How Long Does it Take to Be a Zoologist?

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Zoologists study the evolution of animals over millions of years.
Zoologists study the evolution of animals over millions of years. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Zoologists study animals. They are interested in the origins, development, habits, life processes, and interactions with the environment of different creatures. Some zoologists specialize in a single species, while others focus on a group of them; for instance, mammalogists study mammals. To become a zoologist, an individual must undertake a minimum of four years of education after high school.

High School

A candidate wishing to pursue a career in zoology must first gain a good grade-point average in a high school diploma or GED. This will enable her to secure a place on courses at university which she must complete to become a zoologist. Good performance across all subjects is required, although the sciences, mathematics and English are particularly relevant to her chosen career. Any voluntary work in an animal-related environment, such as a local zoo, ranch or vets, will also be beneficial.

Undergraduate

The next step for budding zoologists is to gain a bachelor’s degree at university. These generally take four years to complete. In theory, a candidate can major in any subject he chooses. However, in practice, most select one of the science subjects -- physics, biology, chemistry -- as their major, for which they will receive instruction in the classroom and the laboratory. Candidates should take courses in all sciences, mathematics, statistics and English, as well as any, if offered, in zoology. Courses in technical writing, psychology and a foreign language may also prove useful.

Postgraduate

Zoologists with a bachelor’s degree may be able to find work as zookeepers, veterinary assistants, high school teachers or laboratory assistants. However, many jobs, particularly those in research or higher education teaching, require a candidate to hold a postgraduate degree. Master’s degrees typically take two years to complete while doctoral degrees may last up to six years. To different degrees, these levels of study allow the candidate to conduct independent research and build up a body of knowledge in an area of interest.

Advancement

Zoologist may also advance through career development as well as educational achievement. Zookeepers may work their way up to the management of a department -- although most zoo curatorial positions require a candidate to hold a postgraduate degree. Those who hold a doctoral degree and work in research may, in time, become directors of research projects, advise on government policy, or head a national ecological body, such as a fishery or wildlife refuge.

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