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How to Become a Zoologist

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Zoologists typically have a passion for animals and spend a lot of time studying or interacting with them. A bachelor's degree is the standard requirement for most zoology jobs. However, you would need advanced education if you want certain positions.

Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in zoology or biology is common for zoologists. In addition to courses in zoology and wildlife biology, aspiring zoologists complete courses in other sciences, including cellular biology, anatomy, ecology, genetics, chemistry and physics. Math and statistics are also critical courses in a zoology education because of the emphasis on gathering and interpreting data.

Advanced Degrees

To gain higher-level positions on important projects, or to move up into management roles, you typically need a master's degree. Computer sciences and geographic information systems are important educational areas for many zoologists as well. These classes prepare you to use software programs and geographic location tools common in the field. For academic roles, such as college professor or independent researcher, you would need to complete a doctoral program in zoology or biology.

Entry-Level Work

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that zoologists normally work on more important projects as they gain experience. During college, find opportunities to participate in field-based coursework or grant projects to gain basic experience. When you enter the field with some experience in hand, you are more likely to get invited to big projects. Government-funded grant projects are typically assigned to zoologists with proven accomplishments and publication in the field.

Skill Development

As you gain education and experience, develop several critical skills needed by zoologists. You need analytical abilities and problem-solving skills to set up and implement effective research projects. Observational skills allow you to monitor activities of animals in their habitats and effectively document their behaviors. Outdoor skills enable you to join research teams in remote areas. Written and verbal communication skills are vital because of your responsibility to publish and report findings to supervisors, employers, government clients or academic peers.

2016 Salary Information for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a median annual salary of $60,520 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $48,360, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $76,320, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 19,400 people were employed in the U.S. as zoologists and wildlife biologists.