So You Want To Work In A Zoo?
There are a HUGE variety of jobs to be done at the zoo – from keepers to caterers and accountants to events.
Chester Zoo is a great place to work (even if we do say so ourselves!) and there are many different career paths you could take to work for a charity like us!
We have a core team of about 400 people, as well as around 400 who join us on a seasonal basis. And ALL of these people play a vital part in protecting wildlife!
Below we’ve given you an overview of some of the roles we have at the zoo and a quick overview of what skills and qualifications you need to get into that field:
- Zookeeper or horticulturist
- Wildlife conservationist
- Conservation education
Find out more and see our current vacancies on our careers pages here.
BECOMING A ZOO KEEPER OR HORTICULTURALIST?
What does the role involve? I know we’re stating the obvious but you will need to enjoy working with animals or plants. There are many different types of keepers here at Chester Zoo – keepers that work with mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish! We also have our team of horticulturists that manage and maintain the many different species of plants we have in the zoo grounds, animal enclosures and greenhouses. So, it depends on where your interest lies what path you take to get there – but each role requires extensive knowledge and expertise in your area of interest. It also requires dedication and plenty of hard work!
What qualifications do you need? To be a zoo keeper you need a minimum of higher education qualification or degree level in zoo animal management/ zoological related science – for example Diploma in Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals (DMZAA) – or have equivalent experience.
To work as a horticulturist, you need a horticulture and botany qualification – a minimum of a NVQ level 2.
Any other extra-curricular activities? Build up your experience by working with animals and plants, for example on farms, in kennels or riding stables or in a garden centre. We also offer a limited number of work placements throughout the zoo – find out more here.
SO YOU WANT TO BE A VET?
What does the role involve? You will need an enquiring mind and possess excellent communication skills. Some vets can go on to work as specialists within a medical field, for example zoological medicine, soft tissue surgery or cattle reproduction, or in medical research or laboratories.
What qualifications do you need? You need to have excellent grades at both high school and college level. Universities look for excellent A Level grades in at least three of these subjects: biology, chemistry, maths or physics. Details do vary between universities and other admission routes are possible, so we advise that you make enquires to the relevant universities beforehand.
Any other extra-curricular activities? Experience is important! Work at a veterinary surgery and gain other experience working with animals – for example on farms, in kennels or riding stables.
SO YOU WANT TO BE A WILDLIFE CONSERVATIONIST?
What does the role involve? You need to be passionate about the topic and be highly motivated. It involves hard work, patience and attention to detail. It’s a competitive field to get into so you need to make sure you stand out from other candidates. Depending on the area you focus on you could end up travelling to other places around the world.
What qualifications do you need? Many people working in conservation have studied biological-related undergraduate courses and some go on to postgraduate study. There are a large number of Master’s degree courses in wildlife conservation at various universities around the UK. The Master’s you choose to study should depend on your interests, for example: you may choose zoology or conservation biology, but if you’re keen to get involved in marine conservation then you may choose marine biology. There is also the Prospects website – this has some good links to potential employers and relevant information on the many different jobs in conservation and entry requirements.
Any other extra-curricular activities? Experience and volunteer work is very useful when looking to get into the conservation field. Why not contact your local Wildlife Trust about volunteer opportunities? Networking is also important, so attendance at conferences to get to know people in the field would also be worthwhile.
SO YOU WANT TO WORK IN CONSERVATION EDUCATION?
What does the role involve? Our team of zoo rangers are passionate about wildlife and have plenty of knowledge on how we can help to protect it. This information and passion is shared with our visitors on a daily basis so you need to have a widespread knowledge of zoology and conservation and be adaptable. Our team can go from talking to a group of children about elephants and the next conversation could be with an experienced herpetologist. It’s a very diverse role that involves doing public talks about our different animals, being creative and helping to deliver and run workshops to inform people about our conservation work.
What qualifications are needed? Similar to the role of a conservationist, you need to have a good knowledge of the area you’d like to work in. A degree in zoology, conservation or a biology-related course is ideal.
Any other extra-curricular activities? Build up your knowledge by volunteering for local wildlife groups – organisations that employ education officers and could also provide volunteering opportunities include local wildlife trusts, museums, wildlife reserves, and environmental organisations. You can build up your skills and experience by applying for seasonal contracts.
Our zoo rangers organise the majority of our What’s On programme, including our daily animal talks, see more here.
Want to join the Chester Zoo team? Have a look at what jobs are available here.