Animal Management Program

Program Goal

To provide training in the care and management of animals with focus on species kept in zoological parks.

Graduates will be trained for employment as zookeepers, zoo educators, and other animal care related positions. They will also be better prepared for further studies in biology, zoology, zoo technology, or veterinary science. This program will provide students with a realistic perspective of the duties and jobs of zoo keeper and zoo educator. It provides unique opportunities and workplace experience for students desiring this career path. The skills and techniques acquired in the JCC animal management program can also be of value to a person entering other animal related professions.

Zoo Keepers and Zoo Educators

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

Zoo keepers are the individuals responsible for the care and management of animals. The profession of zoo keeper has changed a great deal in recent history. Progressively, more exotic and native species are threatened with habitat loss and extinction. A zoo keeper acts as both care taker and interpreter for the animal ambassadors in the zoo. Zoo keepers help people understand and feel a connection to the many species with which we share this planet.

Zoo educators focus on arranging educational programming for the public. These "interpreters" often 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 zoo keeper/educator 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 enrichment activities. Animal caretakers must be alert to behavioral changes that could indicate illness or injury. Zoo keepers/educators offer interpretive lectures to the public and assist in research studies.

Animals require care every day of the year including weekends, holidays and even during the night on occasion. 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 and/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. Salaries for zoo and aquarium employees vary by institution; often being based on skill and experience/tenure.