The Path to a Career in Zoology and Animal Science
15 Sep 2021
Zoologists and animal scientists specialise in the study of animals. Zoologists are concerned with the structure, evolution and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct. They also look at how animals interact with their ecosystems. Animal scientists tend to be more focused on the biology of livestock, as well as the care and management of equine, companion, and zoo animals. Both zoology and animal science centre on the study of animal biology, which means developing an understanding of how animals’ function, interact, behave, and develop.
If you have a degree in zoology or animal science, there are a variety of fascinating and rewarding career paths open to you.
Zoology involves researching and developing an understanding of all forms of animal life, including mammals, insects, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Originally, zoology was called ‘natural history’, and was concerned with finding, naming, and then classifying every example of the animal world. Although classification is still important, the scope of the field of zoology has widened to cover issues associated with conservation, animal diversity and ecology. Animal science generally focuses on those animals we live with and have in our day-to-day lives. Understanding the biology of these domesticated animals has many practical applications, for example in the manufacture of feed to managing the health and welfare of livestock, or in the development of breeding technology.
Zoologists and animal scientists are employed by a variety of organisations in different roles, including research, communication, legislation, and management. Potential employers include:
- Research institutes and universities
- Government agencies
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Feed manufacturers
Research roles may involve laboratory-based investigations, as well as studying animals in their natural environments or in captivity and can be with academic institutes or commercial organisations. In general, research posts require some form of postgraduate qualification. Research is not the only area open to zoologists and animal scientists. Many opportunities exist in education and knowledge transfer, technical management, as well as levy bodies and government sectors.
To work in most areas within the fields of zoology and animal science you will need a relevant degree. Alongside courses in zoology, animal science and animal biology, which can be combined with other disciplines, there are more specialised courses in areas such as wildlife conservation, marine zoology, equine science, and animal behaviour. Your choice of course is dependent on the type of animals you are interested in and whether you are looking for a more academic or vocational approach to your studies. Animal science courses are particularly varied in their approach and emphasis and will likely include the study of animal nutrition, welfare, breeding and behaviour, livestock production systems and other applied subjects. With such an array of courses available, it is important to research the entry requirements and content of each course carefully to ensure it suits your needs, qualifications, and preferred career path. Degree courses generally require A level (Level 3) or equivalent qualifications, such as BTEC. Additionally, you can top up to a full degree from Level 5 qualifications, such as a higher national diploma or foundation degree.