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How to become a Zoologist

zoologist careers

What does a Zoologist do?

Zoologists study animal evolution, ecology, genetics, behaviour, development and physiology. They have detailed knowledge of subjects like cell biology and genetics, and their work is used to enable advances in areas such as medicine, environmental protection and conservation, agriculture and aquaculture, and marine biology. Work might include the development and testing of new drugs, improving agricultural crops and livestock, disease and pest control, conservation of endangered habitats and species, and animal welfare and education. Work for governmental agencies may include developing policies and enforcing regulations.

The work involves conducting field and laboratory research using both traditional observational techniques and complex procedures such as computerised molecular and cellular analysis, in-vitro fertilisation and cryogenics. After analysing and interpreting data, detailed technical reports are produced.

Zoologists undertaking research in universities usually specialise in one of the many branches of zoology. These include:

  • morphology and anatomy – animal structure
  • embryology – reproduction and development
  • genetics and evolution – inherited characteristics
  • animal ecology and ecophysiology – the relationship between animals and their environment
  • ecotoxicology – the effects of pollutants on animals
  • behavioural studies.
There will often be some teaching duties associated with university work, and considerable time may be spent preparing and delivering lectures.

What's the working environment like working as a Zoologist?

The basic working week is 35 hours, Monday to Friday, but this varies according to the requirements of the project in hand. Unsocial hours and weekend work may be necessary.

Some research is carried out in modern well-equipped laboratories and involves using sophisticated instruments and computers. Protective clothing may be needed. Zoologists carrying out field work will spend time away from home, often overseas.

It should be noted that some procedures in zoological study require the collection of living and dead specimens, and in some instances dissection is necessary, particularly when studying animal physiology and diseases.

What does it take to become a Zoologist?

To be a zoologist you should:

  • be interested in animals and the environment
  • have an aptitude for sciences, particularly biology and chemistry
  • be able to conduct detailed work accurately and methodically
  • be inquisitive and able to plan research, analyse and interpret data, and write reports
  • have practical skills and the ability to devise solutions to problems
  • have patience, perseverance and the ability to concentrate for long periods
  • enjoy working as part of a multi-disciplinary team
  • have strong communication and IT skills.

Zoologist Career Opportunities

Employers of zoologists include universities and government research institutions, the NHS and medical research establishments, water authorities, zoos and wildlife trusts, and environmental protection agencies. There are opportunities in the private sector as consultants or in technical and research roles with veterinary, agricultural, fisheries and biotechnology organisations, and with other employers such as chemical, pharmaceutical, and petroleum companies.

Zoology graduates may also find work in the education sector, with museums or other cultural organisations, or move into other jobs such as management, marketing, sales or scientific journalism.

There are opportunities for work and study overseas.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Zoologist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Institute of Zoology
Zoological Society of London
Regent’s Park
Tel: 020 7449 6610

Institute of Biology
9 Red Lion Court
Tel: 020 7936 5900

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Courses to help you become a Zoologist