Creating a Path to a Zoo Career
Turn Your Passion into a Profession
Lots of people grow up with a fascination for animals and envision themselves someday embarking on a career that allows them to spend every day surrounded by wild creatures. Some outgrow the dream of an animal career, but many do not. They love working with animals, develop a certain skill level, and decide that it’s possible to turn their passion into a profession.
If you’re one of those people, you may be dreaming of finding a zoo job, but such positions are extremely competitive. Zoos have the luxury of picking and choosing between dozens of qualified people for every job opening, so you want to do what you can to beef up your resume. Zookeeper assisting jobs, for instance, do not require a college degree or any particular training, but you will be a much more competitive job prospect if you earn your zookeeper assistant certification.
Volunteering Gets Your Foot in the Door
Another way to become a more attractive job candidate is to find ways to get hands on experience working with animals. There are several options for doing this. Of course, volunteering at a zoo or trying to get an internship would be the gold standard. Google almost any zoo and you will find programs for volunteers to help out in a variety of ways. However, such programs usually accept only a limited number of volunteers and are popular, so they fill up quickly each season. Plus, not everyone lives near enough to a zoo to make volunteering practical.
Fortunately, there are lots of organizations that love volunteers. You can find volunteer opportunities working with animals around the corner or around the world. Wildlife refuges, rescue societies, and rehabilitation facilities offer experience with a wide variety of animals, from injured sea turtles to boisterous ravens to orphaned deer. Check with your regional fish and wildlife offices to see what opportunities may be close by. Other places like farms or riding stables may also welcome serious volunteers.
If those options aren’t accessible to you, almost everyone lives near some sort of animal shelter or humane society. These facilities often beg people to volunteer to do things like help socialize animals, groom them, clean kennels, or post pictures and stories on social media about adoptable animals. Volunteering at a local veterinary clinic is another option and would allow you to work with a wider variety of animals than just dogs and cats.
While you may be tempted to try to find volunteer work that only involves animal care, you should not limit yourself. Generally, people in zoo careers find themselves working closely with the public, educating them and helping them navigate the park. Seeking out volunteer positions that both involve animals and put you in close contact with the public can be most helpful on a resume.
Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get your foot in the door the first time you try. Finding a career you love is worth doing everything you can to make yourself stand out to employers. If that means taking a course to get certified, then get certified. If it means getting hands on experience to show you are serious, then knock on doors until you find one that opens to you! If you believe your passion for animals is truly your calling, then you owe it to yourself to find a way forward.