Zoo Veterinarian Career Profile

Do you want to work as a zoo veterinarian?

READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.

RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.

PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for your career, then join the OZT Community! Members have access to tools while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!


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24 June 2024

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What is a Zoo Veterinarian?

A Veterinarian is a doctor who protects the health and well-being of both animals and people by treating animals for various ailments and diseases. A zoo veterinarian studies even further to be able to work exclusively with captive wild animals within a zoo or aquarium.

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Veterinarians who specialize in working with domesticated (or companion animals), and with wildlife, are discussed separately. Click on the links to visit their Pages:

Career Categories

The Zoo Veterinarian career can be found within the following OZT career categories:

  • Health
  • Business
  • Zoos, Aquariums, Museums and Theme Parks

What does a Zoo Veterinarian do?

Groups of animals a Zoo Veterinarian works with

Mammals List Icon OZT
Birds List Icon OZT
Fish List Icon OZT
Reptiles List Icon OZT
Amphibians List Icon OZT
Insects List Icon OZT
Crustaceans List Icon OZT
Mollusks Link Icon OZT
Critters List Icon OZT

What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?

With who does a Zoo Veterinarian work with?

Besides working with all of the animals, Zoo Veterinarians will need to interact with other people while doing their daily tasks. The people might include fellow staff members or the public.

Fellow staff might include:

  • Supervisors/Managers
  • Operational staff, such as Human Resources, Finance and Maintenance
  • Veterinary staff
  • Lab Technicians
  • Zookeepers

What does a Zoo Veterinarian focus on?

They treat sick wild animals in the outdoors, or wherever wild animals might be held captive to administer medical treatment and rehabilitation. They also do research to control animal diseases.

What are the daily tasks of a Zoo Veterinarian?

  • Diagnoses animal health problems
  • Vaccinates against diseases, such as rabies
  • Medicates animals suffering from infections or illnesses
  • Treats and dresses wounds
  • Sets fractures
  • Performs minor to complex surgery, depending on training
  • Advises owners about animal feeding, behavior and breeding
  • Euthanizes animals when necessary
  • Provides preventive care to maintain the health of livestock
  • Performs diagnostic tests such as X-ray, EKG, ultrasound, blood, urine, and feces

In which environment does a Zoo Veterinarian work in?

What are the environment and places of employment like?

Environment –

They treat sick animals, mainly within the confines of zoos or aquariums. Animals can be treated in their enclosures, or within the animal hospital on site.

Places of Employment –

Most zoo veterinarians may be employed or contracted by hospitals, government agencies, educational institutions, wildlife management groups, zoos, aquariums and theme parks.

What is the Average Yearly Salary for a Zoo Veterinarian?

South Africa:  R470,000
Australia:  AU$65,000
UK:  £30,000
USA:  $75,000

Can a Zoo Veterinarian be promoted?

Promotion to senior levels are available in most careers. The levels of each promotion might differ from organization to organization, but generally are the following for zoo veterinarians who work for an organization:

Junior Veterinarian > Senior Veterinarian > Head Veterinarian > Department Manager or Director

What difficulties does a Zoo Veterinarian face?

Being a Veterinarian does have some difficult moments, and it’s good to know these things before you truly make a decision to pursue this career:

  • Most veterinarians are on call around the clock since emergencies can occur at any time.
  • Schedules may include evenings, weekends, and holidays.
  • Dealing with sick animals and their distraught owners can be very stressful.
  • Vets may in certain circumstances need to put an animal to sleep, called euthanasia.
  • Sick or frightened animals may bite, kick, or otherwise injure those who are treating them.
  • Working in the wild is exactly what it means.
  • The outdoors can be dangerous and even life threatening.

​Future growth and Possibilities

Employment of veterinarians is projected to grow by 9% annually, one of the highest for an occupation, mainly due to the growth in wildlife veterinary sciences.

Availability of Jobs


Which Skills do Zoo Veterinarians need?

The skills required for a career as a zoo veterinarian 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
Life Skills

Career Skills

  • Animal handling
  • Animal care
  • Customer service
  • handle instruments
  • good ovverall health
  • computer literate
Career Skills

Which Subjects must I have at School to help me prepare for this career?

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!

What will I need to Study to become a Zoo Veterinarian?

Minimum Requirements

To become a Vet you will need to study towards a Doctoral Degree in Veterinary Sciences, starting out with a Bachelor’s in Veterinary Science (BVSc). To specialize in working with wildlife requires at least another 2 years of intense studies in wildlife medicine.

