- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', accessed April 2014, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
Zoologist Alternative titles
Zoologists study animals and all aspects of their lives, including their habitats, habits and anatomy.
Call us on 0800 222 733
Pay for zoologists working in government research organisations and universities depends on their qualifications and experience.
- Zoologists with Master’s degrees usually earn around $55,000-$75,000 a year.
- Senior zoologists, who usually have PhDs, may earn $76,000-$94,000.
- With more responsibility and experience, pay could rise to about $130,000 a year or more.
Zoologists working in the private sector may earn more than this.
Source: Landcare Research & Universities New Zealand, 'University Staff Academic Salaries and Remuneration', 2012.
What you will do
Zoologists may do some or all of the following:
- study the make-up, growth, diseases and origin of animals
- study the relationship between animals and their environment
- study the genetics and molecular biology of animals
- do research into areas such as pest control or species conservation
- do laboratory work and fieldwork
- write reports and scientific articles
- give talks to community groups and local authorities
- advise local authorities and iwi on how to manage species sustainably.
Skills and knowledge
Zoologists need to have:
- practical skills for performing experiments and operating scientific equipment
- skill in analysing and interpreting scientific research results and other information.
- work usually regular business hours, but may be required to work evenings and weekends, especially when they are doing fieldwork
- work in laboratories and offices
- may work with drugs and chemicals to sedate, clean and preserve animals, and may come into contact with animal diseases and body fluids. They may also work outdoors in all kinds of weather conditions
- often travel locally, nationally and overseas to work on projects or to attend conferences.
What's the job really like?
Shaun Ogilvie - Zoologist
Some of Shaun Ogilvie's most vivid childhood memories are of bushwalks with his father, learning about the forest and the creatures within it. So it’s hardly surprising that Shaun has chosen a career in zoology, where he gets to do similar work to what he and his father did for a hobby.
Given Shaun's Māori ethnicity and understanding of the traditional Māori framework of the environment, he often gets requests from iwi to do research into areas of concern such as dwindling numbers of native species. "One of my current research projects is focused on increasing the number of kereru in the wild.”
However, not all parts of Shaun’s dream job have turned out exactly the way he had envisaged it. "I don't get to work in the field more than about five days a month, so that's a bugger," he laughs. "This week I spent one day in Wellington, doing strategic planning with an environmental organisation; the next day I assessed funding applications."
But despite being very busy, Shaun loves his job. "It's tremendously rewarding. You just need to retain your curiosity about how things work, and your ability to think laterally to find solutions to environmental problems."
To become a zoologist, you need to have a Bachelor of Science majoring in any of the following subjects:
- molecular biology.
Postgraduate qualifications, such as a Master's degree or PhD, are recommended for those wanting to enter research-based positions.
For research-based work at the technician level, a Bachelor's degree in a related science subject is the minimum entry requirement. Though many skills are learned at university, zoologists will continue to develop their laboratory and experimental skills on the job.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter tertiary training. NCEA Level 3 biology, chemistry, and maths with statistics are necessary. Geography and English are useful subjects.
Zoologists need to:
- be observant and enquiring
- be practical and accurate
- be patient and logical
- be good at problem-solving
- be well organised, with good planning skills
- have good written and verbal communicators
- be good at research
- not be squeamish, as they may have to dissect animals.
Useful experience for zoologists includes:
- conservation work
- laboratory work.
Some experience working with animals is also useful.
There are no specific physical requirements for zoologists. However, as the work generally involves a lot of fieldwork, being fit and healthy may be an advantage.
View information on courses in the course database
Find out more about training
- (07) 834 6600 - www.agresearch.co.nz
- Department of Conservation
- (04) 471 0726 - email@example.com - www.doc.govt.nz
- Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua
- (03) 321 9999 - www.landcare.cri.nz
- Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
- (04) 474 4100 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.maf.govt.nz
- National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)
- email@example.com - www.niwa.cri.nz
- Royal Society of New Zealand
- (04) 472 7421 - www.royalsociety.org.nz/
- Scion Research
- (07) 343 5899 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.scionresearch.com
years of training required
What are the chances of getting a job?
Limited opportunities for pure zoological research, though demand better for those with population-modelling skills
If you want to do pure zoological research (not linked to commercial gain), opportunities for permanent jobs are limited. Researchers may start off having to do short-term contract work before getting a permanent job. For example, at organisations such as the Department of Conservation, graduates may start out as field assistants, then move into permanent research scientist positions later.
Maths/statistics skills may help your chances of getting work in this area, as you will be more qualified to do population modelling, which involves working out how animal numbers are likely to be affected by changing ecological conditions. Employers report a shortage of people with these skills.
Shortage of zoologists specialising in environmental science and genetics
People with zoology skills can apply their skills in a range of specialised roles, such as environmental scientist or genetic scientist. Your chances of getting a job in these roles are good, because the number of people employed in these occupations has been growing.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates show that the number of environmental scientists increased by about 6% between 2010 and 2012. This job is also on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list, which means the Government is actively encouraging skilled environmental research scientists from overseas to work in New Zealand.
The job of genetic scientist appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list, which means the Government is actively encouraging skilled people in this field from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Types of employers varied
Zoologists can work for:
- Crown research institutes (CRIs) such as NIWA, the largest employer of marine biologists
- government agencies such as the Department of Conservation
- consultancies, including those studying environmental impacts of building developments
- private companies, including those doing pest control
- regional councils
A limited number of zoologists also work for:
- Fish and Game New Zealand
- the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA).
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Other vacancy websites
- Cawthron Institute - Browse aquaculture science jobs
- Science New Zealand - Browse job vacancies in Crown Research Institutes
- NZ Government Jobs Online - Search jobs.govt.nz for State sector vacancies
- Trade Me - View Trade Me's science jobs
- NZ Government Jobs Online- Search jobs.govt.nz for State sector vacancies
- My Job Space- View MyJobSpace's scientific jobs
- Rob Law Consulting- View Rob Law's science jobs
- SEEK - View SEEK's science jobs
Progression and specialisations
In applied zoological work for organisations such as the Department of Conservation, most graduates or postgraduates start on short-term contracts. This is usually field-based work in summer. You often need to be on such short contracts for three to four years before getting a permanent job there.
In research-based zoological work, those with a Bachelor's degree typically start work at the technician level. Technicians may progress into research scientist positions after getting a Master's degree or PhD in the relevant science area.
Once you have a PhD, you can apply for a postdoctoral fellowship at research organisations or universities. You may need to do two or three postdoctoral fellowships (usually lasting two or three years each) before getting a permanent scientist position.
After about 15 years' experience as a scientist you can progress into senior research scientist, team leader or management roles.
Zoologists usually specialise in different areas of the animal kingdom, such as birds, mammals or aquatic animals.
Zoologists might work in a variety of areas, including:
- pest control
How many people are doing this job?
Job vacancies by region
Updated 24 Nov 2014