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At a Glance

  • Are actually biologists
  • Study behavior, diseases, and development of animals
  • Usually specialize in a specific kind of animal
  • Work at universities, conservation or government agencies, zoos, or aquariums
  • May travel to animal habitat sites
  • Work indoors in labs and outdoors observing animals
  • Have at least a bachelor's degree

Career summary

Zoologists study animals and how they live and grow in their habitat.

Zoologists are biologists who study the behavior, diseases, and development of animals. They usually are known for the animal group that they study.


Some zoologists do basic research to discover new information about living things. They identify the new data and decide where to classify it within the current framework.

Other zoologists work in applied research. They use data from basic research to help solve problems in areas such as the environment or health. Depending on the type of animal they are researching, zoologists may breed and raise animals. They may also dissect animals and preserve their bodies.

Zoologists who work in research usually work in laboratories. They observe and work with the animals. Zoologists may run their own experiments or direct lab assistants. They use computers, microscopes, and other equipment to analyze and record their findings. Some zoologists collect specimens to study in the lab.


Some zoologists work in administration or management. They may work for a conservation agency and report on what is impacting an ecosystem.

They may plan and administer programs for museums. Zoologists may decide what species a museum needs and try to collect the species. Others may design museum displays or lead educational programs.

Zoos or aquariums

Some zoologists direct activities at zoos or aquariums. In larger zoos, they may care for one animal group, such as the reptiles. They may collect or rescue animals that are ill or in danger.

Other zoo keepers breed and raise animals. When working with a variety of animals, it is important for zoo keepers to know the dietary needs and type of habitat each animal requires. They must observe and record each animal's lifestyle and eating habits to keep them healthy.

Universities or colleges

Some zoologists hold faculty positions at universities or colleges. They teach or do research, and often do both. They also write papers and give speeches about their research. Many write grants to fund their research projects.

Related careers

This career is part of the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to zoologists.

Common work activities

Zoologists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, zoologists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Zoologists frequently:

It is important for zoologists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for zoologists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Zoologists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a zoologist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most zoologists have at least a bachelor's degree. A degree in zoology is preferred, but any biological science will be good preparation. Other majors to consider are animal science, marine biology, conservation biology, wildlife management, and animal behavior.

A doctoral degree (PhD) is required to lead research projects or teach at a college or university. When working on a doctoral degree, you can focus on specific areas such as birds, mammals, reptiles, or fish.

Work experience

Volunteering at a zoo is an excellent way to gain skills for this occupation.

After completing a doctoral degree, some zoologists work as postdoctoral fellows (postdocs). These university positions last for several years. Postdocs get extensive field experience. This research can lead to a teaching or research job at a university.

On-the-job training

As a new zoologist you generally receive additional training on the job. The length of training varies by employer and your background. Training generally lasts up to six months.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers of research zoologists require applicants to have a doctoral degree (PhD). Universities look for strong research and publications backgrounds. Employers at private agencies that do research may look for applicants who are successful at raising funds through grant writing.

Federal and state agencies may look for people who can do basic or applied research. They prefer applicants who have a PhD. However, they will hire applicants who have a master's degree. They sometimes hire applicants who have only a bachelor's degree as assistants. These employers look for people who can work independently as well as on a team. They also look for applicants who can communicate well. Zoologists must be able to record their research and describe the findings in reports. They also must be able to communicate with the public one-on-one or in a group.

Employers of zoo keeper supervisors require applicants to have a four-year degree. Employers look for someone with experience with animals. They may look for specific skills in one area, such as with reptiles, birds, or fish. They may look for experience in breeding, such as hand rearing. Some zoos may require staff to take physical exams. Aquariums may require staff to be scuba-certified.

