Fact Checked

How can I Become a Zookeeper?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Many people think that being a zookeeper is the best job possible, since they get to work with and care for amazing animals. There are only so many zoos in the world, however, and only so many jobs. These careers involve a lot more than spending time with the animals, and require an understanding animal behavior, following specific rules for animal care, and lots and lots of cleaning up after them.

Since there are more would-be zookeepers than jobs available, it’s important to start working toward getting your ideal position as soon as possible. If you live in a major city, it’s quite likely you have a zoo where you can volunteer. If you don’t, then work on volunteering at humane shelters, or look for private wildlife reservations where you can give your time.

A zookeeper is responsible for feeding,cleaning, and spending time with animals.
A zookeeper is responsible for feeding,cleaning, and spending time with animals.

Often, zoos welcome volunteers in their early teens, though jobs with more responsibility may be held for kids who are 16 years or older. Some facilities offer one week summer camps to train those who would like a career with animals. If you can’t work at a zoo close to your home, consider saving up for one of these camps. Volunteering and experience with animals is an essential quality for getting hired.

Zookeepers may specialize with different types of birds.
Zookeepers may specialize with different types of birds.

Even before middle school and high school, begin studying and reading everything you can about wildlife, and subscribe to a few quality wildlife magazines. Work hard in science classes and speech courses. As a zookeeper, you will need to have a good background in animal science, but you may also need to make presentations to visitors to the zoo, so good speaking skills are a must.

Zookeepers often speak with guests about animals and conservation efforts.
Zookeepers often speak with guests about animals and conservation efforts.

There are few colleges that offer degrees in zookeeping; in the US, there are only four. You can focus on animal science, zoology, marine biology (if you are interested in aquatic parks), and animal behavior and psychology. You might even want to ask a nearby zoo what qualities they look for in employees, and what type of employees they hire. This can help you direct your choice of college toward the schools best geared toward helping you fulfill your dream.

While in college, don’t forget to keep volunteering at zoos or shelters. In fact, you may want to choose a college close to a major zoo, so you can get impressive volunteer credentials and superior training.

People interested in animal care may work as a zoo veterinarian.
People interested in animal care may work as a zoo veterinarian.

In addition to lots of experience and a good education, a zookeeper must be physically fit. Your job will not involve a lot of sitting, so keep yourself in good shape, and practice some weight lifting. When feeding animals or cleaning cages, you may be required to lift as much as 50 pounds (22.67 kg) on a regular basis.

Be prepared to work flexible hours. People with jobs in zoos often work every day of the week, and may work a swing shift or midnight shift, since animals need around the clock care.

You should be able to work well on your own, but also work well in a team. "Zookeeper" is a general term for many different types of jobs in a zoo, and can include specialists in animal behavior, nutritionists, and some veterinarians. Other support staff members round out the team. You will need to maintain good relationships with everyone on the team so the animals get the best possible care.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent PracticalAdultInsights contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent PracticalAdultInsights contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Are any of you from the UK? I know a University called the University of South Wales which holds a course that allows you to travel all over the world tracking big cats and all sorts to do with animals. I'm thinking about taking that course and I would love to work with animals. I've done L2 Animal Care and I'm halfway through L3 Animal Management, which is amazing course. Though I'm not sure if I want to be a vet nurse or work at a zoo or just work in a pet shop, as long as its to do with animals then I'm fine with it!


I'm 13 and I would enjoy and love to be a zookeeper. I've been trying my best to go to different animal places that could help but I could not find much. Do you know any places that would take a 13 year old volunteer? If you do, please let me know.


I am 12 and since I was about six, I've wanted to work with animals. The first time my heart clicked was when I was 8 on junior keeper experience at Colchester zoo. I have also been a cadet at Colchester.

I love animals. I have two cats and (have had fish, hamsters and Guineas). I also have a guinea pig at the moment. I am getting a dog in a month.

I want to get a job with interaction with animals. I have considered being a vet,zookeeper, zoo vet, conservation officer, etc., but I really don't know. I put my heart into everything and anything and stick with it but I still don't know what to choose.

