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Career Change to Zoologist

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by jennysensei, 1 Sep 2014.

  1. jennysensei

    jennysensei New Member

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    Ten years ago, I graduated from Rutgers with a B.S. in Animal Science. While there, I did a few research internships and I also worked as vet technician. After college, I became a public school science teacher and have been teaching middle school students life science and physics. After 10 years of teaching, I now want to pursue my dream job. I envision working outside, studying animals, and furthering research in (possibly) evolutionary biology. I am told this job is called a Zoologist. Where do I start? I need a plan of action.
     
  2. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    The dream job that I think that you are describing would probably be as an academic at a research university or maybe as a research scientist for a government department (USFWS, Forest Service, National Park Service, etc.).

    Are you thinking about going to grad school to get a masters or a PhD, because those would likely be prerequisites for a research job.

    I would strongly recommend doing some informational interviewing of people who are doing the jobs that you think that you might want to do to see if you really do want to do them and if so, how best to try and develop a specific action plan.

    Many people who go into research science either supplement their careers by teaching or end up in teaching, so possibly going the other way could work. Research jobs are often temporary, have lousy pay relative to teaching, and are insanely competitive - having a passion for doing the work is why people stick with it. It sounds like maybe you have that passion.
     
  3. jennysensei

    jennysensei New Member

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    Whom do I contact?

    Hi Dave,

    Yes, I am willing to go back to school to get a master's or PHD.

    However, I am confused as to why research jobs are lousy pay and temporary. At the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for zoologists is like $50,000. How is that possible if the pay is lousy?

    Are you a zoologist?

    Finally, I want to do some informational interviewing but I don't even know how to contact someone who would be doing field research or really any zoologist for that matter. How would I do that?
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    a zoologist is just a term for someone who has a degree in Zoology. The work they do in that field can be anything from lecturing at a university to working in the field. The pay relates to the job not the degree.
     
  5. jennysensei

    jennysensei New Member

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    So...

    So, once again, if I'd like to work out in the field, what would be my plan of action considering my background, education and previous experience outline in the original post?
     
  6. Tapircandy

    Tapircandy New Member

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    Since there are far more qualified people wanting these positions, than positions available it comes down to luck or who you know.

    So to answer your question:

    a) start off selling cotton candy at your local zoo and work your way up

    or

    b) sell entrance tickets to your local state park and work your way up

    or

    c) learn and embrace nepotism and patronage.

    or

    d) earn your fortune in some other field then open up your own facility and/or conduct research or sponsor and oversee researchers yourself.

    Also 50k a year for someone with a masters or PHD is lousy pay, at least in the USA.
     
  7. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    none of those things will make her a zoologist, or help her get into research fields (except the last one, but that is just silly).
     
  8. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    if you are good with going back to university, then getting a qualification in Zoology would probably be your best move. You are literally going to be doing research projects as part of that. And when you have the qualification you have many options available for pursuing research.

    Alternatively, if you want a more "now" change, you have a qualification in Animal Science already, have proven research skills, and proven vet skills. They aren't recent but you do have them, and the teaching may also be applicable in some ways, so you may be able to use those as an aid to getting a role as a field assistant or something along those lines. It won't be well-paid but it may be what you want. Generally Zoology graduates are more applicable but you don't know until you try. Having said that I don't really know how things like that work in America.

    There are also many programmes such as Earthwatch which use ordinary (i.e. non-zoologists) as researchers but I think they tend to be "volunteers" (as in, you pay them) which probably isn't what you are after. Unless you would be content with keeping your teaching job and pursuing the other as a sort of hobby.
     
  9. jennysensei

    jennysensei New Member

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    Chlidonias,

    Thank you for your reply. It was the most helpful by far.
     
  10. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    I add to this opinion. I would strongly advise against investing money or time in a degree before really knowing the field.

    By all means get in contact with zoologists and ask them about their job and how you can help. Field research of animals is physically tough, assignments are temporary, no job security, lots of non-animal work like writing grants and money proposals, poor pay, often supplementing one's income with other job, personal problems due to girlfriend/spouse/child being 'left behind' during field trips. And you need a 'thing': field skills and experience with animals and nature, combined with a passion which turns physically tough and miserable activity into enjoyment. Most people don't have that.

    I suggest the best path is:
    - contacting local researchers who do things you want to do, get information and personal contacts;
    - ask for a position of volunteer or field assistant in field research. Most are filled informally, and some are also advertised online. They are paid poorly, down to you financing personally half of it. They usually don't require a degree, but give you idea of the work, useful experience and more personal contacts. This is generally small field, and people know each other.

    Somebody mentioned Earthwatch. I met them in the field. They seemed to be totally lost laymen who pay good money for a strange holiday trip. They don't get any useful field skills, contacts or any real help if you would want to become a zoologist.
     
  11. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    yup that's about right for Earthwatch. Really I mentioned Earthwatch because that was the only one I could think of a name for! There are plenty of similar organisations, some of which appear to exist simply to separate you from your money, but some of which do seem to be good. It would be a matter of using google to search out organisations, finding out it they do what you have in mind, and then finding out what participants say about them. And it is a valid option if a person didn't have the qualifications to do something in the field full-time, but rather used it as a "holiday" opportunity.

    I met an Earthwatch group in Mongolia, and most of them gave the appearance of being "saving the planet" hand-wringers doing it in order to feel superior. Not all of them - some were very genuine - but most of them didn't have a clue about anything. I came across a group in Borneo too and was amused by one of them breathlessly explaining to the others how the rainforest has only a shallow layer of fertile soil. I mean, that's not something you just automatically know, but I would have expected a group of people participating in such a trip to already know it.


    Another idea I just thought of, for jennysensei, would be to go to (or write to, or something) the local wildlife services. I don't have any idea how these work in America, but they may be a good option for getting a job doing outdoors wildlifey stuff without a degree in Zoology. I'm thinking of the national parks, nature preserves, that sort of area.