Discovering your passion
If you love animals, science, the outdoors, physical activity and critical thinking, then you may be the perfect candidate for a career as a zoologist or wildlife biologist. At a time when animals are experiencing unprecedented loss of habitat due to deforestation and climate change, zoologists and wildlife biologists play an important role in their conservation.
Education and training
The education path to becoming a zoologist or wildlife biologist isn't that much different from many other science-related professions. Most entry-level positions require a four-year bachelor's degree in zoology. Some zoologists prefer to major in a field such as chemistry, mathematics or physics, with a minor in zoology. Doing so can assist you in being more marketable with your job searches in the event there aren't any zoologist or wildlife biologist positions available in your area. For advanced positions, including teaching positions, a master's degree or doctorate is required.
The responsibilities of a zoologist or wildlife biologist can vary greatly depending on your specific job. Some of the major responsibilities may include the following:
- Collecting biological data and specimens for analysis
- Studying the characteristics of animals, such as their interactions with other species, reproduction, population dynamics, diseases and movement patterns
- Analyzing the influence human activity has on wildlife and their natural habitats
- Estimating, monitoring and managing wildlife populations and invasive plants and animals
- Writing research papers, reports and scholarly articles explaining findings
- Giving presentations on research findings to other wildlife professionals and the public
- Developing plans and making recommendations on wildlife conservation and management issues to policymakers and the public
In addition to these responsibilities, zoologists and wildlife biologists may become experts in a unique specialty field. Some of the more common specialty fields include the following.
- Cytologists study the characteristics of chromosomes and cells.
- Entomologists study insects.
- Herpetologists specialize in reptiles and amphibians.
- Ichthyologists specialize in fish.
- Mammologists specialize in mammals.
- Ornithologists specialize in birds.
- Limnologists study the life and phenomena of fresh water.
- Marine biologists study organisms living in or dependent on the oceans.
- Botanists specialize in plants.
- Ecologists study the relationships between organisms and their environments.
- Evolutionary biologists study the evolutionary processes produced by the diversity of life on earth.
Once you have decided on a specialty field for yourself, you need to consider the many different places that zoologists and wildlife biologists work. Some of the more common places you can find employment are zoological parks, aquariums, marine parks, county, state and federal agencies and museums. Additional considerations for employment as a zoologist or wildlife biologist are laboratories, education institutions, writing for publications, environmental conservation and consulting companies.
Many recent graduates begin their careers as interns. You can always check with your nearest zoological park, aquarium or county, state and federal agencies to see if they have any internships available. Another popular internship and employment option for students and recent graduates is to search the USAJOBS Pathways program for federal service positions.
Another way you can put your skills and knowledge to good use is through volunteer work, which may eventually lead to employment. The best places to check for volunteer work are your local zoological park, aquarium or similar places that offer full-time employment in your specialty field. You can check with Blue Star Families, Volunteer.gov and the Corporation for National and Community Service for opportunities to volunteer in your neighborhood.
Professional organizations and networking
Joining a professional organization and networking with your peers is an important part of becoming a successful zoologist or wildlife biologist. Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.
Depending on your location, it may be difficult to find employment in your direct specialty field. However, important and unique skills you learn in this occupation may translate well into other jobs. As a zoologist or wildlife biologist, you practice science and research, writing, reading comprehension and critical thinking. Some similar jobs that may interest you and require these unique skills include the following.
- Biology and science teachers
- Clinical research coordinators
- Natural science managers
- Animal breeders
- Medical and clinical laboratory technologists
- Veterinary assistants
Be sure to visit the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search to search for open positions with a number of MSEP companies and organizations committed to hiring military spouses.
If you move due to a PCS, you can receive up to $1,000 in reimbursement for costs associated with exams or registration fees to keep working in your new state. Each service has its own procedures for reimbursement, so be sure you know what your branch requires. Learn more.
To explore additional information related to starting your career as a zoologist or wildlife biologist, check out the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Enter the keywords 'Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists' to learn more about the occupational overview. If you need additional information on obtaining the proper license or certification as part of your specialty field, visit the Advantages of Licensure article in the Licensures and Certifications section of the Education, Training and Licensing lifecycle stage of MySECO.
Visit the Department of Labor Military Spouse License Recognition Map for up-to-date legislation and licensure information for your specific state. You can also speak with a SECO career coach by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to discuss any questions or concerns you may have or use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website for additional guidance.