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Want to be a zoo director?

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Run50, 11 Nov 2014.

  1. Run50

    Run50 Member

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    I'm a college freshman and I want to spend my career working at a zoo. I was going to major in social work, but I have decided people suck and I am super passionate about animals. The zoo is one of my favorite places to be.

    My plan is to eventually work my way up to become zoo director one day. But I am confused at what to major in. Zoo director is more on the business/management side of things. On the other hand, who would want someone who doesn't know much about the animals in the zoo, directing
    that zoo? So is it better to major in business/nonprofit management or zoology? Should I get a bachelors in one and a masters in the other?
     
  2. michaelminter

    michaelminter Member

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    > but I have decided people suck

    If you don't like people, it might not be a wise decision to promote effort in becoming the pivotal people person of a zoo.

    A director is responsible for the day to day running of the park, overseeing the other employees, and working on public relations and marketing to make sure people come and visit all of the wonderful animals.

    If you are a zoo director, not only do you need to have a passion for protecting and caring for animals, you also need to like working with people! It takes a lot of communication and understanding between staff members, the press, visitors and other animal organizations to keep a zoo running happily.
     
  3. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Agreed, the zoo director works mostly with people and very little with animals. If you prefer animals your goal should be to become a zoo curator.
     
  4. Run50

    Run50 Member

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    Should have changed the wording on that. When I said people suck I meant the kind of people you deal with in the social work field. The drug/alcohol addicted people, the rapists, criminals. I am saying working with those people suck. They suck because I realized those types of people usually resist help and dont change.

    But I would enjoy working with people in the zoo field. Meeting new people, talking to them, listening to their ideas and plans to make zoos better, that I will love! Just decided the mental health field isn't for me. When I think of a long-term career in social work, I dont think I will be fulfilled.. if you know what I mean. With a zoology/zoo director career, I can see myself dedicating my time and effort and feeling good about it.

    Thinking about what a zoo director does gets me excited! Maintaining the zoo, making people more aware of the animals in it, planning new events and exhibits. I actually prefer that work over a zookeeper role. I love animals but I am not sure I can handle the physical labor, heavy lifting, etc. I am not strong.
     
  5. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    That makes more sense. Maybe zoo director would be a good fit.

    If you want to work in any MAJOR zoo (in almost any capacity), you will need a degree in zoology or biology. The local zoo I used to volunteer at is relatively small - just over 20 acres - and even they got flooded with applications for every opening. I mean an announcement for a zookeeper position would receive over 100 applications from all over the country.

    Just a heads up that it is a very competitive industry so you will need a degree and experience (start volunteering at a zoo now if you are not already and look for interesting internship opportunities in the summer).
     
  6. Run50

    Run50 Member

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    Zoology major sounds good. I have not even declared a major yet so I need to change it to zoology.

    Oh, yes. I know what I am getting into, it is very competitive. But I will start getting volunteer experience and internships. Will completing a lot of internships and high grades give an advantage, or is it really just a lottery?
     
  7. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    You should perhaps join young Christian association (I am not sure if groups called so in the USA resemble these in Europe?) or some secular young people network.

    Zoo director mostly deals with people, including staff, sponsors, city council, press... certainly not a place for a loner. :)
     
  8. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    A zoo director does not, as you see from what others have written, primarily deal with animals. Are you sure that's what you want?
    There is no predicting what will be the career path to zoo director in 15-25 years when you might be applying. In the past, zoo directors were animal men (yup, men) who came up through the ranks. Today some still are. But others have a business history and step from the business field directly into zoo director. Others were planners, educators, fund raisers, architects.
    So I suggest you focus now on the animal care path and grow your career from there.
     
  9. Run50

    Run50 Member

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    Thanks everyone, you have been very helpful. One huge thing that was making me hesitant about going into the zoo field was how dangerous and risky the job was. I thought the primates, big cats and elephants were the only ones that could cause serious injuries and fatalities. Then I read an article about a keeper getting clawed to death by an anteater. :eek:

    I am still nervous about how risky this job is, but pretty much every story I read was caused by not locking doors/gates properly.

    I mean it is just a decision I will have to make. Obviously I am not expecting it to be a cozy desk job but I still worry about it.
     
  10. premierfong

    premierfong Active Member

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    But the Pay is horrible. Director is almost like CEO but the pay is like 80K. When a real CEO get at least 300K.
     
  11. Run50

    Run50 Member

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    I would be happy with 50k, 80k would be great but I am doing this for the animals and experiences not money.

    Getting through all those math/chemistry/physics courses will be a giant obstacle. It will probably take me 6 years to get my bachelors, I would be 26. But that will mean more time for internships right? :eek:

    Social work is OK but I have to admit the reason I chose it was because there were no math requirements. I really struggle with it. After the Algebra level, Im lost. And I am thinking about taking classes like Calculus and Physics willingly. Of course I would have to take remedial classes before the classes that count. Oh the things I do for animals.
     
  12. Buldeo

    Buldeo Well-Known Member

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    Pfftt. Tanya Peterson, SF Zoo's Director, took home ~$286,000 in '11, and it's only gone up since then. In fact, the zoo's senior management took home nearly a million bucks between the seven of them. So there's money to be made if that's what you're really after.

    That said, I would add to the very good advice offered here: Focus on becoming the best administrator you can be. That's what you'll spend most of your time doing. And while you're focusing on that zoology/biology degree, think about supplementing it with classes in, say, design or behavioral neuroscience. That zoology degree will be fairly commonplace. You'll need to differentiate yourself from the next candidate, and both of the aforementioned topics will prove directly beneficial to whatever zoo you land at.
     
  13. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    Best not to make long term career decisions based on next semester's course work. If you head into a career you hate it can be far harder than algebra to change course in your 30s or later.
     
  14. Run50

    Run50 Member

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    My local university, Michigan State, has a Zoology degree with a concentration in Animal Behavior & Neurobiology. Will that stand out? Not sure what design classes to take though.

    Good point. I am just going to study harder than I ever have before.

    Just wanted to say again thanks everyone for helping. I feel so determined to get this degree.