Zookeepers have a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. A bachelor’s degree provides many zookeepers with a vocational edge over other candidates, but it is not necessary. Some zoos may only require potential zookeepers to hold a high school diploma or GED prior to training. Still other educational backgrounds, such as in the sciences, are helpful in this line of work.

High School

Future zookeepers can start following their dreams in high school by taking a wide selection of electives that can help them in their career. Science courses provide individuals with the most knowledge in this field. Lab courses, anatomy, biology and chemistry should be taken if at all available. Mathematics and English courses are helpful, as are social studies courses. Teens can also volunteer at zoos, farms and other animal centers to gain helpful experience and have something concrete to add to their resumes. They can also work at animal grooming shops, pet stores or shelters to gain experience and build relationships for future references.

Technical or Vocational School

After high school, individuals who want to become zookeepers can attend technical or vocational school if they wish. This is not a requirement, but taking courses in science and math courses can be very helpful in obtaining a zookeeper job. Veterinary tech and zoo technology programs are very useful in this line of work. These programs can help people secure more advanced positions at a zoo or other animal facility. They can learn about how to treat animals for sickness, manage pain and comfort animals when in distress. Technical or vocational school takes an average of one to two years to complete and costs around $2,500 per year when individuals attend a school in their local vicinity.

Bachelor’s Degree

Some zoos do require a bachelor’s degree in order to qualify for a position. The degree can be in zoology, but other majors are also accepted, including ecology, life sciences and biology. Students can often personalize their zookeeper education with special focuses, such as herpetology, animal behavior and other wildlife studies. The bachelor’s program takes an average of four years to complete and costs around $6,585 per academic year. Students typically gain hands-on experience during a bachelor’s program as well, such as during internships at zoos and animal rehabilitation centers.

Specialized Training

Obtaining specialized training is not necessary in order to become a zookeeper, though some zoos do either prefer it or ask that keepers work toobtain it during their training. Zookeepers can receive this training in a variety of areas, such as animal behavior or psychology. This training can be obtained on the job or through a correspondence course or vocational school. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums offers web-based trainings and seminars to provide zookeeper training experiences as well.
Zookeepers can have varied educational experiences that lead them to this career. They will continue to learn each and every day through on-the-job experiences and ongoing trainings. Continuing education is a good idea for those who are interested in conservation and endangered species.