Costs to workers

Some workers may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Zoologists and wildlife biologists (SOC 19-1023)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $22.21 $27.72 $33.78 $42.34 $56.20
Monthly $3,849 $4,804 $5,854 $7,338 $9,739
Yearly $46,200 $57,660 $70,250 $88,060 $116,890
    Bellingham Hourly $24.74 $29.80 $36.34 $51.52 $59.32
Monthly $4,287 $5,164 $6,298 $8,928 $10,280
Yearly $51,476 $61,980 $75,597 $107,158 $123,382
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $19.43 $24.78 $30.59 $38.46 $50.60
Monthly $3,367 $4,294 $5,301 $6,665 $8,769
Yearly $40,429 $51,561 $63,645 $80,002 $105,242
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $22.59 $24.67 $27.14 $31.02 $35.07
Monthly $3,915 $4,275 $4,703 $5,376 $6,078
Yearly $46,987 $51,308 $56,450 $64,515 $72,937
    Longview Hourly $23.14 $29.80 $34.36 $43.21 $55.90
Monthly $4,010 $5,164 $5,955 $7,488 $9,687
Yearly $48,112 $61,974 $71,468 $89,875 $116,272
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $17.99 $23.85 $33.54 $40.30 $57.74
Monthly $3,118 $4,133 $5,812 $6,984 $10,006
Yearly $37,422 $49,604 $69,764 $83,826 $120,088
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $23.24 $28.20 $33.54 $37.02 $46.27
Monthly $4,027 $4,887 $5,812 $6,416 $8,019
Yearly $48,327 $58,664 $69,767 $77,009 $96,251
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $20.46 $28.21 $36.84 $50.96 $64.54
Monthly $3,546 $4,889 $6,384 $8,831 $11,185
Yearly $42,564 $58,675 $76,633 $106,002 $134,246
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $26.19 $29.65 $33.94 $36.22 $38.93
Monthly $4,539 $5,138 $5,882 $6,277 $6,747
Yearly $54,477 $61,659 $70,592 $75,345 $80,975
    Vancouver Hourly $28.04 $32.87 $38.16 $46.78 $52.89
Monthly $4,859 $5,696 $6,613 $8,107 $9,166
Yearly $58,314 $68,373 $79,388 $97,296 $109,996
    Walla Walla Hourly $24.74 $29.94 $34.37 $40.68 $46.66
Monthly $4,287 $5,189 $5,956 $7,050 $8,086
Yearly $51,474 $62,281 $71,477 $84,607 $97,049
    Wenatchee Hourly $27.23 $31.13 $35.92 $40.68 $49.78
Monthly $4,719 $5,395 $6,225 $7,050 $8,627
Yearly $56,629 $64,758 $74,730 $84,614 $103,549
    Yakima Hourly $28.20 $31.92 $35.25 $46.57 $61.46
Monthly $4,887 $5,532 $6,109 $8,071 $10,651
Yearly $58,670 $66,384 $73,333 $96,866 $127,833
United States Hourly $19.37 $24.26 $30.49 $38.01 $49.44
Monthly $3,357 $4,204 $5,284 $6,587 $8,568
Yearly $40,290 $50,460 $63,420 $79,070 $102,830

Wages for zoologists vary by their level of education. Those who have a doctoral degree (PhD) usually earn more than those who have a master's or bachelor's degree. Wages also vary by type of position, employer, and size of the city. Government employees may earn more than those at museums or zoos. Wages tend to be higher in big cities than in small towns.

Some zoologists earn more if they are successful at writing and receiving grants. Some zoo workers belong to unions. They tend to be paid more than non-union workers.

Zoologists who work full time usually receive benefits. Benefits may include health insurance, paid vacation, and sick leave.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists (SOC 19-1023)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 2,181 21.5% 16.1% 299
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 151 16.6% 13.4% 18
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 117 8.5% 8.6% 12
    Benton and Franklin Counties 50 4.0% 15.0% 5
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 99 10.1% 11.9% 11
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 87 4.6% 15.2% 8
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 435 10.3% 14.1% 47
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 88 40.9% 14.6% 16
    King County 859 31.5% 19.6% 138
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 121 7.4% 13.8% 13
    Pierce County 33 6.1% 15.2% 3
    Snohomish County 90 23.3% 12.4% 12
    Spokane County 24 4.2% 13.9% 2
United States 19,300 4.7% 5.2% 1,900

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is growing about as fast as the average. As the human population grows and development impacts wildlife and their natural habitats, zoologists will be needed to study human and wildlife interactions. However, because most funding comes from governmental agencies, demand will be limited by budgetary constraints.

Zoo positions also will remain competitive because of the number of people interested in this field. However, zoos are caring for and protecting a wider array of animals. They will need people who know how to care for these animals and educate the public about them.

Other resources

American Association of Zoo Keepers (external link)
8476 East Speedway Boulevard, Suite 204
Tucson, AZ 85710
American Institute of Biological Sciences (external link)
1800 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 400
Reston, VA 20191
American Society of Mammalogists (external link)
Association of Field Ornithologists (external link)
Entomological Society of America (external link)
3 Park Place, Suite 307
Annapolis, MD 21401
National Academy of Sciences Interviews (external link)
Science Careers (external link)
So You Want to be a Zookeeper? (external link)
(Information from the Saint Louis Zoo)
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (external link)
950 Herndon Parkway, Suite 450
Herndon, VA 20170
The Wildlife Society (external link)
425 Barlow Place, Suite 200
Bethesda, MD 20814
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057
Washington State Science & Engineering Fair (external link)
Wildlife Conservation Society (external link)
2300 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10460
Wildlife Management Institute (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational cluster