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Zoologist Responsibilities

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Zoologists study the behavior of animals in their natural habitat. They are trained to research and collect biological data to investigate the effects of environmental changes on wildlife. Zoologists work as curators, directors and zookeepers. In academic settings, zoologists work as teachers and researchers. Most zoologists hold advanced degrees and specialize in areas like wildlife research or management. Zoology subfields include mammalogy, paleozoology, a study of extinct animals, and anthrozoology, a study of the interactions between animals and people.


Zoologists and animal biologists can work as curators in zoos and aquariums. Curators must have a strong background in science fields like biology, microbiology and chemistry. Most curators hold a master’s or doctoral degree and specialize in fields like mammalogy, marine biology, ornithology and ecology. Curators should have animal husbandry skills, as well as management and leadership experience. Other requirements for curators include strong communication and supervisory and research skills. General curators are responsible for the management of the entire zoo or aquarium. Animal curators specialize in the day-to-day operation of a zoo or aquarium and work alongside other administrators. In 2011, zoo curators earned between $35,000 to $54,000 annually, according to PayScale.


Zoologists who work as directors do not deal with animals; their main duties include administrative activities, like fundraising and public relations. Directors work alongside curators to ensure that zoos and aquariums are properly managed, and that animals are well maintained. Directors are responsible for planning and creating events; they also launch new programs and exhibits and develop and plan new policies. Directors work alongside other staff members including secretaries, researchers, zookeepers and administrative staff. Zoologists who work as directors should have extensive experience in management and supervisory roles. In 2011 the average salary for zoo directors was $130,000, according to Salary Expert.


Zookeepers are responsible for the day-to-day care of animals; they must also ensure that zoos run efficiently. Zookeepers care for animals. Their duties include feeding, cleaning and monitoring animals, as well as making sure that animals receive the necessary exercise and medical attention. Zookeepers work with curators and directors and provide useful information on animal behavior, including their interactions with other animals and any health concerns. The annual salary for zookeepers in 2011 was $32,000, according to PayScale.


Zoologists who earn their Ph.D. and have an interest in teaching and research qualify for academic careers. Most universities and colleges hire zoologists with a Ph.D. to teach undergraduate and graduate courses, mentor students, conduct independent research and publish their findings. In addition to their teaching and research responsibilities, zoologists who work in academic fields can also find employment with government agencies and the private sector as part-time consultants. The average salary for zoologists with a Ph.D. was $55,000 in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.