What is a Zoology Degree?

A degree in zoology presents a wide variety of career options. Opportunities include studying animals in their natural habitats and writing reports concerning their behavior, monitoring animals in zoos, working in veterinary clinics, analyzing specimens to test for diseases in a lab, working in the areas of ecology and conservation, and applying learned knowledge and skills in the pharmaceuticals environment.

Through the scientific study of the evolution, anatomy, physiology, behavior, habitats, and health of animals and humans, zoology – in all of its potential callings – has the capacity to make significant impacts on the world.

Entry-level positions in the field of zoology typically require a bachelor’s degree. In more senior roles, such as zoo curator, a master’s is common, and research and academic postings are generally the domain of those with a doctorate.

Employers of zoologists span the public, private, and non-profit sectors and include the following:

  • universities and research institutes
  • schools, colleges, science centers, libraries, and museums
  • environmental protection agencies
  • environmental and animal charities
  • environmental and conservation consultancies
  • zoos and wildlife parks
  • aquaculture and animal nutrition companies
  • medical research establishments
  • chemical, pharmaceutical, and petroleum companies
  • government health agencies

Program Options

Associate Degree in Zoology – Two Year Duration
While some community colleges offer associate degree programs in zoology, most of these are designed to prepare for and transition into a course of study at the bachelor’s level.

Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology – Four Year Duration
Students interested in zoology generally pursue a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) in the field. BA programs tend to encompass more general elective courses. BSc programs are more focused on the physical sciences and typically require choosing a specialization, such as marine biology, ecology, or genetics.

Master’s Degree in Zoology– Two Year Duration
In general, the curriculum for a master’s program in zoology addresses the same subject matter covered in a bachelor’s program, but at a more advanced level and with a research-oriented focus.

Doctoral Degree in Zoology – Five to Seven Year Duration
Ph.D. programs in zoology are targeted at students wishing to work in advanced research and academia.

Degrees Similar to Zoology

Because zoology is a particularly wide field of study that includes the evolution, structure, physiology, classification, behavior, and distribution of animals, there are, by association, several other animal-related degree programs that may be of interest to students who initially consider earning a degree in this discipline:

Animal Behavior
This is an interdisciplinary degree program that combines studies in biology and psychology. It explores animal biology, evolution, and the structure of animal groups or societies.

Animal Sciences
This area of study focuses largely on the management of livestock species such as cattle, horses, pigs, goats, and sheep. It is concerned with genetics, reproduction, and nutrition, and meat science.

Animal Biology
The field of animal biology applies biological scientific principles with practical methodologies of animal husbandry.

Dairy Science
Students who major in dairy science study cattle management. They learn about herd health, reproduction, genetics, milk production, nutrition, and marketing.

Equine Science
Equine science, the study of horses, is concerned with equine management and addresses horse anatomy, physiology, reproduction, exercise physiology, behavior, nutrition, and training methods.

Poultry Science
Poultry management is the focus of this degree program. Topics include egg production, meat production, reproduction, anatomy, physiology, genetics, nutrition, and biotechnology.

Veterinary Technology
Vet technology majors study animal anatomy, physiology, health, disease transmission, and proper use of medical equipment. They typically work in assistant roles to veterinarians.

Agriculture Management
Degree programs in agriculture management teach students how to manage plant and animal resources.

Animal Shelter Management
This degree field is concerned with how to take care of animals within shelter settings.

Conservation Biology
Conservation biologists apply biological principles to the preservation and rehabilitation of wildlife. They may be involved in enforcing hunting laws and in conservation education.

Students that pursue a degree in ecology study how organisms interact with the natural environments that they live in and how these environments can be protected.

Environmental Science
The basis of this discipline is that all natural things interact. Individuals who earn a degree in environmental science develop plans to prevent, control, or find solutions to environmental issues, such as pollution.

Exotic Animal Training and Management
Exotic animals saved from negative situations are at the heart of this degree field. Students who earn this degree are dedicated to caring for these animals, often in animal sanctuaries or progressive zoos.

Farm Management
The primary objective of this degree program is to teach students how to run a farm. Subject areas covered include finance, marketing, production, and operations.

Fisheries Sciences and Management
Those with a degree in fisheries sciences and management may run a fishery, research fishes and their environment, study fish spawning habits, or use their knowledge in aquarium settings.

Marine Biology
Students who earn a degree in marine biology study marine organisms and their behaviors and interactions with the environment.

Pre-Veterinary Medicine
A degree in pre-vet medicine is a preparatory educational track for students planning to earn a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine.

Skills You’ll Learn

For most students, earning a zoology degree leads to the development of a set of transferrable hard and soft skills:

  • ability to work both independently and as part of a team
  • oral communication / presentation skills
  • general and scientific writing skills
  • observation and analytical skills
  • ability to design, conduct, and interpret scientific research
  • ability to consider problems with a scientific approach
  • data management skills
  • ability to communicate findings and results using models, graphs, and charts
  • understanding of information technology
  • project management skills

What Can You Do with a Zoology Degree?

Wildlife Conservation
Foresters and conservation scientists are dedicated to managing parks, forests, and other natural resources, including animals of various species.

Environmental Science
The object of environmental scientists is to protect the environment and both human and animal health. The field is therefore a natural fit for individuals with a zoology background.

Teaching and Research
Teaching opportunities may also be available to zoology graduates. The subject is increasingly being taught at the high school level. Job seekers with a graduate degree can pursue employment with universities and research institutions.

Government Agencies
Governments often establish health-related research agencies. Studies conducted by these agencies may involve testing on animals. In these environments, zoologists’ knowledge of both the animals themselves and research methodologies can prove to be invaluable. Federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service present another occupational option for zoologists.

Animal Care and Training
Positions of this kind can be found with zoos, aquariums, farms, wildlife management agencies, animal sanctuaries, the SPCA, and the Humane Society.

Veterinary Medicine
Veterinary medicine often employs zoology graduates in a support or assistant role, for their familiarity with the medical conditions and diseases that can affect pets, livestock, and other animals.

The field of microbiology is rather closely aligned with zoology, as it studies the microorganisms – bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, parasites – that live, grow, and interact with their environments.

Biochemistry and Biophysics
Biochemistry and biophysics are focused on the study of the chemical and physical principles of living things and of the biological processes of cell growth, disease, and heredity. Zoologists’ knowledge in these areas can contribute to advancing understanding in the fields.

Media and Science Writing
Zoology graduates with strong verbal and written communication skills can look outside the employment box somewhat and explore opportunities with print and electronic media outlets and filmmakers in search of professional consultants with knowledge of animal behavior.

Case Study

The Potential Influence of Zoologists
It is not uncommon for zoologists to get involved with conservation lobbying, wildlife management, and species protection programs. They may also contribute to government studies on the interaction of animals with nature and humans and campaign for the establishment of wildlife preserves or state or national parks. These aspects of the work sometimes allow zoologists to influence important policies.


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