For many people becoming a zoo keeper would be a dream job, but how do you become a zoo keeper?

For myself I was very lucky, I don’t have a degree in an animal related course and at the time I didn’t have any animal qualifications, but I did have experience with reptiles and some small exotic species. I was just in the right place at the right time and knew the right people. I was extremely fortunate and now have been a zoo keeper for eight years and gained animal qualifications whilst working. How to become a keeper is a question that many of us are asked on a regular basis and we are more than happy to answer as we have all come into this role in different ways. Here are a few key things that you would need to consider before committing to this sector of work.

Key Requirements

  • Having a passion for animals is a must. We have to work long hours in all sorts of weather and we do it because we are committed to our animals.
  • You can’t just learn this job from a text book, you need to have practical experience with excellent observational skills and time management.
  • This role can be extremely draining both physically and mentally, so having a positive attitude is key.
  • Being able to communicate with people is also important as it’s not just the animals you have to work with. You will have colleagues and visitors to talk to about all sorts of animal related topics.
  • And you certainly will not get rich being a keeper, we do it for the love of our animals.


The Application Process

So how do you stand out when you apply for a job as a zoo keeper?

Gaining an animal related qualification is now a must for most zoo keeper roles as many zoos will want this. Whether it is at degree level, diploma or DMZAA you will need to look at gaining an animal related qualification if you want your CV to be considered.

Wingham Wildlife Park Penguin Hand RearingHowever it’s not all about what qualifications you have. Many zoos will require a minimum of 2 years practical experience even for trainee roles. Whether that’s from volunteering in a zoo to work experience at a vets or having your own animals at home. It all helps and will make you stand out from others that may not have any practical experience.

Internships are I believe one of the best ways to help you on your journey to becoming a keeper. They usually last between 6 – 12 months, but you are not always paid for your time working. Most internships will treat you like a member of staff to a point. They will train you on how to use equipment like heavy machinery to driving tractors and dumpers. Teaching you about looking after exotic species, knowing what diets are suitable and how to observe animals in your care to know what’s right and what’s wrong. Basically they teach you how to be a zoo keeper and give you that practical experience but most are not paid. Internships are also very competitive to even get the role so gaining experience before you apply is also good idea.

Follow Your Dream

If you choose to go down the path of becoming a keeper then good luck with your career and remember that practical experience is key to winning that job!

About Ruth - Head Keeper

Ruth is the head keeper at Wingham Wildlife Park, having been with the park since 2008. When the park was first taken over all of the keepers looked after all of the species, and as such Ruth has a wide range of abilities with the animals here, giving her the right skill set as our head keeper. When she is out of the office (which is most of the time), she specialises in primates.