Would anybody know about anywhere a 12 year old can volunteer/work to get to any of the above? Finally, what courses do I need to take in uni/college or are there any other roots!


I'm 12 years old and I would do anything to work with animals! I have two dogs and used to have a hamster. I want to help animals and care for them. I've wanted this since my hamster died at the age of 4.


I'm a 12 year old girl and I love tigers. This post helped a lot and it was cool seeing lots of other people my age have the same interests as me. I have almost always wanted to be a zookeeper or a animal conservationist.


I am a college student majoring in zoo keeping technology at Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I don't find this article entirely realistic. Zookeeping is not as glamorous as most think. It is hard, dirty, back breaking work. You spend a *lot* of time cleaning, plus lifting, hauling, preparing diets, observing animals, keeping detailed records and keeping up with paperwork.

There is not a lot of hands on work with the animals themselves in any good zoo because it is dangerous for animal and keeper. Attention to detail, being a driven worker, working alone and in teams, and no procrastination are important. But I love the work.

You have to euthanize animals, pick up after them, and sometimes work with people you don't like, but it pays off when you get to be part of saving a life, the birth of an endangered species, or releasing an animal into the wild.

It is never too late to get into the field and just get in where you can because it is a somewhat closed field. They hire from within, then from other zoos, then the zoo community and finally the public. Once you are in, it is much easier to get the specific job you want. Volunteer and get an education in animal related fields! you can find tons more information or zoo keeping as a career online.


I am a junior in high school, and am looking at colleges for zookeeping. Unfortunately I have only found one that is located in California, and I live in Illinois. If anyone could help me find a college closer to my location, that would be great. Thanks.


I'm fourteen and my mom is a single mother so we don't have the money rolling in let's just say. I want to work with marine mammals like whales and dolphins and the closet aquarium or sea world or zoo is miles away so what can i do now that I'm in high school to help for college and my job? I don't have very good transportation but is there anything online that I can do or summer camps i can go to that are in texas and close to lewisville?


My name is marie and i have my g.e.d and i was wondering if there is any college for me that will make me a vet for exotic, wild animals?


so I'm ten years old and I'm wanting to become a zookeeper. How can i start volunteering?


I am 18 years old and I have a great love for animals. I have wanted to work with animals all my life. Animals are my passion and I'm looking for a place to begin and bookkeeping seems like a good place to start.


I've wanted to be a zookeeper. However I live far from a zoo and the SPCA shelter is about half an hour away. I don't know what to do.


I'm 13 and i would love to work at a zoo but i had back surgery and I'm not allowed to lift heavy objects. I still would love to work with elephants and giraffes. Would that permit me from not being a zookeeper? i would also like to know what types of colleges would you go to become a zookeeper? Thanks for your help!


I have wanted to be a Zookeeper (Zoologist) for about three or four years. I'm not so bothered wit all the cleaning up work as such. I would like to work with primates like gorillas, gibbons, monkeys etc. But i would also like to work with elephants. Can you explain a bit more on what GCSE's, A-levels and college courses you need to take though? Thanks!


I'm courtney. I'm 21 and was going to be a vet tech but i recently thought about becoming a zookeeper. i love animals and have so much love and care to give how do i go about becoming a zookeeper? (school)


I'm 13 years old and have been working at a wildlife ranch with exotic animals since I was 10. I do presentations and can do everything that staff does. I'm dead set on going to Moore Park University, but it is only a two year college, so for the other two years, I wanted to go to one of the four US colleges where you can get a degree in zookeeping. What are those colleges, and where are they?


This information is so very helpful with letting me know what i need to do to become a zookeeper. I am 16 years old and i have dreamed about being a zookeeper for years! I plan to pursue this dream and conquer all obstacles in the way of this dream! Such as being a teen mom!


I'm currently studying Wildlife Conservation and Management, Zoology and Biology as well as Veterinary Assistant. I have a GPA of 4.0, and am an honor student in all courses. I have my Professional Conservation Program Degree and My Forestry Conservation degree as well.

