaction with natural or controlled environments, the development of animal disease, animal population growth and the dynamic evolution of different habitats. The increasing interest in wildlife conservation and management, as well as climate change advocacy has emphasized the role of animal biologists and their importance in helping to protect wildlife and natural habitats. A career as a zoologist offers you an opportunity to help in conserving endangered species and preserving the world’s ecology.

What does a zoologist or wildlife biologist do?

A zoologist’s work is diverse, ranging from conducting extensive laboratory experiments, to field observation, research and advocacy. Some of the duties include:

  • Monitoring animal species in natural or controlled environments
  • Analyzing wild animals and plant population
  • Studying the interaction between humans and wildlife
  • Managing and rehabilitating endangered species
  • Conducting experiments and providing technical expertise on the impact of wildlife on the environment
  • Carrying out laboratory research and making recommendations to government, non-government and academic agencies


The annual salary of a zoologist largely depends on experience, area of specialization, employing agency, level of education and location. Zoologists who work for federal agencies receive a higher pay, followed by those who work in research and development, consultancy firms, academic institutions and lastly, state government agencies.




Entry Level



Mid Career






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To become a zoologist, you need to have the following qualifications:

  • A Bachelor’s degree in biology, with a specialization in related fields such as ecology, botanical science, habitat restoration, environmental science, and conservation biology is a required stepping-stone.
  • A post-graduate degree is necessary if you want to pursue advanced positions, for example, in research or advocacy.
  • A Ph.D if you want to pursue zoology or wildlife biology in academia, you will require.
  • Additional skills in software programming and statistical analysis if you want to become an academic researcher.
  • Experience increases your chances of being hired as a zoologist. To gain experience volunteer or do an interning with state or federal agencies such as the National Park Service or the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Work Environment

Zoologists typically work full time, with field researchers and those in academia working longer hours. You will probably have to travel for work and spend a lot of time in environments such as the grassland savannah, in the sea, deserts and forests where animals are found in their natural habitat. Fieldwork is often demanding given the scarcity of modern amenities and the isolation involved with spending a lot of time with wildlife.

Zoologists may also spend time in the laboratory, while others who are involved with administrative, policy and academic aspects of conservation may spend more time in an office setting.

Career growth and job outlook

It is expected that the demand for zoologists and wildlife biologists will grow by 5% between 2012 and 2022. The increasing demand for wildlife conservation and management has created a need for more wildlife biologists in different sectors.

Although it is certainly not for everyone, if you feel that you have the right attributes and drive, then perhaps this is the right career for you.