Careers in Biology and Management of Zoo Animals

Rock Creek Bldg 7, Rm 202 | Faculty Department Chair: Joyce Kaplan | 971-722-7688

The Zoo Animal Management professional serves the zoological community in a variety of capacities, including: zookeeper/aquarist, animal trainer, zoo educator, animal presenter/outreach, wildlife rehabilitator, registrar, and laboratory animal technician.

An ideal employment candidate in Zoo Animal Management brings the skills and the ability to:

  • Work collaboratively, competently, safely, and ethically with a team of zoo professionals in providing quality management for captive populations.
  • Communicate effectively in written and oral format within the work team, with zoo visitors and through outreach programs.
  • Advocate for conservation biology through outreach programs and personal interactions with zoo visitors.
  • Critically analyze and apply zoo specific principles to ensure high quality practice in the areas of:
    • Care and husbandry of captive populations
    • Animal management for captive populations
    • Sustainable population management
    • Wild population management
    • Exhibit design and maintenance
    • Exhibit water quality and plant care

What will I do on the job?

As a zookeeper, aquarist, or lab animal technician you will provide direct care for animals including feeding, exhibit/enclosure sanitation and maintenance, enrichment, training, monitoring animal health and assisting in treatments, population management, assisting in exhibit water quality and plant care, record-keeping, and visitor education.  This program will introduce you to the variety of other animal care opportunities available in zoo careers such as curators, veterinarians and veterinary technicians, as well as non-animal care zoo careers such as educators, registrars, marketing, fund-raising, exhibit and graphic design, horticulture, and maintenance. Students have the opportunity to work closely with a wide diversity of animals (including hoofstock, primates, carnivores, birds, herps, and fishes) at the Oregon Zoo and other regional partners over 5 terms of cooperative education work experience in addition to several other laboratory courses at these facilities.

What skills will I use on the job?

Our program will develop your knowledge and skills in providing high quality daily care of captive populations of exotic animals, managing sustainable populations, maintaining animal exhibits/enclosures, providing effective interpretive programming to visitors, and participating in conservation programs. Â Students have the opportunity to work closely with a wide diversity of animals (including hoofstock, primates, carnivores, birds, herps, and fishes) at the Oregon Zoo and other regional partners over 5 terms of cooperative education work experience in addition to several other laboratory courses at these facilities.

Who will hire me?

Potential employers include the 223 zoos and aquariums and 17 certified related facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, 2751 wildlife exhibitors licensed by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 1099 USDA licensed animal laboratories such as OHSU National Primate Research Center, and over 400 non-exhibitor animal "sanctuaries."  Forty-four licensed animal exhibitors are located in Oregon and thirty-four in Washington; seven licensed research facilities are located in Oregon and twenty-two in Washington; at least six non-public facilities in Oregon and ten in Washington list themselves as animal sanctuaries or wildlife reserves.  Graduates may also work at animal breeding facilities or pet stores, wildlife regulatory agencies, and conservation organizations. Completing a Bachelor’s degree will be important for many positions in the field.

How much can I earn?

The starting wage for zookeepers nationwide ranges from minimum wage to $25 per hour depending upon region, zoo financing, and education and experience. In Oregon, the entry-level wage for primate laboratory animal technicians is approximately $12 to $16 per hour.