I am aiming to open my own wolf sanctuary here in Northern Ontario canada. how do i go about doing that? It's my dream to do it and when i do open it I want to do it in memory of my sister who passed away. Thank you!


I am 13, and have always loved animals, preferably wild, such as carnivores, and other mammals. The other night, i was watching National Geographic Wild, and saw a show called Zoo Confidential. When it was over, i knew right then that i wanted to work with big cats, or carnivores. I love tigers especially though.

I was wondering, how do i mainly focus on Tigers or bears, etc. etc. is there any way to be that specific?


I'm 16 years old and ever since I was little, I loved learning about animals. When I reached middle school, I knew I wanted to be a zookeeper and I wanted it bad.

Right now I work at a horse farm and get a free lesson for every eight hours I work (that's my payment).

I started working there after my friend told me the applications for a local Barnyard Zoo weren't being accepted after a certain date because it was filled up. So I had to resort to something else.

I really want to know if there's an opportunity to volunteer to the zoo I usually go to. And if there's any way to set that up. Do you think the zoo will be impressed if I also volunteer at a shelter or vet's office or something?


I am priya. I am very much fond of wildlife and i have one dream: to open my wildlife sanctuary. please do help me with this.


i am 15 and love animals, and a zookeeper seems to be the perfect job. but how can i achieve my dream? what grades do i need to get?


I'm 12 and have always loved animals! I am used to cleaning up after animals since I have to feed, give water, and clean up the crap of two dogs and two cats. Zookeeping is exactly what I want to do!


To anon53083: i want to become a vet as well. If you do vet science you need an op of 16 or better, good marks in maths b, science, english and chemistry. vet science takes five years to complete. if you want to work with zoo animals or care for lions or something like that, i recommend doing zoology as well! Hope this helped!


I'm 14 and i have been volunteering at my local zoo and this really helped me to know what i need to focus on in high school so i can be a zookeeper when I'm older.


I am 11 years old and I love animals. I love sea lions and I read a lot about them. I am looking forward to being a zookeeper in the next couple years. I understand all the hard work it takes to become one, and what it is to be one. I want to most likely work with sea lions. Should I focus on reading on sea lions only, or read about a whole cluster of animals?


Oh sorry but i forgot to mention i am 12 years of age. I have about 5-6 years before i want to start in the zookeeping business. So as i mentioned before i love tigers and i have five or six years to learn a lot more about tigers and other great animals. Thank you, bye.


Thank you very much for your information and i hope it will help me become a great zookeeper. The animal i want to be with is the tigers because i just love tigers. I also don't mind cheetahs and gorillas as well but i like tigers the best. Thank you, bye.


I'm 14 and this has helped me a lot. Thank you. i want to work with cats, especially cheetahs. They're the best!


I'm 13 years old and i would love to work with the tigers. i wouldn't care if i had to get up every three hours. i would do anything for them. even if it means scooping out the poo.


This is to number 57: This has been a real help, I'm 17 and almost done with college, looking into what to take for university to be a zookeeper. I didn't think I had to do speeches and such, so thanks a bunch. You've opened my eyes even more and it still sounds amazing. Thank you very much!


I am currently a wildlife carer myself and it is true, it does take quite a lot of work. It includes early mornings and late nights, and you need to be physically fit as well, because the job causes quite a lot of physical strain on your body.

Feeding the animals, cleaning their cages, repairing anything that needs to be repaired and constant paperwork, too. i know, hard to believe, but it's true. Every day you need to write down the conditions your animal/s are in, so that in case of an out of nowhere sickness or injury, you can look back on your notes and make sure you know exactly what is going on.

Another thing you need to know if you want to be a zookeeper is that you aren't always working with the animals. Sometimes if you are in a zoo, you may need to do speeches and shows for the public and confidence and knowledge of your subject is a must. I hope this helps.


I'm a 13 year old girl, and I've always loved animals! would i have time for my future family if i became a zookeeper? i think, if we didn't have animals in this world, well, i don't know what i would do! i have two dogs, and i love them a whole lot, and i never want them to go!


