About the Zoology/Animal Biology Major
It should come as no surprise that the animal kingdom reigns as one of the most popular areas of interest for college-bound students. Students who are ready for their lives to become a little bit wild might find themselves with a number of opportunities by following their instincts and pursuing studies in zoology -- a branch of biology concerned with the study of animals and wildlife.
Zoology and animal scientists observe, discover, and develop theories on various aspects of animals including behaviors, habitats, ecology, anatomy, development, and genetics. Undergraduate programs focus on a broad range of biological topics, while graduate programs offer more courses and research opportunities specific to the field.
Beyond work in zoos and aquariums, a variety of career opportunities exist in natural resources and wildlife management, conservation, research and development, environmental science, medicine and veterinary medicine, education, and public health.
The majority of career opportunities in zoology and animal biology require advanced studies beyond a bachelor's degree. If undergraduate students do plan to obtain a master's degree and/or Ph.D, they should focus on strengthening their life sciences background and demonstrating their interest with electives related to animal biology.
For students pursuing careers as zoologists or wildlife biologists, at least a master's degree is necessary, as graduate students have the most research and fieldwork opportunities available. Additionally, graduate students can take advantage of the incredible diversity in the field by specializing in the study of one of the various sub-groups, including mammals, birds, fish, primates, and other possibilities. A Ph.D. is required for most careers in research and teaching at the university level.
Many colleges and universities do not offer zoology as a major for undergraduates, but instead as an emphasis or specialization within the biology department. Undergraduate students will develop a strong foundation in the biological sciences. This includes laboratory science, basic methods of scientific research, anatomy, ecology, principles of genetics, and evolution. In addition to biology courses, students typically complete chemistry, physics, biochemistry, and mathematics courses.
Students are encouraged to engage in research, internship, and volunteer opportunities at local zoos, museums, aquariums, and wildlife preserves. They also complete fieldwork, which may include observing animals in the wild. This involves long and irregular work hours, but students may find the payoff rewarding since the research they complete can help protect animal populations.