If you are wondering how to become a zoologist, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of the environmental sciences, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Zoologists work in a wide range of jobs that involve studying animals and their behaviour.

    As a zoologist you could be involved in areas such as:

    developing and testing new drugs
    improving agricultural crops and livestock
    disease and pest control
    conservation of endangered habitats and species
    animal welfare and education
    developing policies and enforcing regulations for government agencies.

    Typical responsibilities:

    conducting field and laboratory research
    giving presentations and publishing information in journals and books
    studying animals in their natural environment or in captivity
    identifying, recording and monitoring animal species
    gathering and interpreting data
    using complex procedures such as computerised molecular and cellular analysis and in-vitro fertilisation
    producing detailed technical reports
    supervising technicians.
    You would usually specialise in one area, such as ecology (animal environments), herpetology (reptiles), entomology (insects) or parasitology (parasites).

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good zoologists include:

    an interest in animals and the environment
    an aptitude for sciences, particularly biology and chemistry
    the ability to conduct detailed work accurately and methodically
    the ability to plan research, analyse and interpret data, and write reports
    practical skills and the ability to devise solutions to problems
    patience, perseverance and the ability to concentrate for long periods
    the ability to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team
    strong communication and IT skills.

    How to become a zoologist
    You will usually need a degree in a subject such as zoology, animal ecology, parasitology, animal behaviour or conservation.

    To search for colleges and universities offering foundation degrees, HNDs and degrees see Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). You should check entry requirements with individual colleges or universities.

    For some jobs, particularly in research, you will need a postgraduate qualification, usually a PhD. To search for postgraduate courses see Hobsons Postgrad.

    Training and Development
    You will need to continue to develop your skills and knowledge throughout your career. Membership of professional organisations such as the Institute of Zoology (IoZ) and the Institute of Biology (IOB) will give you the opportunity for continuing professional development and networking. See the IoZ and IOB websites for details of membership.

    For some jobs, such as conservation and fieldwork, you will usually need to gain experience in areas such as scientific data collection and research methods by doing voluntary work. See the IoZ website for details of volunteering opportunities, research projects, postgraduate courses and PhD studentships.

    You can do a wide range of professional development courses through the Field Studies Council.

    Before you are awarded a PhD you will need to:

    work on a research project alongside senior research colleagues to develop the skills you will need for sustained individual research
    produce a thesis based on your findings
    be interviewed at length about your research.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Recent graduates can start at around £15,500 a year.
    Zoologists in research posts earn around £27,500 a year.
    Senior research staff can earn around £50,000.

    Job Prospects
    You could be employed by universities, government research institutions, the NHS, medical research establishments, museums and other cultural organisations, zoos and wildlife trusts, environmental protection agencies and water authorities.

    In the private sector you could work as a consultant or in a technical and research role in areas such as agriculture, fisheries, biotechnology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and petroleum.

    You could use your experience as a zoologist to move into other jobs such as management, marketing, sales or scientific journalism. You could also have the opportunity to work and study overseas.

    Useful environmental resources:
    Institute of Zoology
    Zoological Society of London
    Regent’s Park
    NW1 4RY

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