The reality of employment in the zoological field is a two-year Community College specialized animal program or a four-year College program in an animal-related science, coupled with practical zoo animal experience. Practical exotic animal experience is gained through an integrated college program in partnership with a local or in-house zoological facility paid or unpaid internships, or is combined with your Community College program. If is very difficult, but not entirely impossible to obtain employment with only a High School education, coupled with practical experience in care of exotic animals.
Exotic animal keepers are expected to be knowledgeable regarding USDA animal welfare standards, husbandry, nutrition, operant conditioning, enrichment and conservation prior to employment. Keepers are expected to be able to lift minimum weight requirements as set by the institution. As a condition of hire, Animal Keepers and Aquarists will be required to work weekends and holidays in every type of environmental conditions.
For those of you who think this is the field for you, click here. For more information, you may also visit the websites for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and the American Association of Zoo Keepers directly. You may also be interested in Books about Animal Careers.
- High School Programs
- There are many high schools around the country that have started cooperative learning programs with their local zoos. In addition check with your own local school system.
- AAZK Educational Partners – Zoo and Aquarium Educational Association (ZACA) Accredited Colleges
- Current AAZK Educational Partnership programs leading to a two/four year degree with an integrated zoological component that provides pratical and measurable “hands on” experieince in the direct management of exotic animals.
- Four-Year Programs
- Current programs leading to a four-year degree such as a Bachelor’s degree.
- Management Programs
- Information concerning higher education programs leading to degrees specific to leadership positions within the zoo field.
- Conservation Programs
- Information on programs geared toward teaching environmental conservation techniques.
- International Programs
- Information on programs outside the United States.
- Aquarium or Marine Mammal Focus Programs
- Information on programs that focus on aquarium or marine mammal husbandry and/or training.
- Veterinary Schools with Exotic Animal Programs
- Information for those who would like to become a veterinarian who specializes in exotic/zoo animals.