What do Zookeepers do?
Zookeepers care for animals living in captivity and on display to the public for the purposes of conservation and education. They carry out the jobs associated with the animals daily care including feeding and training. They’re also responsible for keeping enclosures clean and stimulating, supporting breeding programmes and helping to carry out any necessary vet work.
Loving animals isn’t really enough, if you’d like to be a zookeeper you’ll need to be dedicated and devoted to building relationships and caring for animals. If you’re practical, able to remain professional and maintain high standards of safety and care for the benefit of all, then a career as a Zookeeper could be worth exploring.
- Committed to caring for animals around the clock, you’ll need to be a great team player and embrace hard work
- You’ll need to be physically fit and have lots of stamina
- Creative and great at solving problems
- Able to remain calm in any situation and happy to perform repetitive tasks on a daily basis
- Check on the animals and observe them, looking out for any abnormal behaviour or signs of illness and injury
- Prepare diets to strict guidelines, clean and disinfect indoor and outdoor enclosures, ensure water and other essentials are supplied
- Feed the animals and consistently carry out any training routines
- Provide enrichment and exercise for the animals in their enclosures and watch to see how the animals respond
- Chat to zoo visitors, perform public talks and displays with the animals
- Write up reports, move the animals between indoor and outdoor enclosures, ensure the animals are secure at all times
- Respond to and help out with any emergency and medical situations
Lifestyle Impact: Medium
- Part Time opportunities: Low ( only 31% of Zookeepers work part time – Source: joboutlook.gov.au)
- Average hours for full-time workers (they average 42 per week)
- Zookeepers salary (average) $52,000* per year (Source: gov.au) *salaries vary between locations, level of training, and experience
- Future career growth: Strong (Source: joboutlook.gov.au)
- As a Zookeeper you’ll have to work outside 9-5 hours, including shifts over weekends and holidays, as the animals need to be cared for every single day. It can be physically demanding work, which you’ll need to be on site to carry out and in all weather conditions too.
Zookeepers are most in demand in these locations:
There are zoos across Australia, the majority are located in New South Wales and Queensland.
Zookeepers are limited as to where they can work, you’ll have to live near to a zoo and be prepared to compete for a job as they are very highly sought after.
You could consider one of the many alternative careers working with animals as a back-up, there’s more about that in our FAQ section.
How to become a Zookeeper in Australia
Most Zoo’s in Australia require that you have completed a minimum of Certificate III in Captive Animals through an RTO and have proven experience with animals.
Step 1 – Take Biology at high school, work on gaining confidence with public speaking and consider completing a Certificate II in Animal Studies in addition to your other studies.
Step 2 – Get experience working with animals and learn about a wide range of animals in as much detail as possible.
Step 3 – Complete relevant tertiary qualifications e.g.:
A degree in a related field could put you ahead of the competition, prepare you for more senior positions, or give you options in other careers to consider. E.g.:
Step 4 – Consider specialising or up-skilling, as career progression is an option working in zoo’s. For example: you could start working as a Volunteer or Trainee, qualify to become a Keeper, move up to after years of experience to a Senior Keeper position. After that becoming a Supervisor, Curator, or Director are options to pursue.
Find out more here –
Similar Careers to Zookeeper
Rescue and Rehabilitation Centres
Parks (indigenous rangers)
Find out more about alternative careers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
How long does it take to become a Zookeeper?
It takes 1 year to complete the Certificate III in Captive Animals which is the minimum qualification preferred by most Zoos.
Do I need to go to university to become a Zookeeper?
A university degree isn’t a requirement to work as a Zookeeper, but it could make finding a job easier and open up other career avenues.
What are 3 things I can do right now to work help me become a Zookeeper?
If you’re at high school and you’d like to find out if a career as a Zookeeper is right for you and start learning skills and gaining experience, here’s a few things you could try:
- It’s really important to build up as much paid or unpaid experience with animals as possible. Work or volunteer at a vet clinic, wildlife park, RSPCA, animal welfare organisation, dog training, wildlife rescue agency, kennel, animal breeder, pet shops, or animal groomer. Seaworld, Dreamworld and WIRES are examples of other organisations to consider too.
- Practise your public speaking, most Zookeepers are expected to interact with the public and do presentations
- Get fit, you’ll need to be physically capable of doing the work and it is hands on. In Victoria you have to be on a Preferred Keepers List to be considered for jobs and it’s a requirement that you pass a physical test.
Alternatives to becoming a Zookeeper
Lots of people are interested in becoming a Zookeeper and there are limited positions available. So if you’re really passionate about animals, wildlife, education and conservation, it might be worth looking into similar careers that could be just as rewarding. There are lots to think about including:
- Field Researchers
- Animal Trainers (this could be for pets, the Army, Police, Guide Dogs Association or other assistance animals)
- Animal Adoption Counsellors
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Workers
- Pet Sitting
- Dog walking
- Doggie Daycare
- Animal Handler
- Animal Rescue
- Wildlife Photographer
- Animal Control
- Animal Breeder
- Marine Biologist
- Conservation Land Managers
- Parks and Wildlife Rangers