Working as a zoologist will require a zoology degree from one of many zoology schools located across the United States. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in zoology or a related field is necessary in order to obtain entry level employment as a zoologist. A zoology major will need to have an extensive knowledge of biology and ecology.
Degree OptionsMany colleges and universities offer zoologist education programs, and there are several degree options for potential zoology students. In order to become a zoologist, a student must obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in either zoology, wildlife biology, or some other field of science such as ecology, biology. Although a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for employment in the field of zoology, many students who would like to advance and achieve higher level jobs in zoology prefer to obtain a master’s degree or doctorate in the subject.
Zoology DegreeA bachelor’s degree in zoology usually consists of general coursework in biology, chemistry and physics in addition to electives which can include courses in marine biology, animal behavior, and/or animal anatomy and physiology. The bachelor’s degree program in zoology requires 120 credit hours and generally takes four years to complete. A master’s degree in zoology is an option for students looking to increase their career opportunities in the profession. The master’s degree involves both coursework similar to undergraduate coursework only more complex and usually contains a thesis or research option that must be completed and defended in order to graduate. A Ph.D. in zoology is even more intense than the master’s degree and involves more coursework and the writing of a dissertation. For graduate degrees in zoology, extensive research is involved. Many students who pursue a graduate degree in zoology will go on to teach or research in the field and can potentially obtain higher level positions in the workforce.
Wildlife Biology DegreeWildlife biology and zoology are often thought of as the same thing. However, there is a specific degree in wildlife biology that is offered at some schools in place of a zoology degree. Although both wildlife biologists and zoologists work with animals, wildlife biologists specialize in wild animals. The coursework is similar to the coursework in zoology.
Degrees in ScienceSome students choose to pursue a generalized science degree. If a student chooses this type of degree but wants to eventually work as a zoologist, then he or she should take specialized undergraduate courses focusing on zoology or wildlife biology. Possible majors might include ecology, biology, and/or environmental conservation. In some programs, students can work towards a degree in science with a concentration in zoology. For example, some schools offer a B.S. in biology with a concentration in zoology. If a student receives any of these degrees, he or she can continue on with a master’s degree or Ph.D. in zoology.
SpecializationsMany colleges with zoology majors often have specialized programs in zoology. These programs will focus on a specific field of zoology. For example, a student may wish to specialize in marine biology. Therefore, he or she could major in zoology, but take classes that lead to a degree in zoology with a specialization in marine biology. Other specialized programs include animal behavior, ecology, and genetics. Students can specialize even further by specifically studying insects, birds, or fish. Specializing in a particular branch of zoology will allow graduates to pursue a career in their precise field of interest.
Choosing a Program or DegreeDeciding which degree to pursue depends on what a prospective student would ultimately like to do in his or her career. A bachelor’s degree in zoology or a related field will enable a graduate to obtain entry level work at zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, aquariums, parks, and many other similar settings. In addition, a bachelor’s degree in zoology can be a solid foundation for graduate programs in other fields such as medicine or veterinary medicine. A master’s degree in zoology will allow students further advancement in the zoology profession. Many employers look for employees with graduate degrees to fill positions of authority. If students are interested in obtaining a position conducting research or teaching at a university, then those students should purse a Ph.D. in the subject as they will need a doctorate in zoology to secure those types of jobs.
FacilitiesChoosing the right school depends on what specific program a potential zoology student is interested in. Some schools offer specializations in zoology, while others only offer a general zoology degree. In addition, many employers look for potential employees with hands on experience in the field. Therefore, it may be a good idea to look for schools that offer internships in zoology in order to gain practical skills. If a student is looking to conduct research, then a school with top-notch laboratory facilities is probably the best choice.