Do you want to work as a Habitat Designer?

  • Read about the most important info you need to decide on following this career.
  • ​Follow the 7 points below and search for a tertiary institution near you for future studies. If you already are graduated, you may also search through our list of Jobs in the main menu.
  • If you want to PLAN the way you need to prepare, then join our community where you will learn everything, while chatting with other potential designers and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!


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UPDATED: 8 October 2020

1. What is a habitat designer?

Habitat designers are responsible for designing enclosures or exhibits where wild animals are the key focus as entertainment, education or conservation (zoos, petting zoos, museums, sanctuaries and theme parks).

Also known as:

  • Zoo Habitat Specialist
  • Habitat Specialist

What are they NOT:

A habitat designer is not the same career as an aquarium designer, an enclosure designer, or a zoo or theme park designer. 

Aquarium designers build aquariums, small or large, for fresh or salt water fish. 

Enclosure designers may design and build different enclosures (such as terrariums, play pens etc) for animals that are mainly kept as pets or business. 

Zoo designers sketch the artistic interpretation of how a zoo or part of it can look like once built and plants are put in place.

A theme park designer does much the same as a zoo designer, but within the overall layout of a large theme park.

Another difference is that habitat designers normally need a college or University degree, where enclosure designers can work with only a High School certificate and mentorship. Aquarium designer and enclosure designer as careers are discussed separately on this website.


The idea of creating a habitat that reflects the species' home started in 1950


Zoo habitats keep on changing with time, with renovations per year estimated to be over US$250 million per year

2. What do they do?


Art & Design/ Zoos, Aquariums, Museums and Theme Parks


Most zoos and parks where animals are kept in constructed enclosures have to focus on several factors when housing animals, including animal behaviour, safety, comfort, conservation, breeding, rehabilitation, as well as visitor experience. Habitat Designers therefore need to focus on ensuring that the habitat provides an enriched artificial zone (including feeding areas, plants, enrichment spots and access points) that mimics the natural environment as closely as possible.

Daily Tasks:

  • Study particular animal species’ habitats in the wild for the purposes of enhancing or recreating those habitats in a controlled environment
  • Design habitat space based on research and needs outlined by curators, zoologists, veterinarians, biologists or other experts
  • Use different computer-aided design software
  • Write and present design proposal
  • Choose construction material, plants and landscape features
  • Prepare site for animals
  • Oversee and participate in the construction of all structures
  • Administrative duties including assisting with budget development and detailed record keeping of all activities
  • Assist biologists or zoologists with habitat management and maintenance

Where they work:

Environment –

Habitat designers work equal parts outside and indoors. They also need to spend some time in the field to understand and learn more about the natural environment certain animals life in, so that it will reflect in the designed habitat.

Places of Employment –

Habitat designers may work for large firms that specialize in architectural designing; be permanently employed by zoos, aquariums, marine parks, animal parks, theme parks, museums, and wildlife conservation centers; or freelance on contract.

Average Salary:

The average annual income is around $63,000 per year, or $30 per hour.


Advancement in the field typically depends on work experience. First year practitioners often begin on a part-time basis, fitting their training commitments around other work demands. Promotion to senior levels are available in all related careers. The levels of each promotion might differ from organization to organization, but generally are the following:

Intern > Junior Designer > Senior Designer > Manager


A career in design and construction always includes long hours and tight deadlines. Habitat Designers might need to oversee the entire project, making sure everything runs smoothly, and being versatile when things go wrong. They might also be required to travel long distances and work in adverse weather conditions to finalize contracts.

​Future Growth and Possibilities:

With growing public interest in seeing zoo animals housed in natural looking and well-designed exhibits, the prospects should be good for those entering the zoo design niche of the landscape design market.

3. Which Skills are required?

The skills required for a career as a habitat designer can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem Solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship

Career Skills:

  • Strong artistic skills
  • Animal behavior and environmental knowledge
  • Basic customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Strong computer literacy
Life Skills
Career Skills

4. Which Subjects must I have at School?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

5. What will I need to Study?

Minimum Requirements:

The minimum requirement is a College Diploma. But most Habitat Designers hold a Bachelor’s Degree in architecture, environmental planning and design, or landscaping, with extensive knowledge in animal behaviour and computer-aided design (CAD) software.


Focus on design, together with subjects in IT, zoology and conservation, as well as Short Courses that deal with each of the focus points.


The duration of most Bachelor’s Degrees is 3 years. Short Courses might be between a few weeks to a few months.

​Possible Career Preparation Paths:

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to be.

Possible Path:

Training and apprenticeship:

Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal careers, most of the skills you will need will be acquired through on-the-job training. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.

In some cases entry level positions (or junior positions) require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.

Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior person or expert.

Join the Habitat Designer Group in STEP 8 to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average entry level of education across the career:

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

6. Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.

Although not required by law, certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills.

Learn more about requirements by joining OZT in STEP 8.

Professional Associations:

7. Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards habitat designing.

Habitat Designer_opt

8. Join the OZT community

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a habitat designer.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being a Habitat Designer, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu

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