How to become a Zookeeper

What is a zookeeper

A zookeeper looks after and cares for captive and injured animals, maintains their enclosures, feeds them and assists in the population growth and rehabilitation of endangered animals. A career in zoo-keeping often allows for employees to branch out into other similar fields, such as working in animal rescue centres, wildlife parks, veterinary surgery and more.

What do they do & is it fun?

On a typical day, most zookeepers can expect to care for animals, clean and maintain enclosures, supervise breeding programs, conduct vital testing on animals for signs of illness or recovery and more. Some tasks will require a zookeeper to be supervised by senior staff, such as the releasing animals back into the wild or undertaking research on animals.

Zookeepers work in a number of different workplaces from public zoos to wildlife sanctuaries and even animal rehabilitation centres. All of which comes with a number of different workflows and unique challenges.

Additional tasks that zookeepers undertake involve offering knowledge and informing the public about wildlife conservation and the correct treatment of injured animals. This can extend to how to humanely kill toads and how to spot the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes.

Task Outline

Feeding and watering animals

Maintaining enclosures

Monitoring breeding programs

Ensuring the welfare of animals

Creating educative and informative materials

Are there any university courses required, or can I do any?

There are a few select educational requirements for zookeepers, mainly a certificate or associate degree in animal services which will outline and teach the basics of animal care. There are however optional specialisations that you can enrol into to further your career within animal care and rehabilitation.

A few specialised courses you can choose to undertake are the technical and algorithmic approaches to animal rehabilitation and survival which go over science-based techniques that will find processes which will allow for animals to thrive in certain environments.

Skills Required

love for animals

Joy for outdoor work

Developed observational skills

Able to handle messy tasks

Patience and kindness towards animals

Courses recommended include:

Certificate IV in Captive Animals

Certificate III in Companion Animal Services

Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services

Finding work & outlook

Once you have completed a relevant certificate in animal services you will then be allowed to work with animals while being supervised by a licensed zookeeper. This work experience will allow you to develop your skills on the job and over time you will be able to receive your license to work with animals unsupervised.

Companies and government branches that zookeepers can find work in include national parks, government-owned wildlife parks and private and publicly owned Zoos. Job prospects for zookeepers extend across the globe and holding a recognised certificate will allow you to work across the globe in a number of different workplaces.

According to Payscale, the average annual salary of a zookeeper in Australia will earn roughly $50,000 and depending on expertise and education can earn up to $72,000.

Career Outcomes Include

Veterinary technician

Adventure guides

Park services assistant

Pet adoption counsellors

Laboratory animal caretaker

Animal shelter worker

Start Your Career

To enter the animal care industry you will be required to hold a relevant certificate, as well as have a love for working and caring for animals. Once you’ve obtained your certificate in animal care you’ll then be able to search for jobs in the field and work and care for animals under supervision.

You can move up in the industry by undertaking further educational courses as well as painting your current position and gaining as much industry and hands-on experience as possible.

A few relevant and resource-filled websites below can give you more information on the zoo keeping and animal care industries in Australia.

Australasian Society of Zoo Keeping

Australasian Zoo Keeping

Australian Zoo & Wildlife Park Links


Bio: Emily is a senior content writer with She is a recent University graduate and enjoys writing about educational and career orientated topics.