Zookeepers look after animals in zoos, safari parks and aquariums.
£14,000 Starter - £25,000 Experienced
37 to 40 a week (evenings / weekends / bank holidays on shifts)
Where to start
You can get into this job through
a university coursea college coursean apprenticeshipworking towards this role
You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in:
Zoos vary in what qualifications they ask for and it can depend on what their zookeepers are going to do.
- animal or zoo management
- animal behaviour and welfare
- zoology or marine zoology
- animal conservation and biodiversity
- veterinary science
You'll usually need 1 or 2 A-Levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma. You'll also need 2 or 3 A-Levels, or equivalent, including a science, for a degree.
You could do a course before applying to a zoo for a trainee zookeeper's job. Relevant courses include a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management, a Level 3 Diploma in Animal Care or an Animal Science
You'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science.
You could start by doing a Level 2 (intermediate) apprenticeship in animal care and welfare. This may help you to get a job as a trainee keeper with a zoo.
You could also do a keeper or aquarist Level 3 (advanced) apprenticeship, depending on where you work.
You may be able to specialise in training zoo animals by completing an animal trainer higher apprenticeship.
You'll usually need some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for a Level 2 apprenticeship. You'll need 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for a Level 3 apprenticeship. For a higher apprenticeship, you'll need 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A-Levels, or the equivalent.
You could complete a Diploma in Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals (DMZAA) if you're working in a zoo or aquarium.
You can volunteer in a zoo or wildlife centre to get experience. This will be important, as there's a lot of competition for trainee jobs. You could get experience volunteering at:
kennels, farms, riding stables, animal sanctuaries or rescue homes. Any experience you can get working with the public will also be helpful preparation for educating visitors to the zoo. Many animal charities offer opportunities to promote animal welfare directly to the public, or online, through social media campaigns.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- the ability to work well with others
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- excellent verbal communication skills
- the ability to use your initiative
- customer service skills
- knowledge of biology
- to be flexible and open to change
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
Restrictions and Requirements
You'll need to pass enhanced background checks, as you may be working with children and vulnerable adults.
What you’ll do
In this role you could:
- prepare food and feed animals
- clean out enclosures and change bedding
- check for signs of distress or disease
- work with a vet to care for sick animals
- check enclosures for signs of wear or damage
- monitor conditions like temperature and humidity
- keep daily animal welfare records
- supervise trainee keepers and animal care workers
- run education workshops and give talks to visitors
You could work at a zoo or at a wildlife park.
Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers and physically demanding.
You may need to wear a uniform and protective clothing.
Career path and progression
In larger zoos, wildlife parks or aquariums, you could progress from keeper to team leader or head keeper.
You might need to relocate to another part of the country to work your way up into higher positions, as competition for senior jobs can be tough.
With experience and a degree, you could become a curator. You could also move into education or conservation research.