At the larger the zoos there are more paid jobs at the zoo. In smaller zoos, the animal care staff will often take on most of the zoos responsibilities in addition to their animal care duties. Here are many of the zoo jobs available to you.
Entry Level Jobs at the Zoo
The following entry level zoo jobs either do not require any previous experience or education beyond a high school diploma, or require only minimal experience and college education.
Gatekeeping / Ticketing
Gatekeepers, also called ticketing agents, sell tickets at the front of the zoo. They are also the first contact the public has at the animal park. This also makes them responsible for knowing all aspects of the zoo and daily events as well as selling tickets.
The gift shop is another source of funding for the zoo. Like any retail outfit, the zoo gift shop will have several positions, from retail clerk to manager. However, in a wild animal park zoo, the staff needs to be familiar with the products in the gift shop and the animals and events in the entire zoo, as customers will ask questions of staff as they shop.
Any of the zoo jobs may have intern assistant positions available. The requirements will vary, but generally require a commitment of working a minimum number of hours and that the intern be currently enrolled in a high school or college science program.
Jobs at the Zoo Requiring Education and Experience
These jobs will require at least some past experience and/or some college education. Some of these jobs will require higher level college degrees and specialized training.
Zookeepers are the primary caregivers to the animals in the zoo. Daily duties including cleaning every cage, feeding every animal, and providing behavior enrichment. Treatment of medical conditions under the supervision of the zoo veterinarian also falls to the zookeeper. Bird keeper, animal care specialist, mammal keeper, elephant keeper, and animal keeper are other titles given to the zookeeping profession.
Most wild animal parks have an education department. The educators in this department develop and/or are involved all of the zoo’s education programs. This can include wildlife shows at the zoo, school program, summer camps, and special events. Wildlife educators’ job responsibilities include care for and training of the education program animals, public speaking, program development, and media work.
Animal trainers in zoos or wildlife parks typically work in the education shows, such as the bird show. Some zoos and aquariums make husbandry training part of the basic care of the animals and part of the regular zookeeper duties. Animal trainers in educational shows are responsible for the care of the animals in the show, show production, and public education.
Behavioral enrichment is a central part of daily zoo animal care. Enrichment refers to anything that challenges a captive animal and gives them something to do. This can include training sessions, toys, feeding puzzles and much more. Behavioral enrichment is part of the zookeeper’s daily duties. But at larger zoos, an enrichment coordinator is hired to develop new enrichment ideas for all the animals and ensures the safety of the animals when providing behavioral enrichment.
Since the animal care staff at zoos and aquariums have unique knowledge in working with and caring for wild animals, many zoos and marine parks also rehabilitate wild animals. The wildlife rehabilitation staff treats and cares for local wildlife found injured or sick with the goal of releasing that animal back into the wild.
Every zoo has a veterinarian that specializes in exotic and wild animals. In larger zoos, this is a full time in-house position. Exotic animal veterinarians must be knowledgeable in medical needs of every species in the zoo, from snakes to giraffes, and the safe capture and restraint of every species to be able to safely provide yearly exams and emergency medical to all animals.
Exotic Veterinary Technician
Usually zookeepers will act as the veterinary technician for medical exams and procedures for the animals in their care. In larger zoos there will also be dedicated veterinary technicians to help with all the animals that come through the zoo’s animal hospital.
Publicity / Marketing
Staff in the marketing department handle media requests and promote the many animals, programs, and events at the zoo through various avenues, such as social media. This can be one of the more challenging zoo jobs as it also requires publicly addressing criticism and hardships that the zoo may face.
Horticulturist / Gardener
Gardeners and horticulturists at the zoo keep the grounds and gardens looking their best for the public to enjoy. The zoo may also have a botanical collection that requires specialize care and expertise. In addition, knowledge of growing food and gardens for the zoo animals is also needed, as some of the plants help feed the animals or enrich their habitat.
Many zoo animals have special habitat needs such as constant heating or cooling. Aquariums have extensive filters and pumps that must operate at full efficiency to keep the fish and other aquatic healthy and alive. For these reasons, many of the jobs at zoos are maintenance positions.
In smaller zoos and wildlife facilities, the kitchen duties and food prep fall to the zookeeper. But in large zoos, there’s staff assigned only to the commissary, or food prep. Commissary staff prepares and sends out all the diets to all the animals on a daily basis.
Caring for wild animals is costly. To provide all the needs of the animals and quality educational programs, zoos rely on entrance fees, gift shop and education department revenue, and grants for funding. Larger zoos will hire grants coordinators to work full time on grant applications.
To find what openings are available at zoos, look at the zoo’s website, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) job board, and the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) job board.