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Zoo Technology A.A.S.
The Program (HEGIS Code 5403)
This degree program provides students with the basic skills, experiences and knowledge required for a career as a progressive zookeeper or zoo educator in modern zoological parks. The program is a specialized, practical, cost-effective, foot-in-the-door to the zoo field for graduates of general 2 or 4-year programs, or for students that are attending college for the first time and have met the basic prerequisites. Students are prepared for an entry-level keeper position through a combination of classroom studies and rare hands-on experience at our partner zoos.
The Program provides students with a realistic perspective of the duties and profession of zookeeper by offering hands-on experience with domestic and exotic animal care through clinical laboratories and internships at multiple animal facilities such as the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park (Watertown) and the AZA-accredited Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park (Syracuse). Students will have the opportunity to work alongside zookeepers, veterinarians, curators, educators and administrators. Coursework focuses on zoo animal care and management, but the management of domestic species is also used to illustrate the fundamental principles of animal husbandry and to provide additional hands-on experience. Internships at other zoos are required as part of the curriculum. Additional general education courses add breadth to the Program.
To learn more about the Zoo Technology program go to the Zoo Technology department page. This page will provide more information and answers to frequently asked questions.
Students planning to enter JCC’s Zoo Technology program should have developed strong written and analytical skills. High school preparation should include three or more years of math and English. Some students may require skill building before entering the program.
Students graduating from the Zoo Technology program with an A.A.S. degree will:
- Obtain a broad understanding of animal care theory, including animal husbandry, exhibitry, terminology, behavior, training, genetics, reproduction, nutrition, conservation, and research;
- Gain valuable hands-on experience working with domestic and exotic animals;
- Be able to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing.
In zoos and aquariums, the zookeepers have a critical role in the care and welfare of the animals and as the animals’ ambassadors to the public. Keepers need technical expertise and a knowledge of science to provide the best animal care, educate the public and participate in regional, national and international cooperative programs. As populations of endangered species dwindle, the role of zoo and aquarium keepers will become more important. A working, practical knowledge of animal care, welfare & husbandry, an appreciation of the issues facing endangered species and the environment, an understanding of biological principles, the ability to interact with the public, and a broad perspective of the larger zoo community are all essential.
On a daily basis, zookeepers are directly responsible for the care of the animals and their enclosures. All keepers clean animal areas, provide essentials such as feed and water to animals, and monitor the behavior of animals. They also provide the animals with enrichment activities to support physical and psychological health. Zookeepers must be alert to behavioral changes that could indicate illness or injury, assist in veterinary procedures or research studies, and give interpretive presentations to the public. Keepers must be able to do work that is physically demanding in all types of weather. Most full-time keepers work about forty hours per week, some work fifty hours per week or more, including weekends and holidays. It takes a special kind of dedication to provide care for animals. Salaries for zoo and aquarium employees vary depending on the institution and its location. Institutions located in metropolitan areas generally offer higher salaries. A zookeeper’s salary can range from minimum wage to more than $30,000 a year, depending on skills and tenure.
The SUNY Jefferson Zoo Technology A.A.S. degree program will provide students with the foundational background for an entry-level position in zoo animal care and management. Competition for employment is fierce, but job applicants with educational credentials coupled with hands-on experience and skill will enjoy enhanced employment opportunities, particularly if they are willing to explore job opportunities throughout the country. The degree can also serve as a practical compliment to a previously earned degree or as a stepping stone for further study in bachelor degree programs in biology.
This program does not prepare students for the Veterinary Technician profession.
The Zoo Technology Program is composed of three types of courses: general education courses, specialized biology courses, and zoo technology courses. It is unlikely that you will be able to transfer the specialized biology or zoo technology courses. General coursework includes general biology, math, English, micro-computers, public speaking, social science and one general elective. If you have taken college-level coursework, it is possible that some of these types of courses may transfer. As part of the application process, you will be asked to send academic transcripts that will be assessed by our College to determine if transfer credit can be granted.
The Zoo Technology Program is not designed to be a transfer program, although many graduates do continue their studies. It is a good idea that can help in a competitive job market and with advancement within the hierarchy of a zoo. The most popular transfer schools for zoo technology graduates are SUNY Canton (Veterinary Technology) and SUNY School of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) for biology-related coursework.
