Becomming a Zookeeper

Becomming a Zookeeper

Posted By:
Every classroom has at least one teacher’s pet, no matter the grade.   Then there are those students then turn into party animals later on in their student careers.  All of these kinds of animals usually come in human form in the classroom, though.  That’s not the case if you’re a student in the Zoo Animal Teaching Program at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida working your way towards a Zoo Animal Technology, A.S. degree.  Human students in this program at Santa Fe College get to go to school with real live animals, as their classrooms are an actual working zoo.

The Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo in Gainesville, Florida is a 10 acre facility which is located on the college’s Northwest Campus and is open to the public.  This zoo houses a collection of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates all with their own unique personalities and species specific needs.  As a student in this program, you are not just a student, but you are an actual working Zookeeper.  While being supervised by the professional staff of the Santa Fe Teaching Zoo, students in the Zoo Animal Teaching Program get actual hands on experience managing and caring for the daily needs of the various animals in the zoo’s collection.  In addition, as part of your education, you will receive first-hand experience in constructing and maintaining of habitats for the various animal residents .  Zookeeper students in this program also get to be teachers themselves.  They interact and educate the many visitors of the zoo about the animals that they see on exhibit.

The Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo is only one of two teaching zoos in the nation and is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).  Graduates of this program go onto work with animals in a variety of settings.  With a Zoo Animal Technology, A.S. degree, graduates have the skills and knowledge to work with animals in positions in:  aquariums, aviaries, wildlife parks, conservation organizations, vet clinics, science museums, and animal care facilities.  In the 2019 Zoo Animal Technology brochure Graduate Spotlight section, Jon Rolfs, a graduate of the program, explains his current position at the San Diego Zoo, “I’m currently a mammal keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  I take care of rhinos, zebra, a wide variety of antelope, deer, gazelles and pigs.  My daily responsibilities and tasks include:  feeding, cleaning, animal observations, enrichment, training, participating in conservation and research programs, participating in veterinary procedures, transporting animals across property, etc.”

Zoo Animal Technology, A.S. degree holders working in their field average the following salaries per the 2016 Association of Zoos and Aquariums Member Compensation Survey:  Zookeeper $32,902., Animal Trainer $32,902., Aquarist/Marine Mammal Specialist $34,722., Assistant Aquarist $30,063., and Zoo Education $34,617.  The Zoological Association of America has an ongoing list of colleges and degrees offered in America.  If the up and coming animal enthusiast in your family is not quite old enough for college then take a look at these teaching zoos for some great interactive programs and opportunities for children and teens.

In order to qualify for entry into the five consecutive semesters Zoo Animal Technology program, prospective students must: possess a high school diploma or equivalent by the start of classes; apply and be accepted by Sante Fe College; complete or test out of Intermediate Algebra, and maintain a 2.0 GPA in all college level courses.  In addition to academic qualifications, prospective program candidates must be physically capable of  providing for all aspects of animal care by meeting the programs performance standards.  Prospective program students must be physically, emotionally, and intellectually able to provide for the animals in the zoo’s collection as well as be able to safely use equipment for the job.  Candidates must be able to work around animals that have the potential to be dangerous and also safely handle, restrain, or grasp the zoo’s animals.  In addition, potential students of the program must also be able to handle the different kinds of foods that the different species of animals require including:  meat, rodents, fish, and insects.  Interested what the job normally entails?  Click here to learn more.

Traditionally, any animals found in the zoo that most classrooms can be have varied from the standard teacher’s pet to the high school party animal.  In the Zoo Animal Technology, A.S. program at Sante Fe College, Gainesville, FL., students ARE the zookeepers.  They get hands on working knowledge which they carry forward around the globe in whatever capacity their career might lead them to from direct animal care to conservation. With an Associates of Science Degree in Zoo Animal Technology from Sante Fe College, the world is your office and it’s animal residents your charges.