Choosing a Career in the World of Zoos and Aquariums

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More than 120 million people visit zoos and aquariums annually. This huge interest gives dedicated professionals the opportunity to educate the public about the critical need for the conservation of wildlife and wild lands. While this responsibility ensures a varied and rewarding career, the field demands more than a commitment to conservation - it requires hard work.

Although many people might feel otherwise, the truth is that zoo and aquarium work is not always glamorous. It takes a special kind of dedication to care for captive animals. These dependent creatures require attention twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, on holidays and weekends, and through all sorts of weather.

Most job descriptions for zoo and aquarium work will point out that the requirements for employment include physical strength, the ability to make painstaking observations, and the ability to keep information up-to-date.



Working with exotic animals provides constant challenges, but the rewards for your efforts are great. As a zoo or aquarium professional you are providing the best care for the creatures in your institution. You are also providing opportunities for others to learn how they, too, can participate in the conservation of our planet's natural resources.

ZOOS AND AQUARIUMS

A zoological garden, also known as a zoo, is a facility for keeping wild and domesticated animals available to the public for both education and recreation. There are more than 1,000 zoos in 100 countries, with the largest number present within the United States - approximately 175. These institutions range from small, privately owned collections of limited scope to large public zoos with extensive holdings.

Although most zoos exhibit vertebrate animals, many have aquariums exhibiting marine species. There are approximately 500 public aquariums worldwide, where a large number of different fish and invertebrate species as well as marine reptiles and birds are displayed in huge tanks.

Oceanariums, the newest type of aquarium, often maintain large tanks or holding areas with direct ocean access. These are stocked with some of the largest marine forms, such as dolphins or whales. Visitors observe the animals through glass walls or from overhead walkways.

With so many different kinds of zoos and aquariums and the varied job categories they support, how do you know which avenue would be right for you? Take a look at the details below. Find your interests and skills, then look across to identify career options. You'll see that many of the job titles combine more than one interest.

Public Relations and Marketing

Marketing Director/Manager. Marketing personnel create advertising campaigns and organize other activities to increase public awareness of the institution.

Public Relations/Affairs Manager/Director. PR professionals promote the institution, its mission, and its programs to the public via the media.

Special Events Manager/Coordinator. These professionals develop and implement events and activities to attract visitors to the institution throughout the year.

Research

Curator/Coordinator/Director of Research. Head researchers supervise research projects, serve as liaison between the institution and the academic community, and publish articles in scientific journals. They also work closely with the conservation and curatorial staff.

Veterinarian Services

Veterinarian. Veterinarians are responsible for the healthcare program for the animal collection and the maintenance of health records.

Veterinary Technician. Vet techs assist the veterinarian and provide care to the animals under the supervision of the veterinarian.

Visitor Services

Gift Shop Manager. The gift shop manager supervises staff and all aspects of gift shop operation from buying merchandise to designing the shops.

When choosing an academic program for animal-related careers, it is a good idea to review the curriculum of the particular schools you are considering because some programs focus more on zoological applications than others.

For those interested in the business side of zoo and aquarium operations, courses should include those areas and skills related to the particular area of expertise, such as accounting, public relations, marketing, or personnel management.

For some job titles, additional training or qualifications are necessary. For example, all aquarists must be certified divers and veterinarians, and vet techs must have specialized training in their particular disciplines.
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