Is a Zoology Degree Right for You?
Students interested in zoology can choose from a wide range of academic and professional paths. Primarily, zoology students study the biology of animals, but there is often an emphasis on ecological principles as well. Students will also study chemistry, physics, mathematics, and botany. Students who major in zoology generally advance into graduate studies; however, a master’s degree is not required to become a zoologist.
Advice for Earning Your Zoology Degree Online
Earning a zoology degree requires students to learn and practice the scientific method by participating in field research. Because online courses are restricted to a virtual environment, there are currently no online zoology bachelor degree programs. There are, however, a variety of other life science degrees offered online, such as Forestry, Range Science, Agricultural Science, and Conservation. Before enrolling in any online degree program, students should check the accreditation of the school to ensure it is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. If you are unsure whether you need a zoology degree to pursue the career of your dreams, you can reference the Occupational Outlook Handbook for more information on the minimum education requirements for careers related to Zoology.
Students must work closely with their professors to develop a long-term academic path that will lead to a future career in life sciences. Courses, field work, and research will differ based on the student’s desired specialty. For example, a zoology student hoping to advance to veterinary training would take more physiology classes than a student aiming to become a wildlife conservationist. Students hoping to advance into graduate school will need to maintain minimum GPAs and other requirements in order to be considered for admission. All students will be required to take various courses in biology, such as cell biology, microbiology, immunology, and genetics.
Common Career Paths
Students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in zoology can pursue a position as a wildlife biologist or zoologist. Another common career path is conservation scientist, which includes positions like foresters and park rangers. With advanced knowledge of physiology and ecology, zoologists are also becoming more common on ranches, farms, and fisheries as food production moves into large-scale operations.
Zoologist or Wildlife Biologist
Zoologists and wildlife biologists study the characteristics and habitats of animals and wildlife. Professionals in this field spend time outdoors, gathering evidence from the field, but they also work in offices, organizations, and laboratories. Although a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for entry-level work as a zoologist, a master’s degree or higher is usually required for advancement.
The average annual salary of a zoologist, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is currently $61,880. The forecasted job growth is slower than average, at 7%. Because these scientists are widely employed by government agencies, the opportunities for zoologists varies from year-to-year based on the budgets of organizations like The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Conservation Scientist or Forester
Conservation scientists manage natural resources, forests, parks, and rangelands. Some foresters operate in a regulatory capacity, monitoring forestry and other activities in order to ensure compliance with government standards. Conservation scientists can also work with harvesters to protect trees from damaging diseases, insects, and wildfires. Duties for a forester may also include preparing sites for new trees to be planted.
There are many options for specialization within the field of conservation science. Range managers study large areas of ecosystems to develop resource management plans and to help restore degraded ecosystems. Soil and water conservationists advise private land owners and governments and how to maintain soil quality, conserve water, and stave off erosion. In the United States, the average annual salary for a conservation scientist is $62,290, and the field is anticipated to grow by 5%until 2020.
Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers
As farm and land management has grown more complex, degrees in zoology and agriculture science are becoming more common among farmers and ranchers. While some farmers work primarily with crops and vegetables, other farmers work with animals. Graduates with a zoology degree can work with a variety of animals, overseeing the living conditions and breeding of animals. Another popular position in agricultural management is that of an aquaculture farmer. An aquaculture farmer, or fishery manager, raises fish and shellfish in ponds, floating net pens, raceways, or recirculating systems. They stock, feed, protect, and maintain aquatic life that is sold for food and recreational fishing.
The average salary for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers is $70,010. However, positions in these fields are expected to decline by 8% over the next decade. As more farming processes are mechanized, there is less need for employees. On the other hand, farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers work to produce the food and fiber that meets the needs of the United States and other countries, making their positions vital to the economy.