A zoologist is a scientist who has completed professional training to specialize in that branch of biology dealing with animals in their native habitats and/or zoological gardens located throughout the world. Among the best-known zoologists in recent history are Charles Darwin, Jane Goodall, Desmond Morris and 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin.
Zoologists today may work at a traditional zoological botanical garden, in the laboratory, or doing research in the field. They specialize in one of four areas: birds (ornithologists), mammals (mammalogists), reptiles (herpetologists), and fish (ichthyologists). Being a zoologist also often entails the acquisition of new animals for a zoo, managing day-to-day operations, and involvement in breeding and preservation efforts of assorted animal species.
If you are a considering a career in zoology, make sure you maintain high grades in biology and science classes in high school in addition to seeking out internship opportunities at places that involve animal care such as ranches, wildlife preserves and veterinary clinics. If you live in a major metropolitan area that includes a zoo, find out if they offer student internships or if you can join their volunteer corps to gain further experience either before or during your college coursework. Your first stop in becoming a zoologist is to be accepted at an accredited college or university offering a Bachelor's degree in zoology or biological sciences.
Areas of study to gain a degree in zoology include chemistry, biology, physics, zoology, mathematics and statistics. Upon graduation, you may wish to pursue a Master's or even a doctorate in zoology before joining the workforce. If you want to be able to diagnose and treat the many wild animals into which you will come into contact, you can also choose to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine; this may make you a more valuable asset to a prospective employer.
Zoologists can find employment at zoos working as zookeepers in direct contact with the animals, as curators involved with the acquisition and breeding of new animals, or as directors, involved with the management and operation of the physical facility. State and federal governments also hire zoologists to work in wildlife management and conversation projects, as do private museums, consulting firms and research laboratories. Many colleges and universities hire zoologists who can either teach or do research.
Annual salaries for zoologists range between $30,000 and $50,000; a love of animals and working with them seems to be more of a motivating factor than earning power for choosing a career in this field.