Do you want to work as a zoo 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 in step 8 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 zoo designer?

In short, a zoo designer is a person that designs the outlay of a zoo. But there is actually two different kinds of zoo designers.

  • An artistic designer where the person is only involved in the artistic design (or sketching) of the zoo. This is more of an artistic career, and the sketch helps the architects design the zoo further.
  • The second is the designer with a more advanced qualification, such as in architecture, that actually designs the zoo according to architectural specifications, that can be used to build the zoo.

Both are discussed here together, as they generally have the same skills, school education and ways to prepare towards the career. Only the tertiary education will differ.

A zoo designer is also a more wider term than the people that specialize in designing habitats (Habitat Designers). You can click on the name to find out about this career.

Disney cartoons?

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was the first animated cartoon by Disney

Moving cartoons?

Cartoonists that draw moving cartoons (for movies and TV) are called animators

2. What do they do?


Art & Design/ Business


The primary focus of any zoo designer is to sketch the layout of a planned zoo, or new section to be added to an existing zoo. Most zoo designers use their artistic talents to design unique and interesting zoos.

Daily Tasks:

  • Discuss brief with clients
  • Research the area where the zoo will be built, the kinds of animals and attractions
  • Discuss the layout and requirements of specific kinds of habitats with the Habitat Designers, zoo keepers or curators, and landscape architects
  • Prepare model drawings of the zoo or new section
  • If you are an architect, the plans are discussed with different kinds of surveyors
  • Presentation to clients of work done
  • Create and add new work to a portfolio
  • Administration and filing

Where they work:


Most zoo designers spend time within a studio or office to draw or create the designs. They will also do research of the proposed sight, and at times, visit other zoos to get a feeling of how some of the structures are designed.

Places of Employment –

Most zoo designers work for private design firms or companies. Only a few actually work as freelance designers (self employed), or work as permanent staff at a zoo.

Average Salary:

As most zoo designers are self employed, their income is based on obtaining contracts. On average the income per year is around $45,000. This will differ from country to country.


The most difficult part will be to find the perfect balance between your artistic view of the zoo, and what the clients really want. There are also the usual difficulties of long working hours, tight deadlines and budgets.

​Future growth and Possibilities:

Zoo designing is a very competitive market, as the rate of new or expanding zoos are slow. Very few zoos have their own design team, but this seems to be changing as management see the benefits, which means that “in-house” designers might see a positive growth in the future.

3. Which Skills are required?

The skills required for a career as a zoo 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:

  • ​Good business knowledge
  • Good artistic skills
  • Basic customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Excellent computer literacy (drawing software)
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 for both kinds of designers (artistic or architect) is a college diploma. Those interested in a more solid career can alternatively further their studies through a Bachelor’s degree.


Major –

As a pure artist, it would be advised to study a degree in visual arts, but also with short courses in animal science (zoology). Those looking at becoming architects, it would be best to focus on an architect degree at university, but also with additional classes or short courses in subjects such as landscape architecture, zoology.

Short Courses –

You can’t design a functional zoo without knowledge of the entertainment side of zoos. Short courses in marketing, media relations and public relations would be handy.

A good background in drawing is essential, so be sure to perfect your doodling and sketching skills.


The duration of College and Bachelor’s Degrees can be up to 3 or 4 years. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.

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 Paths:

Possible Combined Career Paths:

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternatives (there are a lot more):

Stepping Stone Career:

In very few cases, a zoo designer career can also be used as a stepping stone career, especially where you are just designing the artistic drawings. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high fees etc).

You can begin as an intern zoo designer after basic short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.

Some of the possible paths:

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 as a cartoonist will be acquired through practice. 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 designer or expert architect.

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

Average level of education of those entering 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 designing.

Zoo Designer Career_opt

8. Join the OZT community

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a zoo 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 Zoo 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, and search for something different.

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