What does a zookeeper do?
A zookeeper is responsible for looking after the health and wellbeing of animals in the zoo. On a day-to-day basis, a zookeeper may be responsible for feeding the animals, cleaning out their enclosures, maintaining their living areas and monitoring their behaviour.
Some zookeepers may choose to specialise in a particular species, such as birds or aquatic animals. A zookeeper role also requires some veterinary knowledge, as they are responsible for administering medication. In some cases, zookeepers may even assist with other medical procedures, such as facilitating reproduction.
A job in zookeeping is highly rewarding. Not only are your days varied; you also have the joy of working with a range of animals and keeping them safe. Zookeepers are also naturally comfortable with people, often being asked to lead talks or guide visitors.
What qualifications do you need to be a zookeeper?
Zookeeper roles generally require higher education qualifications, starting with A-Levels as a minimum. Before progressing to A-Level, you will need at least five GCSEs at grade 4 or above (formerly a grade C). These GCSEs need to include English, Maths and Science.
At A-Level, you will need to choose a relevant course in zoology or animal care. You can also choose a Level 3 diploma, which is equivalent to an A-Level. Some options include Animal Care, Zoology or Veterinary Support. You can study these courses while working in a trainee or apprenticeship role.
While not essential, you can also progress to undergraduate level to enhance your career in zoology. Some examples include Zoology or Marine Zoology, Veterinary Science, Animal Conservation or Animal Behaviour and Welfare.
What personality traits are needed for zookeepers?
As a zookeeper, you will need a range of soft skills and hard skills to do your job well. Naturally, hard skills will be supported by your qualifications – such as the ability to administer the right medication. You may also need to take part in research projects, which requires attention to detail, and a good grasp of literacy and numeracy.
The soft skills you’ll need as a zookeeper include great communication, empathy and patience. Not only will you be responsible for communicating key messages – such as reporting changes in animal behaviour to veterinary staff – you’ll also be talking to visitors. You may need to guide people around the park or answer questions, so you should be a confident speaker.
Working with animals is very challenging, particularly if you’re administering medication, or if they are showing signs of distress. You will need to be courageous and patient, ready to handle changing situations depending on the animal’s behaviour.
Above all, a love of animals is an absolute must. Whether you’re a generalist or specialising in one species, your love of animals will come across in all your day-to-day activities.
What are the benefits of being a zookeeper?
As somebody who is directly responsible for maintaining animal wellness, you will find your zookeeper role incredibly rewarding. You may also be working with endangered species, helping with wider conservation efforts. If you’re an animal lover, a chance to be around your favourite furry friends is always a bonus!
Zookeeping will help to improve your knowledge of a range of species, so it’s ideal if you’re a keen learner. It’s also a physical role, keeping you more active than a traditional desk job. In the course of a day, you could be roaming from one end of the park to another several times, interacting with people and animals.
You’ll get to showcase your animal knowledge by leading talks and tours with visitors. This is great if you’re a people person or natural performer. If you’re more of an introvert, you may enjoy research roles, studying animal behaviour and helping endangered species.
There’s never a dull moment as a zookeeper – and your efforts can help hundreds of exotic species every day.
Do zookeepers make good money?
The average zookeeper in Britain makes around £16,000 to £17,000 per year, though this can be lower for those starting out. While zookeeper roles do not pay as well as some other jobs, the rewards come from working with animals and enjoying variety.
As you progress to head zookeeper, you could see your salary reaching around £25,000 per year.
How much does a zookeeper earn?
£16,000 to 20,000
Maintaining a zoo and looking after animals can be expensive, which is why salaries are not as high in this role. However, the perks of working with lots of people and keeping animals safe are great for job satisfaction and retention.
What are the advancement opportunities for a zookeeper?
Zookeepers can advance from junior level roles through to head zookeeper. This may depend on the size of the zoo, budgets and the current members on the team.
You may also wish to pursue other routes for career advancement. If you have a background in culture and tourism, for example, you could progress into a curator role. This would involve designing enclosures and park layouts.
Start your career in zoology with courses from Oxbridge
From working with animals to meeting new people, zookeeping offers a huge range of benefits. If you love to learn and want to make a positive impact on the world, kickstart your zookeeping career with Oxbridge.