What does a zookeeper do?

In addition to tending to animals’ basic care, zookeepers work under supervision in breeding programs, returning animals to the wild, as well as carrying out experiments on animals and recording the results. They also examine animals, take bodily fluid for analysis and test for worm infestation and other common conditions. Monitoring animals’ reactions to tests and medical procedures, calculating drug dosages and preparing reports are also part of the role. All duties must be carried out according to relevant codes of practice and ethics.

Tasks:

  • Maintaining feed and water
  • Disinfecting cages, cleaning enclosures and sterilising equipment
  • Working in breeding programs
  • Monitoring animal welfare and wellbeing
  • Contributing to public education programs

What skills do I need to be a zookeeper?

Becoming a zookeeper involves a lot of manual labour both indoors and outside, so you need to be physically up to the task. Most importantly, you’ll require a genuine love of animals, a desire to help them, and an interest in conservation. It’s essential you are not allergic to animal hair, feathers, fur or dust. Zookeepers need to be patient and compassionate, and confident in their ability to wrangle animals of all sizes according to the facility’s occupational health and safety policies. The role requires tertiary scientific-based qualifications.
Skills/attributes
  • Observant
  • Patient and kind
  • Confident around animals of all sizes and species
  • Willingness to perform messy tasks
  • Enjoy working outdoors, often performing hard labour

Specialisations

Working as a zookeeper provides an opportunity to make a difference to the world by actively participating in wildlife conservation. As such, there are varying study pathways that can take you in the direction you want to go. Below are just some of the areas of specialisation that can stem from a zoo keeping qualification.

Researcher

Research roles apply a science-based approach to species survival, and are available within zoos, universities, and conservation organisations. Researchers focus on preserving endangered species, and wildlife conservation and management. They strive to manage threats such as disease, climate change and the destruction of ecosystems. Various qualifications may include zoology, veterinary studies, and biology.

Education officer

Education officers work to educate and influence the public on the importance of protecting all species and the environment. They develop educational programs, workshops, and youth volunteer programs, and also curate and manage exhibits. The role involves collaborating with facility management to constantly improve programs, animal wellbeing and zoo visitor experience. Qualifications typically include tertiary study in courses such as cell biology, conservation biology, zoology or ecology.

Veterinarian

Zoo veterinarians play a critical role in managing and maintaining animal wellbeing in zoos, laboratories, and wildlife parks. They implement prevention-based medical treatment plans and tend to the daily medical needs of sick or injured animals and native wildlife. Zoological vets also collaborate with external research organisations.

Study pathways for zookeepers

In order to become a zookeeper you will need to complete the relevant qualifications and register in your state.

Getting Started

Completing a vocational certificate in captive animals will allow you to work under the supervision of a licenced zookeeper while you learn on-the-job skills.

Skill Building

Study for career advancement. Qualify as a zookeeper or pursue a career specialisation.

Professional Development

These study options will enable you to pursue high-level employment options requiring extensive qualification or specialisation in a particular zoological field.

Industry Recognition

Zookeepers in Australia are required to attain professional tertiary accreditation. Find out more about the professional requirements of the animal care industry in the resources section.

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your career in animal care. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for zoo keeping jobs.

Job Prospects and Salaries

Zoo keeping is a highly specialised, niche area. Employment in this field has risen slightly in recent years and job prospects for zookeepers to November 2019 are expected to remain steady.