Jobs at the Zoo Requiring Education and Experience
These jobs will require at least some past experience and/or some college education. Some of these jobs will require higher level college degrees and specialized training.
Zookeepers are the primary caregivers to the animals in the zoo. Daily duties including cleaning every cage, feeding every animal, and providing behavior enrichment. Treatment of medical conditions under the supervision of the zoo veterinarian also falls to the zookeeper. Bird keeper, animal care specialist, mammal keeper, elephant keeper, and animal keeper are other titles given to the zookeeping profession.
Zoo Wildlife Educator
Most wild animal parks have an education department. The educators in this department develop and/or are involved all of the zoo’s education programs. This can include wildlife shows at the zoo, school program, summer camps, and special events. Wildlife educators’ job responsibilities include care for and training of the education program animals, public speaking, program development, and media work.
Animal trainers in zoos or wildlife parks typically work in the education shows, such as the bird show. Some zoos and aquariums make husbandry training part of the basic care of the animals and part of the regular zookeeper duties. Animal trainers in educational shows are responsible for the care of the animals in the show, show production, and public education.
Behavioral enrichment is a central part of daily zoo animal care. Enrichment refers to anything that challenges a captive animal and gives them something to do. This can include training sessions, toys, feeding puzzles and much more. Behavioral enrichment is part of the zookeeper’s daily duties. But at larger zoos, an enrichment coordinator is hired to develop new enrichment ideas for all the animals and ensures the safety of the animals when providing behavioral enrichment.
Since the animal care staff at zoos and aquariums have unique knowledge in working with and caring for wild animals, many zoos and marine parks also rehabilitate wild animals. The wildlife rehabilitation staff treats and cares for local wildlife found injured or sick with the goal of releasing that animal back into the wild.
Exotic Animal Veterinarian
Usually zookeepers will act as the veterinary technician for medical exams and procedures for the animals in their care. In larger zoos there will also be dedicated veterinary technicians to help with all the animals that come through the zoo’s animal hospital.
Publicity / Marketing
Staff in the marketing department handle media requests and promote the many animals, programs, and events at the zoo through various avenues, such as social media. This can be one of the more challenging zoo jobs as it also requires publicly addressing criticism and hardships that the zoo may face.
Horticulturist / Gardener
Gardeners and horticulturists at the zoo keep the grounds and gardens looking their best for the public to enjoy. The zoo may also have a botanical collection that requires specialize care and expertise. In addition, knowledge of growing food and gardens for the zoo animals is also needed, as some of the plants help feed the animals or enrich their habitat.
Many zoo animals have special habitat needs such as constant heating or cooling. Aquariums have extensive filters and pumps that must operate at full efficiency to keep the fish and other aquatic healthy and alive. For these reasons, many of the jobs at zoos are maintenance positions.
Caring for wild animals is costly. To provide all the needs of the animals and quality educational programs, zoos rely on entrance fees, gift shop and education department revenue, and grants for funding. Larger zoos will hire grants coordinators to work full time on grant applications.
To find what openings are available at zoos, look at the zoo’s website, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) job board, and the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) job board.