Job Titles in the Field of Zoos and Aquariums

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For every opening, personnel staff report receiving hundreds of applications from qualified and eager applicants. Zoo and aquarium work is very attractive to many people, thus causing keen competition for all job seekers.

The job outlook is also negatively affected by expected slow growth in zoo capacity and low turnover.

However, this does not mean that the situation is hopeless. In the pages to come you will learn how other zoo and aquarium professionals got started, and through their firsthand expert advice you will find a few strategies on how you, too, can get your foot in the door.


Assistant Director. The assistant director works closely with the director and assumes responsibility in the director's absence.

Director/Chief Operating Officer. The director carries out policies that are dictated by the facility's governing authority. He or she is responsible for the institution's operation and plans for future development.

Finance Manager/Director. The finance manager oversees the institution's finances, including accounts payable, purchasing, investments, and the preparation of financial statements.

Operations Director/Manager. The operations manager is responsible for the daily operation of the institution's physical plant and equipment.

Personnel Manager/Director. The personnel manager is responsible for all personnel matters including payroll, insurance, and tax matters.

Registrar. The registrar maintains computer records on the animal collection and applies for permits and licenses to hold or transport animals.


Conservation Biologist/Zoologist. These scientists provide scientific and technical assistance in the management of the animal collection and assist in conducting various research or field conservation projects.

Curator/Coordinator/Director of Conservation. These professionals oversee an institution's conservation activities, including field projects. They also serve as liaisons with government wildlife agencies and other conservation organizations.


Curator of Animals. Animal curators manage a certain section of an institution's collection, for example, mammals, birds, fish, or reptiles.

Curator of Exhibits. Exhibits curators design, create, and build exhibits and assist in the design of graphics.

Curator of Horticulture. These horticulture experts are responsible for the botanical collection and its application to the animal collection. They may supervise aquarists in the daily maintenance of aquarium plant life or be responsible for the maintenance of the institution's grounds.

General Curator. The chief curator oversees an institution's entire animal collection and animal management staff. He or she is responsible for strategic collection planning.

Head Keeper/Aquarist. Supervisory keepers or aquarists oversee a section or department of the institution; they provide training and scheduling for keepers.

Junior Keeper. Some institutions offer a summer program for high school students who choose to volunteer in a zoo or aquarium. Duties are similar to those of older volunteers, but junior keepers are supervised much more closely.

Keeper/Aquarist. The aquarist provides daily care to the institution's animals, including diet preparation, cleaning, general exhibit maintenance, and record keeping. Some aquarists also participate in research and collections activities.

Senior Keeper/Aquarist. These advanced keepers and aquarists provide primary animal care for a department.

Trainer. Animal trainers work with wildlife to make them more comfortable being handled by humans, specifically veterinarian staff and caretakers. Training also can include encouraging the natural behavior of the animal for educational purposes.


Development Director/Officer. Development professionals develop and manage an institution's fund-raising activities, which can include writing grant proposals arid attracting corporate sponsors, in addition to searching out private donations.

Membership Director/Manager. Membership directors are responsible for maintaining and increasing institution memberships for families and individuals and designing special events for members only. They may also be in charge of "adopt-an-animal" programs.


Curator of Education/Education Director. Professionals within a zoo's or aquarium's education department plan and implement the institution's education programs and act as a liaison between the facility and the press and general public.

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.


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 health-care 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.

Visitor Services Manager. The director or manager of the visitor services department supervises the staff and facilities that cater to the visiting public including concessions and rest rooms.

Volunteer Services

Docent/Tour Guide Volunteer. Duties for these non paid staff members vary and can include diet preparation, small animal care, teaching educational programs, leading group tours, and staffing special events.

Volunteer Coordinator. The volunteer coordinator usually has a paid position and is responsible for recruiting and maintaining a staff of volunteers and docents (tour guides). Duties include scheduling docents for on- and off-grounds activities and keeping docents abreast of new developments to relate to the public.
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