Zoology is a branch of biology that focuses on animals and animal life. There are many sub-fields in Zoology. Some Zoologists study very small organisms, such as mold, viruses, and even cells and parts of cells. Other Zoologists study very large organisms, such as whales, elephants and even whole populations of animals. Zoologists observe and sometimes conduct experiments on animals, either in the wild or in a controlled setting (such as a zoo or a laboratory).
Zoology is important for many reasons. For one, the study of animals and communities provides insight into how "life" works, and, consequently, how we work. The higher mammals provide especially useful insight into the human world. Many Zoologists are directly involved with the conservation of threatened or endangered species; the maintenance of biodiversity is considered by many to be crucial to our survival. Animals also have a great impact on our lives; they provide us with food, with companionship, and with a sense of wonder (and sometimes annoyance!). These are just a few of the reasons why understanding animal life is important to humans.
The Academic Requirements
Students will take basic and advanced science and math classes, including biology, chemistry, anatomy, ecology, etc. There will be lots of work done in the lab and in the field, preparing the student for typical employment in Zoology professions. Students should do an internship if possible; labs, zoos, farms, and veterinarian offices make great places to look for assistantship positions.
Graduate and Ph.D. students will do more intensive lab and field work in a specific area of Zoology. The original research you start now could lead to an entire career's pursuit. This is also a great time to make professional and academic connections.
Here are some courses that we've seen:
- Population Dynamics
- Behavioral Ecology
- Advanced Ecosystem Analysis
- Community Ecology
- Introduction to Biometrics
- General Chemistry
- Animal Physiology
- Invertebrate Zoology
- Marine Biology
Jobs in Zoology are usually fall under the heading of research, or of applying research in "real world" situations. Researchers generally hold somewhat regular hours, unless they are deeply involved in a project. Then you may spend extended hours at the lab or in the field - however, the love of research that comes with the field is incentive enough to work extra hours. Researchers, both independent and in teams, usually prepare reports on their findings for upper management or peer review. Researchers need to have good communication skills, a cooperative spirit, and an inquisitive mind.
There are several levels in the research world. Laboratory technicians only need an Associate's degree in the field. Research assistants hold Bachelor of Science degrees. Upper-level researches (those calling the shots, essentially), need a Master's degree or, preferably, a Ph.D.
Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Zoology:
- Research Technician III (North Carolina State University)
- Allied Health - Laboratory Technician (Rush University Medical Center)
- Biologist (MedFocus)
- Environmental Natural Resources Biologist II (Maryland Department of Natural Resources)
- Biology Instructor (Southeaster Community College)
- Plant Protection Technician (Florida Agriculture, Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service)
- Fishery Biologist (USDA Forest Service)
- Research Wildlife Biologist (US Geological Service)
- Fisheries or Wildlife Biologist (US Forest Service)