How to Become a Zoologist

To become a zoologist requires intensive study and personal commitment. The qualifications and career paths in zoology can be very complicated, and often involve specialization in particular fields.

Education

Qualifications in zoology can be anything but simple. The required degrees and specializiations take years. To show the qualifications paths for zoologists, this is a basic generic progression of qualifications, starting from scratch in high school:

High school: Diploma passes in Biology, life sciences and chemistry

It's advisable to start early in zoology qualifications. A school career counselor or teacher can assist with planning your studies in this critically important stage of your career. Do your own research of zoological studies and career paths thoroughly, so you're sure you have a realistic picture of the study requirements and the discipline. This research is also useful for career goal setting and orientation to your field.

College: Undergraduate Bachelors Degree in biological sciences.

College: Graduate Masters Degree in biological sciences with specific zoological emphases.

College: Postgraduate PhD studies, usually in specific streams of zoology.

The true complexity of zoology qualifications sets in at college. A series of electives and course streams dictates the progression of studies. It's recommended that anybody wanting to become a zoologist makes clear career decisions to which they can commit themselves long term. Consulting with academic professionals and zoologists is the best way of mapping out a clear path of qualifications in detail. It is possible to change streams, but it can be an expensive and time consuming process, and can delay attaining a degree in some cases.

Training

Training is continuous in the qualification stages of all zoologicial studies, and it's rigorous. The basic training includes:

  • Laboratory techniques
  • Specimen handling techniques
  • Clinical analysis
  • Clinical sampling techniques
  • Field work
  • Bioinformatics
  • Data systems
  • Computer studies

Advanced training during qualifications relates specifically to the areas of study. This is all practical training, and it's quite complex, training students to perform difficult and sometimes dangerous work.

For example, Herpetologists require training in:

  • Safety procedures for handling snakes, crocodiles, and other very dangerous reptiles
  • Transportation and housing for specimens
  • Disease recognition and treatment
  • Feeding
  • Monitoring
  • Care of eggs and young reptiles

The hard work

Field work: The workplace for zoologists is a very mixed environment, and this is where the student training is augmented by professional experience. Theory and practice do have a lot of common ground in zoology, and although great effort is made to ensure students get excellent practical skills, a job like catching a buffalo or trapping a leopard can't be done on a theoretical basis.

Animal care:  The health and well being of live animals is a fundamental skill which can only be learned by doing. As a zoologist, every aspect of the health of an animal in your care is important. A sneezing pygmy possum or a lizard with a limp could mean a virus which will decimate your specimens. This is extremely difficult, very hard, 24/7 work, and it means the difference between success or failure for many important studies.

Zoologists work in every environment on Earth, under all conditions. It's a testimony to zoologists that none of them would rather do anything else.