A zoo habitat specialist is a zoologist who designs enclosures for zoo animals. Using knowledge and experience studying animals and their environments, zoo habitat specialists work with zoo officials, architects, sound and lighting professionals, and animal caretakers to create stimulating environments for zoo animals. In May 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the salary for this occupation under the broad occupational title of zoologists and wildlife biologists.
Among 17,440 zoologists and wildlife biologists employed in the United States in 2010, the average salary was $61,660 per year. Salaries vary based on a number of factors including the employer type and the responsibilities of the job. Some zoo habitat specialists specialize in specific species. Salaries ranged from $35,660 to $93,450 per year, which includes the 10th through 90th percentiles. The 25th percentile earned $45,460 per year and the 75th percentile earned $72,700 per year.
Zoo habitat specialists may work as a consultant for one or several design projects, or work part-time and earn hourly wages. The average hourly wage was $29.64 per hour. The 10th percentile earned less than $17.14 per hour and the 90th percentile earned more than $44.93 per hour. The 25th percentile earned $21.85 per hour, and the 75th percentile earned $34.95 per hour.
Most zoos are private or government owned. Zoologists who worked for local government agencies earned an average salary of $58,710 per year, and state government agencies paid an average salary of $53,100 per year. Federal government agencies paid the highest salaries for zoologists and wildlife biologists, averaging $77,030 per year 2010. Those working for consulting firms earned an average salary of $55,130 per year.
The bureau expects 13 percent growth for zoologists and wildlife biologists -- which includes zoo habitat specialists -- between 2008 and 2018. This specialized discipline of zoology often requires relocating for job opportunities. Although minimum educational requirements are a bachelor’s degree, career opportunities will be best for those who obtain a master’s or doctoral degree.