Zookeeper

Alternative titles for this job include Keeper, animal keeper

Zookeepers look after animals in zoos, safari parks and aquariums.

Average salary (a year)

£12,000 Starter

to

£25,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

37 to 40 a week

You could work

evenings / weekends / bank holidays on shifts

How to become a zookeeper

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role

University

You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in:

  • animal or zoo management
  • animal behaviour and welfare
  • zoology or marine zoology
  • animal conservation and biodiversity
  • veterinary science
  • biology

Zoos vary in what qualifications they ask for and it can depend on what their zookeepers are going to do.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including a science, for a degree

More information

College

You could do a course before applying to a zoo for a trainee zookeeper's job. Relevant courses include:

  • Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management
  • Level 3 Diploma in Animal Care or Animal Science
  • Biology A level

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science

More information

Apprenticeship

You could start by doing an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in animal care or animal care and welfare. This may help you to get a job as a trainee keeper with a zoo.

You could also do a keeper or aquarist advanced apprenticeship, depending on where you work.

You may be able to specialise in training zoo animals by completing an animal trainer higher apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship

More information

Work

You could complete a Diploma in Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals (DMZAA) if you're working in a zoo or aquarium.

Volunteering and experience

You can volunteer in a zoo or wildlife centre to get experience. This will be important, as there's a lot of competition for trainee jobs. You could get experience volunteering at:

  • kennels, farms or riding stables
  • animal sanctuaries or rescue homes

Any experience you can get working with the public will also be helpful preparation for educating visitors to the zoo. Many animal charities offer opportunities to promote animal welfare directly to the public, or online, through social media campaigns.

More information

Further information

You can find out more about working in zoos from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • the ability to work well with others
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • customer service skills
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

Restrictions and requirements

You'll need to:

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

In this role you could:

  • prepare food and feed animals
  • clean out enclosures and change bedding
  • check for signs of distress or disease
  • work with a vet to care for sick animals
  • check enclosures for signs of wear or damage
  • monitor conditions like temperature and humidity
  • keep daily healthcare records on paper and computer

Working environment

You could work at a zoo or at a wildlife park.

Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers and physically demanding.

You may need to wear a uniform and protective clothing.

Career path and progression

In larger zoos, wildlife parks or aquariums, you could progress from keeper to team leader or head keeper.

You might need to be willing to relocate to another part of the country to work your way up into higher positions, as competition for senior jobs can be tough.

With experience and a degree, you could become a curator. You could also move into education or conservation research.

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