Today’s zookeeper is an educated person. Gone are the days when all you needed was a love for animals, a shovel and a strong back. Now we are expected to know animal husbandry, nutrition, operant conditioning, enrichment and conservation; we are also expected to be able to lift 50 lbs., and to work weekends and holidays. We do this job because we love it, not for the money. The money is in upper management, which usually means less contact with the animals. However, in the zoo field even being in the upper echelon does not guarantee a substantial income. For us, knowing that we are saving an animal species or maybe just making an animal feel as at home as possible is enough.
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.
While this list deals primarily with schools that have programs geared toward zookeeping, keep in mind that a degree in Wildlife Management or Wildlife Ecology is also acceptable for most zoos, as are degrees in Zoology and Biology. Remember, most zoos prefer hands-on experience, so while pursuing these degrees, volunteer where you can! (I do not list Vet. Tech Schools or those programs dealing with pure Animal Science.) There are both two and four year programs listed. Some zoos require more education than others and it is always a good idea to get a higher degree if you wish to advance up the ranks. Because of this, I have also included on this list a new program geared toward zoo and aquarium management. In addition you will find information on the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and a list of international schools.
- High School Programs
- There are many high schools around the country that have started cooperative learning programs with their local zoos. I have listed a few here, but you should check with your own school system, especially if you live near a zoological facility.
- Two-Year Programs
- Listed here are current programs leading to a two-year higher education degree such as an Associate’s degree or a technical degree.
- Four-Year Programs
- Listed here are current programs leading to a four-year degree such as a Bachelor’s degree.
- Management Programs
- This list provides information concerning higher education programs leading to degrees specific to leadership positions within the zoo field.
- Conservation Programs
- This list provides information on programs geared toward teaching environmental conservation techniques.
- International Programs
- This list provides information on programs outside the United States.
- Aquarium or Marine Mammal Focus Programs
- This list provides information on programs that focus on aquarium or marine mammal husbandry and/or training.
- Veterinary Schools with Exotic Animal Programs
- This list provides information for those who would like to become a veterinarian who specializes in exotic/zoo animals.