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Zoo career

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by ZebraDude95, 21 Feb 2018.

  1. ZebraDude95

    ZebraDude95 Active Member

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    My main career goal is to work in a zoo as an animal keeper. To anyone in the field, what advice do you have to help me achieve this?
     
  2. Echobeast

    Echobeast Well-Known Member

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    Volunteer. Make connections. It’s a small field. Everybody knows somebody. Get a degree in biology or zoology. Apply for internships. Don’t say no. Expect to move to where the jobs are.

    It’s a tough career to get into. Don’t expect to be making a lot of money because you won’t but the job is very rewarding in other ways. Where are you in terms of your career? Are you in school?
     
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  3. ZebraDude95

    ZebraDude95 Active Member

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    I am a college senior and I’m getting a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology.
     
  4. natel12

    natel12 Well-Known Member

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    Have you volunteered anywhere as a teen? As crazy as it sounds it’s exteremely important
     
  5. ZebraDude95

    ZebraDude95 Active Member

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    I once volunteered at a local animal shelter for a church confirmation project. It was in the cat wing.
     
  6. natel12

    natel12 Well-Known Member

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    Experience with animals at a young age is vital to your career. Volunteering with house cats is counted as big cat experience but it probably was not enough since confirmation projects are about a day. But since you are in college, do internships at as many zoos as possible! Work at a pet store! Even do some volunteer work such as being a docent. Volunteerwork won’t earn you money so you might have to live with a friend or your parents, but you are more likely to get hired with this experience. One day is not enough. Be patient
     
  7. Youssarian

    Youssarian Well-Known Member

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    I'm a current keeper. Having a degree is almost necessary nowadays, unfortunately. However it's good to see you're almost done with yours!

    However, unfortunately, most places don't really care about your degree or GPA. The main thing you need to get a job as a keeper, even entry-level, is experience. So you're going to have to do internships (very likely unpaid) and perhaps even try to find seasonal or part time work before you're going to be hired on full-time. The good thing about doing internships and the sort, though, is networking. You get to know people who work at different zoos and this could land you a job in the future if you demonstrate that you're hard working, knowledgeable (or at least willing to learn), follow safety protocol, etc.

    The field has changed from just feeding and picking up poop. Supervisors now want to see that keepers know the ins and outs of environmental enrichment, proper record keeping, training using positive reinforcement and operant conditioning, etc. It's a very multifaceted industry.

    As mentioned before, it's definitely a labor of love. It's relatively hard to break into and the pay isn't great. I did five unpaid internships before I landed my current job. My advice is if this is what you really want to do, then don't get discouraged. I felt so hopeless at times, that I would NEVER find a job but if you keep pushing and keep working for it then it will happen. However even when I felt this way as an intern, it was still awesome being able to work with animals.

    Since you're just beginning, you definitely need to do volunteer or preferably do an internship to get some experience under your belt. Often, people think they want to be zookeepers and then they do an internship and discover it just isn't for them! As an intern, you will be doing a lot of cleaning. You won't get animal interaction time right off the bat - you have to prove yourself to be a good worker and you have to learn how to conduct yourself around animals in a professional environment. Even as a full time keeper, 70% of the job is still cleaning lol.

    I don't know where you're located in proximity to zoos or if you're willing to move for an internship, but my advice is to apply apply apply. I recommend AZA facilities as all my experience has been from them and learning their standards was immensely helpful, but don't knock other facilities until you've tried them either! Also, the more you apply, not only the better chance you have of landing something but it gives you really good interview experience for more internships and jobs down the line.

    Good luck, let me know if you have any more questions!
     
  8. ZebraDude95

    ZebraDude95 Active Member

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    Thank you Youssarian! This advice is really helpful.
     
  9. agnmeln

    agnmeln Well-Known Member

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    For sure it is a very tough industry to get into due to how competitive it is. I still dream that I could possibly make it happen one day (obviously not as a keeper, however, as firstly it would be absolutely impossible without the relevant qualifications, and secondly I’m not in a position to be able to sacrifice my current lifestyle at all) but I would very much like to work in another function within a zoological organisation; procurement and supply chain management, project and programme management or something similar.

    I often look at the jobs at Chester Zoo (it’s my local zoo and it also offers the best salaries I have seen so far) and they really are meticulous in what they ask for candidates to be able to demonstrate - they are absolutely looking for people of the very highest calibre. I do believe that experience is the key - that’s what will make a person stand out, since everybody applying for these jobs will have the relevant qualifications, after all. I have completed voluntary placements with three different organisations so far, two within the UK, one in Cambodia. I have a small network of contacts which I really need to grow further. I know I need to do a lot more if I’m ever going to seriously make this happen.