Zoo Curator Career Profile
How do I become a Zoo Curator?
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 the 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!
UPDATED: 24 May 2023
What is a Zoo Curator?
A Zoo Curator keeps and manages collections of animals at a zoo and tends to the animals, their exhibits and zookeeping staff.
Curators manage different kinds of animals, depending on where they are employed. If you are more interested in working as a Curator at a museum, then following the profile link:
- Museum Curator – They tend to work with collections of mounted animals prepared by skilled taxidermists. (Taxidermy is the art of mounting the skin of a dead animal to make it appear lifelike).
A Zoo Curator is also known as
- Animal Curator
- Zoo Animal Manager
The Zoo Curator falls within the following Career Categories:
- Animal Care
- Zoo, Aquariums, Museums and Amusement Parks
What does a Zoo Curator do?
Groups of animals a Zoo Curator works with
What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?
With who does a Zoo Curator work?
Besides working with all of the animals, Curators 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:
- Top Management
- Operational staff, such as Human Resources, Finance and Maintenance
- Veterinary staff
- Animal Trainers
- Habitat Specialists
What do Zoo Curators focus on?
A Zoo Curator is responsible for the management of all the animals, their habitats (or exhibits) and zookeeping staff.
What are the daily tasks of Zoo Curators?
- Overseeing exhibit designs to ensure they are safe, functional and representative of the animal’s natural habitat
- Organizing animal diets, veterinary visits, transportation, quarantine, enrichment and anything else related to their care
- Selecting and obtaining new animals
- Supervising breeding programs
- Collecting, reviewing and cataloging reports from zookeepers and veterinarians
- Hiring and training zoo staff
- Performing research
- Attending conferences
- Doing conservation work
- Educating visitors
- Ensuring the zoo meets and follows government requirements and policies
- Acquiring permits
- Ensuring staff and visitor safety
- Office Administration
In which Environment does a Zoo Curator work in?
What are the environment and places of employment like?
Zoo Curators can work equal amounts outdoors and indoors, inspecting exhibitions, talking to staff and holding meetings.
Places of Employment –
Zoo Curators work mainly at zoos (private or government), but can also be employed where large animal collections are held. These places can include amusement parks, large animal sanctuaries, game farms, and aquariums.
What is the Average Salary for a Zoo Curator?
The average annual salary of Zoo Curators is around US$67,000 per year. Those with experience can earn between 5 to 10 times this per year. The income will differ, depending on the employer, country and currency.
South Africa – R480,000
United Kingdom – £38,740
Can Zoo Curators be promoted?
Promotions to senior levels are available in all related zoo careers. The levels of each promotion might differ from organization to organization, but generally are the following:
Junior Curator > Senior Curator > Manager/Director
What difficulties do Zoo Curators face?
The most difficult part of this career is being able to work with stressed animals. Animals can get difficult and temperamental when they sense a new person in their space. Learning to deal with such animals is important to make Zoo Curator your ideal career. You may also be required to work irregular hours including evenings, weekends, and holidays.
Future Growth and Possibilities of the Career
The prospects of future growth in this industry is generally slow, mainly due to the limited number of employing facilities. A higher level of studies is required to secure good jobs.
Availability of Jobs
Which Skills do Zoo Curators need?
The skills required for a career as a Zoo Educator 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.
- Critical thinking
- Creative thinking
- Decision making
- Problem Solving
- Effective communication
- Interpersonal relationship
- Basic animal handling and care techniques
- Basic customer service skills
- Good health and physical fitness
- Basic computer literacy
- Basic knowledge of laws impacting on their work, such as the Animal Welfare Act
Which Subjects must I have at School?
If you want to study further (diploma or degree), then a good knowledge and understanding of biology is required. Most animal related courses, such as zoology, do require Biology for admission.
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 Curator?
Minimum educational qualification
The minimum educational requirement to become a Zoo Curator is a University Bachelor’s Degree. Some do study further towards a Masters Degree to secure good jobs.
As this is a management-level career, you will definitely require a high level of experience. Most Zoo Curators first work in junior positions to gain years of experience, and then study further to be promoted to Zoo Curators.
Degree in Animal Management or Animal Science with subjects covering zoology, animal behavior, animal science, conservation biology, wildlife management or marine biology.
Short Courses –
Courses in animal management, animal behaviour or business management.
The duration of most Bachelor’s Degrees are between 3 and 4 years full time. The duration of short courses differ, but can range from a few days 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 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.
Training and Apprenticeship
Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal careers, most of required skills 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 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.
Join the Zoo Curators Group in the Community 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:
Licenses, Certifications, Registrations and Professional Associations
Although certain animal caregiver careers do require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and do it well, it’s not generally required to become an animal keeper.
Many places of employment will require a drivers licenses for keepers that might have to transport animals.
Learn more about these specific requirements by joining the Zoo Curators Group in the One Zoo Tree 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 animal care
Do you want to contribute to the career information? Please click on the red beetle to learn about being an OZT mentor or contributor.
Join the OZT Community and our Zoo Curator Group
Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a Zoo Curator.
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 Curator and want to join our Community, or you are already a member, please click on the JOIN GROUP button.
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