How to Become a Zoo Keeper

Knoxville Zoo by Kathryn Depew

Knoxville Zoo by Kathryn Depew

Does your child love animals, and wonder how he or she can enter a career centered around their care?  Or perhaps you need an unusual topic for an upcoming paper or project? Guest author Aaron Hopkins offers an intriguing article about a not-so-common profession!

Introduction

Many people find that their affinity and passion for animals goes above and beyond the norm. There are those who “don’t mind pets” and those who find that they love being surrounded by wildlife so much that their house is filled with a great variety of colorful creatures. Becoming a Zoo Keeper is a challenge that not many people wish to take on, but it is for the small minority that this article aims to help. And even if you don’t want to become a Zoo Keeper, discovering how the process works could make fascinating reading!

Here is how you can make the animal kingdom your 9-5, and more!

A Big Commitment

Before you start making phone calls, or getting your CV (resume) ready to send off, there are a few truths that you need to realize. Many people think that being a zoo keeper is a glamorous job, and wistfully dream of stroking their furry or scaly friends from morning till night. Spending quality time with the animals is, no doubt, a wonderful part of the job, but a big part of love is sacrifice. If you’re still keen once you know that you might have to shovel you-know-what, put in long hours, and get your hands dirty on a regular basis, then you’ll make a great Zoo Keeper. The animals in your care will need love, attention and will depend on you for their wellbeing.

Zoo Keeper with Snake by AWA on flickrQuality, Not Qualify

When zoos are looking for people to come on board, they value experience. Although it can be a catch 22 sometimes, you need to get some work with animals under your belt. This could be volunteering at shelters, sanctuaries, owning or caring for pets and large animals, and having a great love for creatures, large and small. To quote a recruitment manager of a UK zoo – ‘we’ve had people come in with degrees who didn’t know which end an elephant cr*ps out of’. Try to make sure that your CV shows your experience with animals in different environments, and your care for them all year round.

Test the Waters

A great way to get a taste for what the job is really like is to go on a placement. Placements are a great chance to experience a Zoo Keeper’s roles and responsibilities for a month or more, for those who are already of the legal working age. Placements are often unpaid, but the experience is an extremely valuable asset to have. It will also help you see if the job is what you thought it would be.

Zoo Keeper Says by Poetprince on flickrYour Application

When writing your application, emphasize your willingness to work well alone, and as a team, plus your ability to present and talk publicly. Throughout the job you’ll be interacting with the rudest, craziest creatures of all – people! Make sure that you show evidence of your people skills and demonstrate that you work well with the public. As we already said, the best thing you can add to your CV is experience. Make sure you don’t just include where you’ve been, but detail what you learned and how you interacted with animals and people alike.

The vast majority of zoos have a website, where the public can book tickets and gather information. These sites always have a contact page or a section dedicated to those wanting to apply for work. Here you’ll see any email addresses, postal addresses and instructions you need to send off your CV. Websites usually have great information about what they’re looking for too, so make sure that you tailor your application for each place you apply for. Never send out a generic CV or cover letter, find out who you’re addressing and a bit more about the zoo!

Conclusion

Now that you know what to expect, and you’ve sent off your great application, all you have to do now is wait. Make sure to follow up your application with a phone call to show the zoo that you’re keen! Families will flock from around the world to see the wonderful wildlife you look after, and although you might not ever get thanks for all your hard work behind the scenes, your love and care for the healthy, happy animals will be a wonderful reward.

Article contributed by guest author Aaron Hopkins. Becoming a zoo keeper is just one of the many higher education courses available at Oaklands College, see their site to review all the courses available at their St Albans and Welwyn Garden City campuses.

Images from flickr.com used under the Creative Commons license. Image Credits: Knoxville Zoo by Kathryn Depew, Zookeeper with Snake by A W A and Zoo Sign by Poetprince.


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