Zookeepers look after animals in zoos, safari parks and aquariums.Job Category:
What you will do:
In this role you could:
- prepare food and feed animals
- clean out enclosures and change bedding
- check for signs of distress or disease
- work with a vet to care for sick animals
- check enclosures for signs of wear or damage
- monitor conditions like temperature and humidity
- keep daily animal welfare records
- supervise trainee keepers and animal care workers
- run education workshops and give talks to visitors
- knowledge of biology
- knowledge of animal evolution, nutrition, welfare, and signs of illness
- customer service skills
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
As well as:
- the ability to work well with others (teamwork skills)
- teaching skills
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- excellent oral and written communication skills
- the ability to use your initiative (ambition)
- to be flexible and open to change (adaptability skills)
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
The specific GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) subjects required to become a zookeeper can vary depending on the zoo and their specific entry requirements. However, there are some common subjects and qualifications that are generally beneficial for pursuing a career as a zookeeper:
- Biology: This is often the most important subject as it provides a foundation for understanding animal biology, behavior, and physiology.
- Chemistry: A basic understanding of chemistry can be helpful for understanding aspects of animal health and nutrition.
- Mathematics: Math is important for various aspects of zookeeping, such as calculating animal diets and medication dosages.
- English: Good communication skills, including reading and writing, are essential for documenting animal observations, writing reports, and communicating with colleagues and the public.
- Physics: Some understanding of physics can be helpful for comprehending certain animal behaviors and environmental factors in a zoo setting.
- Environmental Science: This subject can provide valuable knowledge about ecosystems, conservation, and the environmental impact of zoos.
- Animal Care or Animal Management: Some schools or colleges offer courses specifically designed for those interested in careers with animals. These can provide a strong foundation for zookeeping.
- Agriculture: Courses related to agriculture can be beneficial, especially if you plan to work with large animals in a zoo.
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- a college course
- an apprenticeship
- working towards this role
You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in:
- animal or zoo management
- animal behaviour and welfare
- zoology or marine zoology
- animal conservation and biodiversity
- veterinary science
Zoos vary in what qualifications they ask for and it can depend on what their zookeepers are going to do.
You could do a course before applying to a zoo for a trainee zookeeper’s job. In the UK, for example, relevant courses include:
- Extended Diploma in Animal Management
- Diploma in Animal Care or Animal Science
- Level in Animal Care and Management
You could start by doing an intermediate apprenticeship in animal care and welfare. This may help you to get a job as a trainee keeper with a zoo.
You could also do a keeper or aquarist advanced apprenticeship, depending on where you work.
You may be able to specialise in training zoo animals by completing an animal trainer higher apprenticeship.
You could complete a qualification in management of zoo and aquarium animals if you’re working in a zoo or aquarium.
You can volunteer in a zoo or wildlife centre to get experience. This will be important, as there’s a lot of competition for trainee jobs. You could get experience volunteering at:
- kennels, farms or riding stables
- animal sanctuaries or rescue homes
Any experience you can get working with the public will also be helpful preparation for educating visitors to the zoo. Many animal charities offer opportunities to promote animal welfare directly to the public, or online, through social media campaigns.
Working Hours and Environment:
A typical week consists of 37–40 hours of work. You could be required to work evenings/weekends/ bank holidays on shifts.
You could work at a zoo or at a wildlife park. Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers and physically demanding. You may need to wear a uniform and protective clothing.
Career Path & Progression:
In larger zoos, wildlife parks or aquariums, you could progress from keeper to team leader or head keeper.
You might need to relocate to another part of the country to work your way up into higher positions, as competition for senior jobs can be tough.
With experience and a degree, you could become a curator. You could also move into education or conservation research.