How Do I Become a Zoologist?

S. McCumber

An advanced degree in a field of study related to zoology is usually required to become a zoologist. Undergraduate degrees in zoology are offered, but most employers require an advanced degree in zoology or in a specialized field of zoological studies. Most zoologists find employment at colleges and universities, museums, laboratories or government agencies.

A zoologist may study insects.
A zoologist may study insects.

A zoologist is a scientist who studies animals. The first step to become a zoologist is to gain a strong background in sciences such as biology and chemistry while in high school. This can help prepare for the college studies required to earn an undergraduate degree in biology or zoology.

Zoologists may study animal aggression.
Zoologists may study animal aggression.

Studying for an undergraduate degree to become a zoologist requires taking courses such as biology, embryology, organic chemistry and environmental science. It normally takes four years to earn an undergraduate degree in zoology. This degree will help prepare the student to specialize in a more specific field dealing with the study of animals.

Zoologists study every aspect of the animal kingdom. They study such topics as animal biology down to the molecular level, as well as animal behavior, disease and environmental impact. Zoology offers such diverse fields of study that it is important to narrow down a zoological specialty if one is to become a zoologist.

After earning an undergraduate degree in biology or zoology, the aspiring zoologist will often study for a master’s degree. It normally takes from two to three years to earn such a degree. A master’s degree is an important step to become a zoologist and can provide employment opportunities with a government agency or university as a teacher or research assistant.

Zoologists find the best employment opportunities once they have gone on to earn a doctoral degree, which can take another two or three years to earn. Students earning a doctorate to become a zoologist usually specialize in a particular field of zoology related to a specific family or genus of the animal kingdom. For example, a zoologist might study entomology — the study of insects — or marine mammals. Within that field, the zoologist could specialize in topics such as disease transmission, evolution of species or environmental impact, to name a few.

Once a doctorate in zoology is achieved, the scientist can expect to find employment at a museum, research laboratory or with a pharmaceutical company. Many zoologists work for government agencies that manage wildlife and wildlife habitats. Universities, where they teach and conduct research, also are popular employers for zoologists.

Many zoologists work in wildlife habitats.
Many zoologists work in wildlife habitats.

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