Zoologists research and work with animals and wildlife. To be successful in this career, you'll need a strong interest in animals, and at least a bachelor of science degree in biology or a related subject, explains zoologist Michael Tuma. If you want to conduct your own research, you'll need to hold a master of science or a Ph.D. Being a zoologist offers several benefits.
Variety of Opportunities
Becoming a zoologist opens the door to many types of careers, reports Tuma. Zoologists can be wildlife biologists, field technicians, research assistants or animal trainers. They work in habitat management, field data collection, agricultural research and medical laboratory support. A zoologist has a solid foundation for further education if he wants to become a veterinarian, or to acquire a Ph.D. to teach at the university level.
Areas of Interest
If you're especially interested in certain kinds of animals, you can specialize, advises the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Ornithologists, for instance, study birds, while herpetologists study reptiles and ichthyologists study fish. Subspecialties also exist -- while mammalogists study mammals, some scientists become marine mammal specialists, for example. In contrast, more general work is available in areas such as wildlife research and management. Zoologists also study the environmental effects of animal populations on land and water, by collecting and analyzing biological data.
Many zoologist jobs involve spending a lot of time outside, making this work suitable for people who enjoy being out-of-doors. Field study, for instance, is particularly beneficial for people who like hiking in the woods and other physical activity, as well as camping and spending time living in primitive conditions.
Starting pay for zoologists is relatively low, and individuals with one to four years of experience as zoologists or wildlife biologists made median salaries of about $12.20 to $20.20 per hour in 2010, according to the PayScale salary survey website. The average salary for all zoologists is much higher, however, according to the BLS. The average as of May 2009 was about $29 per hour, or $60,700 per year. The top 25 percent of earners were making over $71,900, and the top 10 percent, over $93,000.