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Howdy! Introduction and Advice Request

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by Amanda, 14 Jun 2019.

  1. Amanda

    Amanda New Member

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    Location:
    Texas
    Howdy! My name is Amanda, and I'm a graduating senior in wildlife and fisheries sciences. I've been lucky to have some incredible opportunities throughout my college career, including a South Africa study abroad, zookeeping, internships with psittacines and torts, and managing a wildlife education organization, but with my graduation date coming g up in August, I'm forced to think about the next big step.

    I'm considering a couple options- grad school, internships at AZA accredited institutes, or continuing on animal care staff at my current location as primarily a zookeeper assistant (or a combo of the latter two).

    I was wondering if anyone has advice, especially is regards to the grad school option. Have any of you found a masters degree to be particularly helpful in the zookeeping and conservation field in regard regards to job opportunities, salary, and job competition? Or would you say the benefits dont outweigh the cost and time?

    I appreciate any advice!
     
  2. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member

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    I have never worked at a zoo in a paid capacity, but I volunteered at an AZA accredited zoo for over a decade. I know based on staff conversations that zookeeping (at least at an AZA facility) is an insanely competitive field. A bachelor's degree in zoology or another science is the bare minimum, but it sounds like you have this. In my opinion, a master's degree will help because you need any advantage you can get. The zoo I volunteered at (Reid Park Zoo) is a small zoo so I imagine they receive less interest than a big zoo like Dallas or San Diego. But even at our small zoo, when they announced one zookeeper opening they would get something like 100 applications from all across the country.

    If you can work at your current facility and do your master's at the same time (perhaps online), that would be an ideal solution in my opinion. But let me restate I have never actually worked as paid staff, so take my advice with a grain of salt. Unfortunately there are very few active ZooChat members who are paid staff (and some members I suspect do not admit they are staff for fear of retaliation for what they post). However there is one independent zoo consultant specializing in horticulture, @Zooplantman , who is very familiar with the zoo profession and is usually open to sharing advice. I have just tagged him in hopes he will chime in.
     
  3. Amanda

    Amanda New Member

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    I appreciate your reply and advice from your standpoint! I'm definitely having to compare the costs (already in debt and zookeeping isnt known to be a well paid field) to the (unknown realistic) benefits so you are helping me piece together the picture!
     
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  4. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member

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    A third option is to do the zookeeper program at one of the two community colleges that offer it (each has their own, small on-site zoo). One is Moorpark College in Moorpark, California. The other is Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida. I met a keeper a few years ago at San Diego Zoo that went through Moorpark and I met a keeper this week at Cat Haven that went through Santa Fe, so people in those programs do get placed.
     
  5. Amanda

    Amanda New Member

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    I'll keep it in mind for the future! Unfortunately, I cant afford a cross-country move at the time :(
     
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  6. Daktari JG

    Daktari JG Well-Known Member

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    Welcome.
    If you entertain notions of becoming a muckety muck in the zoo world (curator or higher)
    then I would guess a masters or higher will be quite useful. If you want to become a keeper then a masters may not be worth it. You might want to try and get any position at a smaller zoo while taking night/online classes towards a masters before getting a position at a major zoo.
    At any rate good luck.
     
  7. Amanda

    Amanda New Member

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    I appreciate your advice! Thank you!
     
  8. TheGerenuk

    TheGerenuk Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to ZooChat!
     
  9. Hipporex

    Hipporex Well-Known Member

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    A tad late but welcome and good luck!
     
  10. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member

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  11. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    My simple advice: don't go to grad school if you are not committed to a career path. You can always go later should you decide you need to. Play the field. See what excites you. In the zoo world education matters but broad experience also matters. When I was starting out in horticulture a mentor said to me "You'll have to decide whether you want to be the one holding the shovel for your entire career or the one managing the people that wield the shovels." That's an important distinction and there can be good reasons to choose either path. By then I was in my 30s had had a better perspective on what future I wanted than I had when I was 21.
     
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  12. Terry Thomas

    Terry Thomas Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    A warm welcome to you. With your qualifications I cannot see you remaining as a keeper for very long.