Zookeeper

zoo warden zoo worker animal carer
Care

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would look after all types of animals in zoos, safari parks and aquariums or in the wild.

This job comes with a lot of responsibility, as the animals in your care would depend on you completely to make sure they have a good life. 

You would:

  • Order and prepare food, water and bedding for the animals
  • Clean out pens and cages
  • Check for signs of distress, disease or injury in animals
  • Help the vet to care for sick animals
  • Check pens and cages for signs of wear or damage
  • Answer visitors’ questions and sometimes give talks or lectures
  • Keep an eye on conditions such as temperature and humidity
  • Keep healthcare records, normally on a computer

You would usually work with one type of animal or in a particular section of the zoo. A good understanding of health and safety rules would be very important.

Working conditions

Hours

As animals need to be looked after seven days a week, you will usually work on a shift system including weekends and bank holidays. Senior zookeepers may be on a call-out rota.

Environment

You could spend a lot of time outside in all weathers, depending on the type of animal.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

People behind the job

Meet real people who’ve done this job – hear their stories and the path they took to get there.

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Communicating with people
  • Caring for animals
  • Being physically fit
  • Paying attention to detail

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Qualifications

Entry is competitive.

Zoos vary in the qualifications they require but qualifications at SCQF level 4/5 or a relevant work-base qualification such as a Scottish Vocational Qualification in Animal Care (SVQ level 2/3) would be recommended.  

Some applicants have a Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7), a Higher National Diploma (SCQF level 8) or a degree (SCQF level 9/10) in animal management or zoology. 

To enter an Animal Care National Certificate (SCQF level 2-6) usually requires National 4/5 qualifications.

To enter a Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma (SCQF level 8) in animal care or biological sciences requires National 4/5 qualifications and one to two Highers.

Entry to a degree in zoology or animal biology requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of four Highers including English and a science subject or a relevant HNC/D.  A degree in either zoology or life sciences (preferably Animal Sciences) would be extremely helpful. 

Useful subjects

  • English (required by many courses and employers)
  • Maths (required by many courses and employers)
  • Science subjects (required by many courses and employers)
  • Social studies such as geography

You will also need

You may need a full, clean driving licence, particularly for a wildlife or safari park.

You need to be fit as there is a lot of standing, lifting and carrying. 

You must not be allergic to animals.

Helpful to have

Qualifications and experience that show a strong interest in science and work with animals such as Skills for Work Laboratory Science (SCQF level 5) or Rural Skills (SCQF level 4).

You will normally have to get some voluntary experience before getting any work in this area, possibly volunteering on field survey trips or working in a research lab.