Degrees in veterinary medicine (including veterinary technician) require a different academic path. A general Math/Science degree will provide a more direct route until ready to transfer. Some students may opt to complete the Zoo Technology degree before or after they complete a degree in veterinary technology to better prepare them for working in a zoo's hospital. This is probably the only scenario where completing both a Zoo Technology and a Veterinary Technician degree would be appropriate and complimentary.
Transfer to Bachelor's programs such as biology should be planned carefully. The Zoo Technology program is very full and provides very little opportunity for students to take preparatory coursework such as chemistry, physics, etc. It may be necessary to take an extra year to take science and general education coursework that is not provided in the Zoo Technology program.
Some high school Career Centers offer animal-related curricula. The Zoo Technology program is pursuing agreements with high school Career Centers.
There is a two-step process to apply to the Zoo Technology Program.
1) Apply to Jefferson Community College through the general admission process. Applicants must meet the admission standards established by the College.
2) Apply to the Zoo Technology Program at Jefferson by submitting a Zoo Technology application. Specific instructions are available on the application form. Applications are reviewed competitively based on academic preparation, experience and motivation. Students may apply or re-apply at anytime. Successful applicants will need to begin the core program courses in Fall semester.
An applicant for admission to the Zoo Technology Program must at minimum:
- complete the Jefferson Community College Application for Admission and the Zoo Technology Supplemental Application.
- be a high school graduate or have an equivalency diploma. Applicants who are not high school graduates or have not graduated from a recognized high school must meet JCC’s Admission Requirements.
- submit high school transcripts, GED test scores, and/or college transcripts.
- have College Placement Test (CPT) placement at the MTH 098 level or higher or have successfully completed MTH 090 prior to the first semester of Zoo Technology.
- have CPT placement at the ENG 100 level or higher or have successfully completed ENG 099 prior to the first semester of Zoo Technology.
- have CPT placement at CLS 101 level or no reading required.
- have completed all prerequisites prior to start of the Zoo Technology program.
Sequential Nature and Continuation in the Program
Zoo Technology and biology courses are sequential in nature and build upon previous courses. Additionally, they are only offered once a year. For this reason, students must begin the sequence of ZOO courses in the fall. Students not meeting the academic requirements for admission to the Zoo Technology program (requiring skill building in English, math or science) will need to complete additional coursework and reapply to the Program the following year.
Students’ academic program requirements include a grade of “C” or higher in the applied zoo animal management courses (ZOO 114, ZOO 116, ZOO 126, ZOO 216 and ZOO 226), and the initial, general college-level biology course (equivalent to BIO 111 or higher). Students not meeting this requirement will be considered unsuccessful, will be unable to progress in the Zoo Technology curriculum, and will need to reapply to the program for the following academic year.
Readmission to the Zoo Technology Program
- Students must apply for readmission to the Zoo Technology program by submitting a Zoo Technology program supplemental application. The deadline for re-applying students to submit an application is the same as for first-time applicants.
- Once a student has been unsuccessful in the Zoo Technology program, s/he may be readmitted only once.
- Any student who seeks readmission to the Zoo Technology program must meet program requirements in effect at the date of re-entry.
- Readmission is subject to approval of the zoo technology faculty.
- Except for the circumstances specified above, zoo technology students are governed by general College regulations regarding academic standing.
1 Course will transfer into Canton Veterinary Technician Program (may have program co-requisites though)
2 ZOO 275 & ZOO 276 Internships can be done by directed study in Semester 2, Summer Semester or Semester 3
3 Chosen from the following Biology courses with the assistance of an advisor: BIO 111, BIO 112, BIO 1311, BIO 132. BIO 112 is the preferred choice
4 Recommend PSY 133 Introduction to Psychology; PSY 133 will transfer to Canton Veterinary Technician Program
5 Recommend general education course; depending on choice, course may transfer to Canton Veterinary Technician Program
Mark Irwin, Associate Professor of Biology
Monica LeClerc, Professor of Biology
Todd Vincent, Professor of Biology
Application and Admissions Information
Office of Admissions
315-786-2277 or Toll Free 1-888-435-6522
Learn more about Associate Professor of Science Dr. Mark Irwin