Zoo Technology Program

Program Goal

To provide comprehensive, entry-level keeper training that encompasses the care and management of zoo and aquarium animals, and educational interpretation for the zoo-going public.

Graduates will be prepared for entry-level employment as zookeepers in progressive, Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos. Students will develop a realistic perspective of the duties of zookeepers and zoo educators through a combination of classroom teaching, and unique workplace experiences. The program is well-suited for graduates of general associate’s or bachelor’s degrees desiring practical, focused training. Students entering the program directly from high school will be better prepared for further studies in biology, zoology, zoo technology, or veterinary science upon graduation, although the program is not structured to be a transfer program.

Professional Zookeeping

Modern zoological parks employ many different people. Of special note are the keepers who work directly with animals on a daily basis.

Keepers are the individuals responsible for the care and management of a zoo or aquarium’s animals. The profession of keeper has changed a great deal in recent history. Progressively, more exotic and native species are threatened with habitat loss and extinction. Zoo animals are ambassadors for their wild counterparts and keepers must serve as both caretakers and interpreters for the zoo animals. Keepers have an important role in helping people understand and connect to the many species with which we share this planet. As "interpreters", keepers may work with educational outreach animals to teach people about the animals, their wild counterparts, and the critical need to conserve wild habitats. Their goal is to inspire their audience to help conserve our environment and its plants and animals.

Today’s keeper needs to have practical animal skills, experience, and knowledge about the animals in their care. An understanding of science is essential to understanding and finding solutions to the problems facing our environment and its animals. Job titles and responsibilities vary depending on the facility, but in general, keepers clean enclosures, prepare diets, and monitor behavior of the animals. They feed, water, groom and exercise animals as well as provide the animals with behavioral enrichment activities. Keepers must be alert to behavioral changes that could indicate illness or injury. As part of their daily routine, keepers may also provide interpretive lectures to the public and assist in research studies.

Animals require care every day of the year including weekends, holidays and sometimes even during the night. Most full-time keepers work 40 hours per week, but schedules vary between zoos.

In spite of the odd hours and hard work, keeper jobs are at a premium and the rewards are great. The opportunity to work with rare and exotic species is a dream for many people. Just as every individual animal is unique, every work day in the zoo holds variety. Depending on the position, keepers may work outside or inside, and may work independently or as part of a team.

Job applicants with both academic and hands-on zoo experience will have an advantage and can explore the many job opportunities across the country. Wages for zoo and aquarium employees vary by institution; often being based on skill and experience/tenure. Typically, larger zoos and accredited facilities will offer the highest wages.