I'm 14 and from scotland and i was wondering what subjects i should take if i want to be a zoo keeper. i have taken biology and chemistry. Are those the right sciences?


I'm 13 and in year 9. i live in western australia and i was wondering if there are any colleges that offer zoology as a course in western australia as i haven't managed to find any.


I'm 15 and a freshman. I started off wanting to become a zoologists but then i found out that becoming a zookeeper seemed so much better. I'm doing my research paper on the career i want and i choose zoo keeper.

The best way to get started is volunteering at any zoological fields (zoos, vets, animal shelters, etc.) After high school, i plan in getting a bachelor's degree in zoology.


I am 12 years old and I'm searching zookeepers. i didn't ever think i'd want to no one until this project and this website. I really love animals and being a zoo keeper seems just for me! I just didn't like being picked on for the part of the job where you pick up crap.


I have loved animals ever since I was two. I have debated the pros and cons of being a Vet Nurse, and I have decided that I will do that If I can't find anything else that I want to do. Well, I've found something else, being a zookeeper.

Haven't decided exactly yet, as I'm 14, but animal care is the path I want to take, and this article has helped me. Thank you!


I am 14 and have always loved animals but I live in a smallish town where the only zoo around went broke and had to close down. I am also highly allergic to some animals which doesn't help me but, it is not going to stop me!


I am 16 and I have always wanted to be a zookeeper. I think that this article is very helpful. I already have a plan on how to become one! Wish me luck!


I'm 11 and I'm wondering if i should study on one species of animal.


what is the major that you go into to become a zookeeper?


I'm 18 and my dream job is being a zookeeper; it has always been something i was always into. I'm a senior in high school and I didn't take a lot of classes that have to deal with zookeepers because we do not have a lot. I have a plan but I'm scared it won't work. help?


I am 19, a freshman at Penn State University, currently majoring in "animal science". dream job would be to be a keeper at the Pittsburgh Zoo, but I'm well aware that the jobs are incredibly limited in that field. How can get a beat on the competition? Specializing is probably helpful, but any other ideas?


to tell the truth i never thought about being a zookeeper until I was older. i was always thinking about working with cars or being a football or basketball player but now it suddenly hit me, "Work with animals." Ever since that day i can't get my head off it.

i know in college I'll have to study Zoology or biology and i need to get some GSCE in science and maths and english but am close to my Business Diploma and going to get two gsce in science from my bTec course. just wondering what does business have to do with animals?


i didn't know anything about being a zookeeper, until now. this website helped a lot. thanks!


i want to be a zookeeper. I am only 12 but i don't know what to be: a vet or a zookeeper. Please help.


I am 13 years old and i want to be a zookeeper.


Very helpful post, however to all commenters, every place has different schools, volunteer opportunities, and totally different rules. If zookeeping is your dream, and it's something you are serious about doing, just keep researching if you have questions unanswered. There should be volunteer opportunities anywhere you live, and if there is a specific place you want to work check their website and talk to the zookeepers.

Just do everything you can to make your dream a reality.


i am 12 years old and i want to be a zoo keeper or a vet, but i don't know. please help.


So I am 17 getting ready to start my senior year. And I love science and I love animals. So I thought I would combine the two and become a zookeeper.

I love learning about different types of animals, and learning how to protect then and keep them healthy. Ive been researching some colleges for Zookeeping. Does anyone know a really good school?


I really want to be a zoo keeper; this has helped me so much! Thanks.


wow this article has seriously depressed me.

that's it, back to reproductive endocrinology.


i'm 15 and I've always wanted to work with animals. I volunteer at a stables and used to work at a vets. I need to know what I should take when I got to college. Should I take biology and chemistry or do a zoological degree? I need to know what a university would prefer.


i'm 12 years old. ever since i was little i've wanted to be a zookeeper. i am just wondering what kind of things we have to study in college and how long we have to stay in college!


