Most research zoologists work at universities where they teach classes in addition to conducting their own research. Others are employed by zoos, museums, government agencies, and private businesses.
The average salary for biologists and related scientists, including zoologists, is somewhere between $55,000 and $70,000 a year. However, salaries can range from just under $30,000 to upwards of $100,000 a year, depending on the type of position the zoologist holds and his or her level of education. Zoologists with a bachelor’s degree earn the lowest salaries, while those who have a master's degree can make significantly more.
With a PhD, a zoologist can become the curator of a zoo, or obtain a research position at a university. University professors make about $66,000 a year on average, though they can make anywhere from $40,000 to $140,000 a year. However, this type of position takes many years of experience to qualify for and there are very few of them available. As a university professor, a zoologist’s opportunities for career advancement depend on his or her level of success as a researcher.
The amount of education you need for a career in zoology depends on the position you wish to hold. If you have a bachelor’s degree in biology or zoology you may be able to get a job as a field or lab technician. However, most zoologists have a graduate degree.
With a master's degree in biology, zoology, or a related discipline, you may be able to get certain research positions in government or industry, or you could become a research assistant to an academic zoologist. To become a research zoologist at a university, you generally need to complete a PhD program and gain some experience as a researcher.
Programs in biology are offered at most universities and some colleges across the country. Specific zoology programs are less common, but they are available. A bachelor’s degree usually takes 4 years to complete. A master’s degree typically takes 2 more years, and a PhD another 4 years.
High school students interested in a career in zoology should make sure that they have a good understanding of the basic sciences by taking courses in chemistry, biology, and physics. Mathematics, computer, and English courses would also be helpful.
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Zoology and Animal Biology
Good public speaking skills may be required, as many zoologists give lectures to students, the public, or other scientists in their field of specialty. Good writing skills are very helpful for writing essays and reports about their research.
You should have an interest in animals, science, and technology. A willingness to travel is useful for those who need to conduct extensive field research. Zoologists should have an ability to work both independently and as part of a team.