Zoologists work closely with animals, studying their anatomy, patterns of behaviour and more. Their work can cover promoting the sustainability of species right through to disease control.
What is a zoologist?
As a zoologist, your work focuses on observing and learning about animals. You could specialise in a particular class of animal such as mammals, reptiles or fish, as well as being based being based in a laboratory, or on site in an animal’s natural habitat.
Your work could take a variety of forms. It could vary from ensuring a particular species is returned to its former habitat to assessing the sustainability of a particular area for a species to live in. You might research animal diseases, or focus on the wellbeing of livestock.
Your responsibilities will vary depending on what area of zoology you specialise in. There are some common duties within the role, however.
Zoology is largely a graduate profession due to the extensive research involved in the role.
- Visiting animals in their natural habitat, assessing the sustainability of where they live and making any observations of whether human intervention is needed to keep them safe and well.
- Taking detailed reports of your findings of field research, sharing these with colleagues where needed.
- Making recommendations for changes to an animal’s habitat, especially if a habitat is at risk due to human activities.
- Taking samples for analysis, either from animals themselves or from their habitat to assess for sustainability, disease, or other forms of classification.
- Analyse samples collected from animals or field sites for assessment, especially when looking for diseases or assessing a particular species.
- Classifying species in a particular habitat, especially if they are a new or unknown form.
- Recording numbers of animal populations, especially if there is fear that populations are dwindling or overpopulating.
- Overseeing the welfare of animals in captivity, such as zoos or aquariums.
- Checking on the welfare and keeping of livestock, assessing for disease and illnesses.
- Working in conjunction with others who have jobs with animals, from livestock workers. through to vets and other zoologists, especially on large scale projects or enclosures.
- Keeping up to date with relevant research and legislation around animal welfare, especially surrounding animals in captivity.
- Conducting your own research studies in areas of interest, once you have enough experience.
- Line manage volunteers, especially those working on large scale conservation projects, giving simple instruction and duties that require non-specialist support.
- Offer information and guidance for non specialists, such as working on a consultancy basis for zoos or aquariums to provide accurate zoological information.
A zoologist average salary varies depending on your experience and areas of specialism. Some zoologists work for a large employer, while others work on a self employed consultant basis. The amount you are paid will take all of these factors into account.
The average zoologist salary sits at around £23,000. Early career zoologists are likely to earn less, while salaries have been recorded as reaching £40,000 and beyond for those with the right skillset. If you work on a research basis, especially within prestigious universities and laboratories, you could attract higher salaries.
Zoology is largely a graduate profession due to the extensive research involved in the role. You will need a degree in zoology or a related degree for most roles.
Examples of degrees in this area include:
- Animal behaviour degrees
- Conservation biology degrees
- Environmental biology degrees
- Marine biology degrees
- Zoology degrees
For high level research and academic positions in zoology, you may also need a PhD. This will usually be carried out in an area of zoology you hope to specialise in. You may be able to find a funded PhD position within a university, though this will usually mean following a project that sits within a specific area of research that the university is currently focused on.
Training and development
Much of your training as a zoologist will begin during your degree studies. You will learn about the anatomies and behaviours of various species within the animal kingdom, as well as practical skills involved in field and laboratory research. If you continue studying through to PhD study, your research skills will become more specialised and advanced specific to your area of research.
Zoology jobs are competitive, so it is a good idea to access some work experience before applying for roles.
Beyond your degree, there are lots of further opportunities for upskilling. In the UK, you can use the Royal Zoological Society of London or the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. Further afield, there is also the International Society for Zoological Sciences. Each regularly host conferences with presentations from experts in zoology, and further opportunities for learning. Many societies also exist for the protection and preservation of specific classes of animals, or even specific species - so it is a good idea to do your research and see what groups currently exist for the promotion of research and learning in your area of interest. You may also find that your university has a zoology or animal focused society, which can support you in gaining work experience or promote attendance of conferences.
Your skills as a zoologist combine academic knowledge with practical field skills.
- A robust knowledge of various animals within the animal kingdom, and specific knowledge of animals within your area of specialism.
- Strong field skills, such scientific methods for collection and analysis of samples.
- Excellent written communication skills for writing detailed zoological reports to present to colleagues, companies and the wider public.
- Excellent verbal communication skills, especially when working on large projects with individuals from a variety of career backgrounds.
- Ability to work well within a large team of professionals, especially when working on large conservation projects.
- Ability to delegate and line manage when working with volunteers, such as knowing key activities they can conduct without lots of further intervention or supervision.
- Working well individually, especially at a senior level when operating in field research - you may be the key point of contact and decision maker for animal welfare discussions.
- Strong laboratory skills, particularly for assessing animal samples.
- Strong understanding of maths, especially when analysing statistical data received after sample analysis.
- Problem solving skills, especially when working in the field with animals who are unpredictable.
- Attention to detail, especially when working on minute studies such as assessing samples for disease, or working with very small animals.
- A willingness to travel, especially if your specialism is on exotic animals or those non native to the UK (or your country of residence).
- Excellent organisational skills for keeping field records correct and overseeing large studies.
- Strong research skills, especially when you work contributes to a particular research study or paper.
- Compassion for animal welfare.
- Emotional resilience, especially when working with animals who are unwell or require treatment.
- Competence with computer software, such as statistical prediction softwares that examines the chances of particular outcomes happening.
- A passion for conservation and preservation of animal species.
Zoology jobs are competitive, so it is a good idea to access some work experience before applying for roles. While you are studying, you can reach out to your relevant academics and ask if they know of any connections in the field, and help set up some shadowing. You may find that your degree already advocates connections and encourages students to spend time shadowing senior zoologists and scientists. Some universities also offer 4 year degrees which include a year in industry.
Many conservation organisations offer short placements or longer term voluntary positions. These suit zoology students well. The availability and competition for these placements will usually depend on what area of zoology you want to specialise in. Well known organisations include the UK Wildlife Trusts. If you are interested in, and have the capacity to travel abroad, many opportunities also exist across the globe, such as those with Born Free or the WWF.
As a zoologist, your work focuses on observing and learning about animals.
Some volunteering opportunities, especially those that involve global travel, may incur a cost for expenses. It is a good idea to do your research around any placement provider to ensure they are recognised and respected within their industry, especially if your voluntary work will need investment on your part.
Zoology is a varied career with many different paths. You could begin as a junior researcher in the field and work up to more senior positions, developing your specialism as you go. You could aim to travel abroad to examine animal populations in other countries, building not only on your career but life experiences, too.
You might choose an academic path, completing a PhD then pursuing a lecturing position. This could progress to program leads or principal lecturing positions.
You may find that some zoology positions are fixed or short term. This is especially the case if they are specific to a particular conservation project or research area. For many zoologists this means moving between positions in the early stages of their career, but with plenty of upskilling in the process.
-  Zoologist Salary in the UK — Jobted.com Retrieved 15 November 2022.