Study Focus

Studying veterinary medicine will automatically indicate the subjects to follow. You will only have a far broader choice as you start to specialize.

Study Duration

The duration of a Bachelor’s Degrees can be up to 4 years, and another 4 years for a Doctorate. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.

FREE Career Path Plan

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 a road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

Pursuing a career as a zoo veterinarian requires a well-thought-out plan, starting from high school and continuing through higher education and professional development. Here is a detailed career preparation path for a high school student interested in becoming a zoo veterinarian:

1. Attend Career Guidance Sessions:

Participate in school-sponsored career guidance sessions to learn about the veterinary profession and other related careers. Attend career fairs, and speak with professionals in the fields of veterinary medicine and zoology.

2. Research All Possible Careers:

Investigate various careers in animal care, veterinary medicine, and wildlife conservation. Learn about different specialisations within veterinary medicine, such as zoological medicine.

3. Explore Educational Paths:

Research colleges and universities that offer pre-veterinary programmes and accredited veterinary schools. Look into schools with strong programmes in biology, zoology, and animal science.

4. Align High School Subjects with the Educational Path:

Focus on science courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics. Take advanced placement (AP) or honours classes in these subjects if available. Include math courses like algebra, geometry, and calculus.

5. Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent:

Ensure you complete all necessary coursework to graduate from high school. Maintain a strong GPA to enhance college applications.

6. Learn About Animals:

Gain knowledge about different animal species, their habitats, and behaviours. Read books, watch documentaries, and visit zoos and aquariums.

7. Align Post-School Path:

Decide between entering the workforce, continuing education, or starting a business. For a zoo veterinarian career, pursuing further education is essential.

8. Gain Experience Through Volunteering, Internship, Mentorship:

Volunteer at local animal shelters, zoos, or veterinary clinics. Seek internships or mentorship opportunities with veterinarians, particularly those who specialise in exotic or zoo animals.

9. Pursue Extracurricular Activities:

Join clubs or organisations related to animal care, such as 4-H or FFA (Future Farmers of America). Participate in science fairs, wildlife conservation projects, and other relevant activities.

10. Join Professional Associations:

Become a member of associations such as the American Pre-Veterinary Medical Association (APVMA) during undergraduate studies. Later, join professional organisations like the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV).

11. Gain Specialised Skills:

Develop skills in animal handling, diagnostic techniques, and surgical procedures.
Learn about animal nutrition, disease prevention, and treatment.

12. Network with Professionals:

Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars to meet professionals in the field. Build relationships with veterinarians, zookeepers, and researchers.

13. Enter the Job Market or Finish Tertiary Studies:

Complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from an accredited veterinary school. Consider pursuing a residency or specialisation in zoological medicine.

14. Stay Updated and Pursue Continuing Education:

Engage in lifelong learning by attending continuing education courses and staying current with the latest research and developments in veterinary medicine. Consider additional certifications, such as becoming board certified by the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM).

By following this path, a high school student can systematically prepare for a rewarding career as a zoo veterinarian.

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):

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 veterinarian 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.

Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior veterinarian.

Join the Zoo Veterinarians Group in the OZT Community to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of education of all the people who enter the career:

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

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.

Learn more about requirements by joining the OZT Community.

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 zoology.

How do I start to prepare for this Career?

If you do decide on following this career, then OZT can assist you in figuring out a path to prepare, as well as help you to gain further knowledge about the career and the animals you will be working with. We do this by offering you FREE career development tools. There are almost a dozen free tools, but these are the three primary ones:


Use the career path plan above on this profile as an example to follow, or to work out your own path.

COST; Free

ACCESS: Open to visitors and Members 


Access easy-to-use short courses to make your career preparation easier! The basic information in each course is free, but the rewards can only be unlocked as an OZT member!

COST; Free

ACCESS: Open to visitors and Members 


Get a supercharged study guide that fits into the career path plan! Now that's really upping your preparation game! Join us for free to gain access!

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ACCESS: Members Only

But, if you are still uncertain about choosing this specific career, and even where to start, then have a look at our special series of WHAT NEXT courses (link below). They take you through all of the questions you might have on how to choose the right career, what to do while at and after school, and even how to start your own business.


Join the OZT community and career chat Group

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a zoo veterinarian.

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 veterinarian, 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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Career Profiles and Resources

Career Mentors are Members who assist by volunteering to keep each Career Page factual and current, while mentoring Students in the related Career Group.

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Contributions by expert members are always appreciated to allow the Students to make informed decisions. Please add your contribution through the attached Form:

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List of Career Mentors/Educators who have contributed to this Career info:


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