Zoologists are biological scientists who study animals, wildlife and other living organisms. Zoologists explore the origin, behaviour, diseases and life processes of animals, as well as their relation to the environment. Some zoologists work outdoors and observe live animals in a controlled environment or the animal's natural habitat, while others conduct research in laboratories using a variety of equipment. Zoologists may have an additional designation based on their animal group of study. For example, mammalogists are zoologists who study mammals, while ichthyologists are zoologists who study fish.
Zoologists study the structure, physiology, development and classification of animals. They spend a majority of their time observing animals, collecting field data, analysing data and writing reports. When in the field, zoologists observe animal behaviour, record data about animals and their habitats and mark animals to estimate growth and population size. Zoologists also interact with animals -- they take body measurements and assess vital statistics to determine the overall health of the animal population. Zoologists process field data in laboratories. They use the computer to input and analyse data and describe their findings in research reports.
Skills for success
Zoologists conducting field research in remote areas must have physical stamina and the ability to withstand the harsh elements of nature. They work effectively independently and in a team environment. Patience and self-discipline are required to successfully conduct research projects and complete research reports. Because zoologists sometimes request grants to fund their research, communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to express themselves clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing, are also critical skills for success.
Field work may expose zoologists to micro-organisms with poisonous byproducts, poisonous or allergenic plants and risk of bodily harm from bites and stings by animals, insects, snakes and other pests. Zoologists may develop zoonotic diseases from disease-transmitting insects or dangerous organisms. Prolonged exposure to insects may cause allergic and even anaphylactic reactions. Zoologists are also at risk for damage to the musculoskeletal system resulting from work posture and carrying or moving heavy loads.
Most biological scientist and zoologist jobs require a doctorate degree in biology or one of its sub-fields, particularly for careers involving independent research. While not qualified for independent research, individuals with an honours degree may find zoology jobs in applied research, product development, management, inspection or academia. Aspiring zoologists can take courses to obtain the technical knowledge and computer skills required to use lab equipment for modelling and simulating biological processes.
According to the Prospects UK careers website, as of April 2014, starting salaries vary from around £13,000 to £20,000 per year depending on skills, experience and the employer. Graduate consultancy salaries are higher and ecologists with more experience can earn between £22,000 and £28,000, while those with 10 to 15 years experience could expect to earn £30,000 to £40,000.