As a Zoological Scientist, you will study animals, including evolution, physiology, reproduction, genetics, behaviour and ecology. You will be involved in laboratory research and fieldwork. You will be able to use their knowledge in lots of different areas, such as conservation, agriculture and industry, for example, pharmaceuticals.
Also known as
- Animal Scientist
- Scientist, Zoological
Research, often in specialist subjects, will be an important area of work for you as a Zoological Scientist. Specialist areas include genetics, cell biology, physiology, behaviour, nutrition and evolution. You can also specialise in a particular type of animal, such as mammals, amphibians, parasites or birds. Some Zoological Scientists focus on animal diseases.
In conservation biology, you will work to help protect endangered species. Animal species are becoming extinct every day, because of factors such as habitat destruction, the introduction of foreign species and overuse by humans.
In fieldwork, you will record the number and types of different species in a particular area. Your findings help to build up a local, national and world picture of animal biodiversity, including how it is affected by factors such as climate change, pollution and increasing land use by humans.
Conservation biology could involve breeding species in captivity, with the aim to re-introduce them into the wild to prevent their extinction.
As a Zoological Scientist, you will also work to improve the selection, breeding and nutrition of livestock. This includes research to improve animal feed, incubation, artificial insemination, housing, meat quality and parasite control. You can also use the modern techniques of genetic engineering to improve the characteristics of a farm animal species, such as its resistance to certain diseases.
In pharmaceutical companies, you will help to research, test and develop new drugs. This can involve breeding animals, raising them under controlled conditions and testing the effects of drugs on them.
Another specialist area is biocontrol. This is using organisms to tackle the pests and diseases that harm crops, reducing Farmers' need to use chemical products such as pesticides.
You could also work in museums, wildlife parks and nature reserves, and as Teachers, Lecturers and Journalists.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Zoological Scientist, you will need:
- a thorough, methodical and logical approach to research and experiment work
- strong observation skills
- the ability to use maths and statistics
- patience to repeat experiments several times and for observing animals over long periods
- accuracy and attention to detail for setting up, monitoring and recording experiments
- creativity and imagination to solve problems
- the ability to use a wide range of laboratory equipment and techniques
- good basic IT skills
- the ability to work on your own, for example, in fieldwork, as well as in a team with other Scientists and Technicians
- writing skills for reports, research papers and proposals
- the ability to explain things clearly and concisely, especially to non-specialists
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £27,500 - £30,000
- With experience: £35,000 - £41,000
- Senior Zoological Scientists earn £44,500 - £50,000
Hours of work
Zoological Scientists usually work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, you might work long, unsocial hours, for example, during fieldwork, including early starts, late finishes and work at weekends.
Where could I work?
Many Zoological Scientists work for research institutions, or in agriculture, industry or universities.
There are opportunities for conservation, environmental and information work with government departments, wildlife trusts, nature reserves, zoological collections and safari parks.
Some Zoological Scientists work as consultants, for example, giving advice to zoos and conservation bodies.
Opportunities for Zoological Scientists occur in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the UK.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in science magazines such as New Scientist (which also has job vacancies on its website), on specialist recruitment websites, and in national newspapers.
GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:
Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.
Take a look at our General Information Article
Entry Routes and Training
To become a Zoological Scientist, you'll need at least a relevant first (undergraduate) degree. Entrants often have postgraduate qualifications, such as an MSc or PhD. A postgraduate qualification will usually be essential for entry to a research post in higher education.
There are specialist degree courses in zoology, animal biology and animal science. Entrants also have related first degrees, in subjects such as biology, applied biology, microbiology, ecology, genetics and biochemistry.
Some universities offer degree courses with a foundation year. This is an extra year for students who don't have the specified science A levels for entry.
A small number of universities offer integrated science degrees (ISciences), aiming to give graduates interdisciplinary skills and knowledge through a problem-based approach.
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
Competition for entry to this career is very strong, and many people with backgrounds in zoological science go into careers that aren't directly linked to the subject.
Depending on your area of work, you might have training on-the-job, for example, in laboratory procedures or specialist equipment.
Previous experience in a laboratory environment would be really useful for this career.
In conservation, progression usually involves taking on more project management responsibility, including training others. University Lecturers/Researchers can be promoted to higher grades such as Senior and Principal Lecturer. In industry, for example, pharmaceuticals, you would progress to a supervisory or management position.
Experienced Zoological Scientists can act as Consultants, for example, giving advice to zoos and conservation bodies.
For entry to a degree in zoology, the usual minimum requirement is:
- 2/3 A levels, including biology and at least one other science subject (some universities specify chemistry)
- GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in your A level subjects
- a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 and above, including English and maths
- you might also need chemistry if you don't have this at A level
Alternatives to A levels include:
- BTEC level 3 qualifications
- the International Baccalaureate Diploma
However, course requirements vary, so please check college/university websites carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter a degree course, you might be able to start one after completing an Access course, for example, Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to enter an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.
A foundation year before the start of a science degree is available at some universities and higher education colleges for students who don't have the science A levels usually needed for entry to the course.
Some part-time zoology degree courses are available.
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Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)
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Field Studies Council
Address: Head Office, Preston Montford, Montford Bridge, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY4 1HW
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British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA)
Address: Regents Park, London NW1 4RY
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Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS)
Address: Edinburgh Zoo, 134 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh EH12 6TS
Tel: 0131 3349171
People Exchange Cymru (PEC)
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