How To Become a Zoologist

If you pay close attention to the world and have a scientific curiosity regarding animals’ behavior, you might wonder how to become a zoologist. Zoology is the study of animals. Zoologists are scientists who observe and analyze animal interactions, characteristics and behavior. Zoologists study specimens in laboratories as well as animals in their natural environments. They use computers, microscopes and other technical equipment. Fieldwork can require zoologists to travel across the world, to various locations and climates, in order to observe animals’ behavior and collect specimens to study. Zoologists work for state and federal government agencies and in consulting services and scientific research and development departments.

In the field, zoologists observe animals. They may focus on physical characteristics or on interactions within the species or with other species. Some zoologists specialize in studying a certain type of animal, such as insects, mammals, reptiles, birds or fish. Others study animals in specific environments, or how animals interact with their environments.

How species of animals socialize, reproduce, and acquire food may be of interest to a zoologist. Zoologists often study nutrition, the spread of diseases among animals or any patterns in migration. They gather specimens, such as animal blood samples, on which to complete laboratory testing. In both natural and laboratory settings, zoologists study animal behavior. They estimate the population size of animals in the wild and, in the case of endangered or threatened species, they assist with government conservation efforts. Zoologists communicate their observations and research to the scientific community, government agencies and nonprofit organizations through oral presentations and written reports and articles

As scientists, zoologists must obtain a formal education from a college or university. The first step to entering this career field is earning a bachelor’s degree in zoology, biology, wildlife biology or ecology. While an undergraduate degree can qualify aspiring zoologists for entry-level positions, many opportunities for advancement or independent research are only open to zoologists who have earned a master’s degree or a Ph.D. Coursework in a zoology program will include many diverse disciplines of science, such as anatomy, cellular biology, chemistry, physics and botany. Mathematics is also an important part of a zoologist’s background, so math and statistics courses are often a requirement for such programs. Aspiring zoologists will also study different types of animals in courses such as ornithology. They must learn to use complex computer software such as modeling programs and geographic information systems.

Zoologists earn a median salary of $57,430 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Actual wages vary by position and employer. For example, the BLS reports that zoologists in research and development positions in physical and live sciences earn a median annual salary of $63,740, while those who work for the federal government can make $71,110 per year. If you are an excellent observer and problem-solver and have an interest in science and animals, knowing how to become a zoologist could be your first step toward a fulfilling new career.

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