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Becoming a Zookeeper....

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by berberry08, 10 Jul 2012.

  1. berberry08

    berberry08 Member

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    8 Jul 2012
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    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Good Afternoon,

    I'm curious to know if you must have a degree to work at a zoo? I am volunteering now and I'm aware that a degree is great. I'm working on mine now. However, I'm also curious to know if anyone out there has tried to obtain a husbandry, care and/or enrichment certificates? Are these a scam?

    A little background on myself, I'm currently a full time student (2nd year of my associates), I work 8-5 during the week and volunteer 7-2pm at the Dallas Zoo. I have past experience with equines such as camels, horses and zebra crosses. I know my way around a barn :) I'm very excited to say I'm well on my way to obtaining my goal of becoming a zoo keeper. I would like to continue on with my academic career, however, I'd also like to have some extra certificates to boost my resume. Mostly so when a job does become available at the zoo, I'd have at least something. Do you all know of any programs of husbandry, enrichment or the like?

    Thanks,
    Berberry08
     
  2. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

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    Hmmm ..... This is a well articulated post, so I am surprised that no one has responded to you. I am not a zoo expert, but it is fair to say that in a world with 7 billion people and a finite number of zoos, it is extremely competitive. Any qualifications and experience that could give you the edge should be pursued with a vengeance. Here in Australia, recent zookeepers at larger zoos all seem to have at least one relevant degree. They may also have certificates in animal husbandry. Zoos Victoria (3 large zoos in Oz) recently advertised for keepers, and they got 600 applications. When you have to sift through so many CVs, you have to draw a line to reject some outright. This line, I understand, is often whether you have a degree or not.
     
  3. berberry08

    berberry08 Member

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    I appreciate the reply. I'm just trying to figure out my best option at this point. I have met keepers who don't have a degree however they've worked there for 25 years and are a keeper 2. I do want to continue my degree but just trying to figure out if its best. Thanks for the views and response.
     
  4. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    If you want to finish, why on earth wouldn't you? If you're enjoying it and are capable, there is nothing to gain by dropping out. You will only close off your options and likely regret it later in life.

    Sounds like you're doing everything right (at least based on conventional wisdom, I'm just a layman). I would suggest asking zookeepers who know you at Dallas for their advice. They are more likely to be of use to you than us armchair experts. :)
     
  5. berberry08

    berberry08 Member

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    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    You are right, I'm just thinking money at this point! LOL! If it would be cheaper to just get certificates VS a 4 year degree (which here in Texas is averaging $1700 a semester).
     
  6. igloo12321

    igloo12321 New Member

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    Location:
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    Get the bachelors degree and then get certificates if you'd like. Most zoos REQUIRE a bachelors degree. Unless you can implement the certificate coursework into your degree I feel like you'd be wasting a lot of time and money on something that is a long shot without the bachelors degree. (I do not know the legitimacy of such certificates. You'd have to look into that)

    But to answer your question, no it is not impossible to get into the field without a degree. I've been a zookeeper in both an AZA zoo and a non-AZA zoo and I'm still working on my undergrad. Do good work when you volunteer and get the staff to legitimately like you and it goes far. Of course, I've worked at smaller zoos where you become close with everyone so I'm sure it's harder to pull off a larger zoos. I also had experience interning/volunteering at 3 additional zoos.

    I caught lightening in a bottle though. Get your degree, keep volunteering, and see what your options are for the summers. Are there any other places you can intern at or volunteer at when you have the summer off from school?
     
  7. Ebillan

    Ebillan Member

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    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    In Canada, at least, all you TECHNICALLY need is a high school diploma to get a job as a zookeeper. But even with a degree it may still be tough to get a job. I know a woman in the States who had a biology degree and some volunteering experience, and she still applied to over a hundred jobs (she applied to any job she could find, however, even including some which she was slightly under qualified for) before she was able to get her current job.
    I myself am going for a one year animal care program. I know the Toronto Zoo has at least one employee right now who graduated from it, and there's another grad working at a wildlife centre not far from here. I'm only doing this program, however, because I don't want to go to another four years of school after finishing my current degree (from the prestigious illustration program at Sheridan). I considered dropping out and switching to biology or zoology, but I really would like to finish this first- however if I could go back, I would certainly go for a degree in the biology field. Without a biology or zoology degree, though, you're probably going to need a lot of volunteer, co-op and/or internship experience to land your job- although in any case I believe this is going to be very important to you getting a zookeeping job.
     
    Last edited: 19 Oct 2012