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What is Zoology and Animal Biology?
Zoology and Animal Biology is the study of animals, their environments and interactions, and the cellular makeup and processes that keep them alive. Degrees in zoology and animal biology can be obtained at the associate level and continue until the PhD, though most individuals will typically pursue at least a bachelor's degree. Zoology and animal biology is considered a very broad sub-field of biology, and provides skills and knowledge in scientific research, laboratory science, along with chemistry, physics and genetics.
Individuals enrolled in a zoology and animal biology programs will study the various aspects of animal life, particularly the physiology of a given animal and how it has adapted to operate in its natural environment. Students will be learn to utilize scientific analyses and research, utilizing actual specimens to study both in the wild and in a laboratory setting. Student will also learn how to apply the information obtained from the various sciences into applicable use, particularly when studying animals at cellular and molecular levels. Schools with programs in zoology and animal biology typically have resources such as wildlife preserves, estuaries, or other such locations from which to perform tests and experiments, allowing for the development of practical knowledge and experience prior to pursuing internships or career opportunities.
A curriculum in zoology and animal biology may include:
- Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
- Animal Physiology
- Animal Behavior
- Organic Chemistry
Zoology and animal biology as a career is a narrow field that is predominantly occupied with research. There are job opportunities available and job growth is expected to remain steady, but these opportunities will be limited. Careers in zoology and animal biology are typically defined by the field of study.
- Ornithologist (Birds)
- Mammalogist (Mammals)
- Herpetologist (Reptiles)
- Ichthyologist (Fish)
- Entomologist (Insects)
Due to the nature of zoology and animal biology, career opportunities are highly competitive, often requiring individuals to participate as interns for two or more projects prior to obtaining a paid position. Those who obtain positions will either do so through research proposals, or as a member of an existing agency or project. Research studies and projects may be funded by the government, colleges or universities, private business or a combination of these. Many individuals will work in parks, incorporating study opportunities into a preservation work, often identifying changes in patterns or behaviors in animals that may adversely affect the environment or animal populations.
Salary, Job Growth and Related Fields
The average salary of zoologists and animal biologists is approximately $55,000 per year. The lowest 10% earned less than $33,500 per year. The primary employer of zoologists and animal biologists is the federal government through research grants. The obtaining of available grant money is competitive due to the large number of proposals put forward by individuals or groups in a given year, and competition is expected to be higher as the number of PhDs awarded increase each year. Because the grants are typically long term and budgeted for in the year the grant is awarded, grantees are less affected by recession than other professions. Individuals working in non-research positions but employed by local, state or federal governments are subject to budgetary constraints in a given year. Those who work in the private sector typically earn higher and have greater job security.
As an additional resource, you can also read our blog post titled Top College Degrees for Animal Lovers for more information.