Zookeeper: Job Duties, Outlook and Salary
Zookeepers feed, clean and monitor zoo animals to ensure their health and comfort remains consistent. Potential zookeepers face strong competition for positions and can increase their employment opportunities by graduating with at least a bachelor's degree in biology, animal sciences or zoology.
Zookeeper Job Description
Zookeepers are responsible for the well being of the animals living in zoos. The job requires a keeper to routinely complete a number of tasks for the animals, such as bathing, feeding and exercising.
Zookeepers must follow very specific feeding instructions for each animal, and keepers are often expected to work weekends and holidays to ensure the animals are fed routinely. They must provide drinking water for the animals, keep their living spaces clean, and help train or entertain them.
Much of a zookeeper's job involves monitoring the animals and making sure they do not become sick or injured. They keep notes on their eating habits, watch for odd behavior, and provide veterinarians with relevant information about their health.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 21% increase in the employment for all animal care and service workers between 2008 and 2018; however, employment of zookeepers was predicted to grow more slowly than other positions (www.bls.gov).
Although there are no formal education requirements, many zookeepers are expected to have earned a college degree in a relevant field. Bachelor's degree programs in zoology, biology, animal science and marine biology provide potential zookeepers with the knowledge and skills to work with animals. In these programs, students are taught a range of subjects including animal behavior, nutrition, genetics, microbiology, reproduction and physiology.
Other ways for potential zookeepers to prepare for careers include gaining entry-level work experience in veterinary offices, animal shelters or farms. Volunteering with a zoo will also give potential keepers a strong opportunity for advancement.
According to Payscale.com, zookeepers in the 25th-75th percentile have a salary range from $21,071-$31,384 per year. Factors that influence the salary of a zookeeper include years of experience, size of zoo, geographic location and current economic conditions.
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