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Everything You Need To Know About Studying Zoology

Want to work with animals but not sure how to begin your career? Read on! We’ve outlined what zoology is, what a zoologist does, what you’ll study in a zoology course, job prospects and how long a course in zoology will take.

What is Zoology?

Basically zoology is the study of animals and their behaviours in their natural habitat and captivity. It is a branch of biology that studies, tracks and measures the animal kingdom, giving us a deeper understanding of animals and their behaviour. Within zoology you can then specialise in areas that are of particular interest. If you love animals and nature and enjoy learning about the natural world then you will find a course in zoology extremely interesting and a job in this field highly rewarding.

The technical definition of zoology is the scientific study of the behaviour, structure, physiology, classification and distribution of animals. It can be divided into these characteristics:

  • Anatomy or anatomical zoology. This focuses on an animal’s structural characteristics.
  • Taxonomy or taxonomic zoology focuses on how animals are classified.
  • Animal physiology, which looks at animal functions and metabolic processes.
  • Behaviour characteristics and patterns of animals.
  • Animal genetics.

A Zoologist will usually specialise in a specific area of interest. These areas include:

  • Ecology – the environment of animals.
  • Ethology – the behaviours or animals.
  • Mammalogy – the scientific study of mammals.
  • Ornithology – the study of birds.
  • Ichthyology – the study of fish.
  • Entomology – the scientific study of insects including genetics, taxonomy morphology, physiology and behaviour.
  • Parasitology – the study of the biology of parasites and parasitic diseases.
  • Herpetology – the study of reptiles.
  • Physiology – the functions of animals / science of life, understanding the mechanisms of living things including cell function.

Studying zoology doesn’t only mean studying live animals as it also includes studying animals that are extinct. However most zoologists tend to work with directly with animals and usually focus on one or two species.

What Does a Zoologist Do?

Through the study of animals and their behaviours a zoologist will observe, gather and analyse information and data on animals including their development, function, nutrition/diet, migration habits and reproduction and shares the findings. They study the how animals live in their natural habitat as well as in captivity. Many zoologists use their research and findings to give advice on habitat conditions for animals kept in captivity. This may include zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and reserves. Many Zoologists review and create programs to manage animal populations in the wild and in captivity.

A zoologist may also examine microscopic organisms to gather information on plants and animals and observe natural habitats of animals and humans and make recordings of their discoveries. Many zoologists will also lecture at universities and higher education facilities.

Zoologists have in depth knowledge of animal environment interactions, animal growth, nutrition, predation, prey, reproduction, social behaviours, anatomy, physiology and populations. This can lead to many lines of work depending on your interests.

What is the difference between a Zoologist and Zookeeper?

A zoologist is a scientist who conducts research and analyses data. There are many fields a zoologist may specialise in. To become a zoologist tertiary education are required.

A zookeeper works in a zoo and their primary role is to care for zoo animals, including feeding them and keeping their enclosure clean. A zookeeper may also be required to assist the veterinarians with administering health care as well as giving presentations to the public on the animals they care for. Being a zookeeper can be quite physically challenging.

Where Can I Study Zoology in Australia?

Many universities in Australia offer a degree in zoology. If not they will likely offer a degree in biology and if you choose the right major this will be the equivalent. Zoology requires a substantial amount of study but as it is of such an interesting area it makes it all the more worthwhile.

For a taste of what you will learn in a zoology degree, you might find a short course helpful. This will give you a good level of understanding of zoology and help you decide if this is the study and career path for you. When you study zoology in Australia, it is highly encouraged to participate in volunteer programs to get experience on the field.

How Long Does It Take To Study Zoology?

An undergraduate degree in zoology in Australia usually takes 2-4 years depending on any prior learning credits. At the end of your degree you may find your career path requires you to complete to complete a masters or PHD. You will be guided by job you hope to attain at the end of the course as to what level of education you will need.

What Will I Learn if I Study Zoology in Australia?

Studying zoology is a great foundation to begin a career working with animals. This line of study leads to many careers from working in a zoo to working with genetics in a lab or out on the field learning about animal populations and behaviours.

As with many courses, a course in zoology in Australia will generally begin with studying a broad range of topics and as you progress you will start specialising in areas that are of interest to you.

Typically you will begin learning about:

Genetics, evolution, experiment and research skills, data handling practices, ethics, epigenetics (environments influence on physiological function and performance of living organisms e.g. framing), animal husbandry, animal behaviour and enrichment, conservation, ecology, biodiversity, marine biology, entomology, ornithology, herpetology, parasitology.

Zoologist Career Options

Having in depth knowledge of animal sciences and natural environments, as well as extensive knowledge of data collection and lab work, and formal tertiary qualifications opens up a range of jobs possibilities, such as:

  • Working at a zoo or animal rehabilitation facility providing advice on best practices for welfare of animals.
  • Animal nutritionist providing advice on the effect of diet on animals’ health and wellbeing
  • Managing land (private or public) for conservation
  • Working at a natural history museum
  • Working alongside archaeologists with fossils from animals of the past
  • Researching and conducting experiments in a lab using genetics
  • Environmental consultant providing technical assessments aiming to minimise or eliminate environmental damage
  • Marine scientist
  • Lecturer at a university
  • Ecologist helping to protect and restore the natural environment

Is Zoology A Good Career?

Right now the world faces a global crisis of mass extinction. Natural habitats are being decimated due to farming and population growth. We face the consequences of climate change. Zoologists are on the forefront of this crisis trying to gain understanding of and reduce the impact of these conditions. They work as conservationists to save habitats and are passionate about teaching the benefits and necessity of protecting the natural world. This career path will give you the opportunity to make a real difference to the future of our planet.

If you are interested in starting your career in zoology here are a few short courses offered at Upskill Online that to get you started:

Certificate in Zoology
Certificate in Carnivore Zoology
Certificate in Reptile Studies

To speak to one of our career consultants about whether an online course is right for you please get in touch via email or give us a call on (03) 9007 2117. We would love to hear from you.