Zoologists study animals and their behaviour in the wild or in captivity, and how they interact with other species and their environments.
Zoologists with up to 10 years' experience usually earn
$38K-$61K per year
Senior zoologists with more than 10 years' experience usually earn
$61K-$185K per year
Source: Canterbury University, Landcare Research and Massey University, 2018.
Pay for zoologists varies depending on qualifications, experience and where they work.
Zoologists working in universities
- Zoology assistant lecturers and junior researchers usually earn between $56,000 and $61,000 a year.
- Lecturers in zoology and research officers usually earn between $61,000 and $124,000.
- Zoology professors can earn between $124,000 and $185,000.
Zoologists working in government research agencies
- Zoology technicians usually earn between $38,000 and 52,000 a year.
- Senior zoology technicians usually earn between $52,000 and $61,000.
- Zoology scientists usually earn between $61,000 and $117,000.
- Senior zoology scientists can earn between $117,000 and $140,000.
Zoologists working in the private sector may earn more than this.
Sources: Canterbury University, '1 July 2015-30 June 2018 University of Canterbury Collective Employment Agreement', 2015; Landcare Research, 'Gender Ratio of Average Base Salary' 2018; and Massey University, '1 April 2018, Academic Salary Scales', 2018.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Zoologists may do some or all of the following:
- study animals and their behaviour
- study the relationship between animals and their environment
- do research into areas such as pest control or conservation
- do laboratory work and fieldwork
- manage the care of animals in research centres, zoos and aquariums
- teach university students
- write reports and scientific articles
- give talks to community groups and local authorities
- advise local authorities and iwi on how to manage animal species sustainably.
Skills and knowledge
Zoologists need to have knowledge of:
- animal behaviour, diseases and habitats
- animal anatomy, physiology and biology
- biochemistry, microbiology and parasitology
- animal-handling skills
- laws relevant to their work, such as the Animal Welfare Act
- conservation issues
- techniques for operating scientific equipment and performing experiments
- techniques for observations, surveys and field work
- research skills and how to analyse and present results.
- usually work regular business hours, but may also work evenings and weekends
- work in laboratories, offices, and outdoors in areas such as national parks and wildlife reserves
- may work with drugs and chemicals and be exposed to animal diseases
- may work outdoors in all weather conditions
- often travel locally, nationally and overseas to work on projects or to attend conferences.
What's the job really like?
Childhood walks inspired career choice
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.
Work a mix of field and office research
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 kererū in the wild.”
However, not all parts of Shaun’s dream job have turned out exactly the way he envisaged it. "I don't get to work in the field more than about five days a month, so that's a shame," he laughs. "This week I spent one day in Wellington, doing strategic planning with an environmental organisation and 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 work in senior research roles.
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 continue to develop their laboratory and experimental skills on the job.
NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Chemistry, biology and maths are required.
Zoologists need to be:
- enquiring and observant
- practical and accurate
- patient and logical
- good at problem solving
- well organised, with good planning skills
- skilled at writing and presenting information
- good at research
- able to cope with experimenting on live animals.
Useful experience for zoologists includes:
- conservation work
- work with animals
- laboratory work.
Zoologists need to be reasonably fit and healthy to do fieldwork.Check out related courses
What are the chances of getting a job?
Small numbers of zoologists
There are limited opportunities for zoologists and roles are mainly within universities or crown research institutes.
Zoology graduates tend to use their qualification in a variety of applied zoology roles in fields such as teaching, environmental research and pharmaceutical research.
According to the Census, 117 zoologists worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Good opportunities for zoology graduates in environmental research
Job opportunities in environmental research are good for zoology graduates due to an increased need to protect the natural environment and a shortage of people with suitable qualifications.
Environmental research scientist appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled environmental research scientists from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Types of employers varied
Zoologists can work for:
- Crown research institutes (CRIs) such as NIWA
- 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
- AgResearch, 'Annual Report 2017', 2018, (www.agresearch.co.nz).
- Fox, A, 'Top Genetics Scientist back for the Future', 10 August 2017, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', accessed August 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Briefing for the Incoming Minister of Research, Science and Innovation', October 2017, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'National Statement of Science Investment 2015-2025', accessed July 2018, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '$255.6m Boost for Science and Innovation', 25 May 2017, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2016 Science and Innovation System Performance Report', November 2016, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- Morton, J, 'Budget: Few Surprises in Govt's Science and Tech Spend', 17 May 2018, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
- Potter, M, professor, Massey University Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa, careers.govt.nz interview, August 2018.
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Zoologists may progress to become lecturers, research officers or professors, or move into management roles.
Zoologists may specialise in:
- different areas of the animal kingdom, such as birds, mammals or aquatic animals
- conservation and environmental research
- pest control
Last updated 24 June 2020