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Zookeeper Keeper, animal keeper, zoo keeper

Zookeepers look after animals in zoos, safari parks and aquariums.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £12,000 to £25,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll usually need a minimum of 5 GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) including English, maths and science.

Some zoos may ask for A levels or an equivalent qualification in animal care or animal science. Others may ask for a higher level qualification like a foundation degree or degree.

You'll need experience of working with animals. You could volunteer in a zoo or safari park. Find your nearest one at British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA).

Some zoos run unpaid work placements or internships. You could also get experience with animals at a farm, kennels or riding stables.

You may be able to work your way up through an apprenticeship.

You may need clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • the ability to handle animals with confidence and compassion
  • observation skills
  • excellent communication and IT skills 

3. What you'll do

You could work in small or large zoos and safari parks owned privately or by charities. You could work with mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish.

You could also work in sea zoos and aquariums.

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • preparing food and feeding animals
  • cleaning out pens and cages and changing bedding
  • making sure animals live in as close to natural conditions as possible
  • checking for signs of distress or disease and caring for sick animals
  • checking enclosures and cages for signs of wear or damage
  • monitoring conditions like temperature and humidity
  • keeping daily healthcare records on paper and computer
  • giving educational talks to children and adults

You'll usually work with one type of animal or in a particular section of the zoo.

4. Salary

Starter: £12,000 to £14,000

Experienced: £16,000 to £20,000

Highly Experienced: £25,000 or more (head keeper)

You may get free or subsidised accommodation.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work shifts including weekends and bank holidays. Outside your working hours, you may be on a rota for call-outs.

You could spend a lot of time outside in all weathers. This work is physically demanding.

You may need a driving licence if you're working in a large zoo or safari park.

6. Career path and progression

In larger zoos, you could progress from keeper to team leader or head keeper. With experience and a degree, you could become a curator.

You could also move into education or conservation research.

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Last updated: 11 April 2017