I'm 15. I'm still deciding if zookeeping is for me. I'd like to know that if you run your own zoo what would it take, and how much would you make? I'd also like to know where these colleges are. I love animals, especially wolves, and I'm going to be working at a tiger sanctuary pretty soon.


i am 12 years old and so want to be a zoo keeper. i would like to hang out with the animals and be in charge of a certain species of animal. but at school we are doing this task and tell the class a poster and present a speech of what we want to be when we grow up. i want to say that i want to be a zoo keeper but i am worried what my friends might think. please help


i want to become a zookeeper because i like animals.


I'm in eighth grade and 13 and would love to work in a zoo to be a keeper of the big cats like tigers.


I am 13 and i also want to work with animals and i also love animal planet. my favorite animal is a tiger and i don't care what i do as long as it is with animals. =]


Hey, I'm 11 and I was just wondering what colleges could people go to to get a degree for zookeeping? But they have to be in Illinois.


i'm in the 8th grade. ever since i was 2 or 3 i wanted to work with animals. when all the other kids watched cartoons i watched animal planet. i decided when i was 5 that i would work with animals. my favorite animal is tigers. so now when i go to college i know what i will do after college. i plan to move to Australia and become a zookeeper for tigers.


What are the four colleges that grant the zoo-keeper degrees and where are they located?


i am 16 years old and want to become a zoo keeper but i am not very good at science. i can't volunteer at a zoo due to living in a country town far away from a city and there not many opportunities here. i just want to know how to get around the science part of it.


What if you're not in middle school or high school? do you think it would be too late for someone in their mid 20's?


Hi,my name is Cortney. I'm 13 years old. I have always wanted to be a zookeeper for as long as I can remember. This article has given me the information I need to make my dream come true. Thank you.


I am 11 and all my life i have wanted to work with animals and i found the best way to work with them is to become a zoo keeper! I would love to know how long do you have to stay in college before you become one?


hey i'm 14 and i want to ask where are some good colleges that i can go to to get a degree in biology or zoology? where are some good zoos to volunteer near gulfport also.


hi i am only 12 years old. i am in grade 6. i have always wanted to be a zoo keeper, but i could never speak out to people. i would like to be a zoo keeper when i grow up. i am going to try my best and see were i get to. if i don't make it as a zookeeper i might find another job i like and i went to the zoo yesterday in Melbourne.


I would appreciate it if you posted the 4 colleges that have zoology as a major. I volunteer at a zoo and I'm very good at biology but I can't find a college close to Texas that has a degree offered for zoology.


Hi. I was wondering if there's a university in queenlands or sunshine coast australia where you can do a course to be able to work in a zoo because i don't read much about animals and not that good in science but i love animals and want to work with them.


Awesome! Volunteering at the zoo would be a great idea!


Which and where are the colleges that grant zoo-keeper degrees located?


so what colleges are they?


Im just wondering if I take 2 biology classes in high school and a co-op at a zoo but I'm not good at science could i still become a zookeeper. I've just never been good a science but I love animals and im going to take a co-op at a zoo and im taking biology next year and the year after. I also do a lot of reading about animals, and watching the discovery channel. Im sort of just asking if I do all those other things could I become a zookeeper without taking any more sciences.


It was very helpful but .....

it would be helpful if you would put any zoos near the place that the person who reads the information lives so they know if they can go and help out there when they are 16 or older because i know i would i like to know where places are so i can go and volunteer.

many thanks


great! but what courses in college do you need to take?


You may also want to mention how extremely political the Zoo environs can be!


needs to explain who what kind of people you will work with and where you will need to live. otherwise, very helpful!

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    • A zookeeper is responsible for feeding,cleaning, and spending time with animals.
      By: davitydave
      A zookeeper is responsible for feeding,cleaning, and spending time with animals.
    • Zookeepers may specialize with different types of birds.
      By: jamdesign
      Zookeepers may specialize with different types of birds.
    • Zookeepers often speak with guests about animals and conservation efforts.
      By: hitdelight
      Zookeepers often speak with guests about animals and conservation efforts.
    • People interested in animal care may work as a zoo veterinarian.
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      People interested in animal care may work as a zoo veterinarian.