Zoologist/Wildlife Biologist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Career Video

Insider Info

dotZoologists are usually identified by the animal group they study. For example, ornithologists study birds. Mammalogists specialize in the study of mammals, herpetologists study reptiles and ichthyologists study fish.

Zoologists may work in a wide range of fields. They serve as animal behaviorists, aquarium directors, conservationists, ecologists, insect quarantine inspectors and marine biologists.

There are also zoologists serving as museum curators, park rangers and wildlife biologists. And, of course, zoologists can also work as zoo directors.

dotMany zoologists work on research projects, especially if employed by a university. They submit grant proposals to obtain funding for their research projects.

Those who conduct research usually work in laboratories and use a wide variety of scientific equipment. For some scientists, a good deal of research is performed outside the lab. PhD zoologists at universities also teach college-level courses.

dotMany zoologists conduct field research in remote areas, which involves strenuous physical activity and primitive living conditions. Prepare to work hard as a zoologist.

"Most academic scientists lead very busy lives," says zoologist Kerry Kilburn, a professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. "On any one day, you can find yourself counseling a student, reading new journal articles, writing a lecture, grading a test, planning for your next field trip or performing an experiment in the lab.

"The diversity is great, but you need good time management to keep everything juggled properly.

"Contrary to popular opinion, we don't really have summers off," Kilburn adds. "Most of us use that time to attend professional meetings, where we share research findings, take on longer term projects, do serious reading and work on our courses and curricula, or write papers and grant proposals."

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Make a special study of animal species

  • Zoologists tend to become experts in specific animal species
  • Field research can take you to remote places
  • A bachelor's degree is the minimum -- most have master's degrees or doctorates