Get the foundation knowledge to kick start your career

Study Zoo Keeping today and gain a foundation knowledge and skills for working as a Zoo Keeper. You will cover the many aspects of zoo keeping such as:

  • Animal Behaviour
  • Animal Health Care
  • Environmental Enrichment
  • Feed & Nutrition
  • Training and Behaviour Management
  • Captive Breeding

Improve your career and employment possibilities to work with wildlife, in zoos, wildlife parks, reserves.




Zoo Keeper Job Pathway

Gaining employment in a zoo depends on a combination of your knowledge, work experience and networking.

Traditional job pathway methods tend to focus primarily on the acquisition of knowledge through studying prior to the application of this knowledge through work experience. These methods may somewhat result in outdated information upon completion of a course and lack of experience and connections in the industry. You must be conscious that the purpose and priorities of zoos are ever-evolving, and vary in different parts of the world, so the knowledge and experience requirements to work in a zoo will not stay the same.

In an age where information is at the tip of our finger tips, it is vital to gain as much knowledge, experience and connections as possible at any one moment in time such that opportunities develop organically. As an opportunity, or potential opportunity, becomes apparent, then you need to look at what is needed to fulfil that opportunity (e.g. studying a course to fill gaps in your knowledge or gaining work experience in a specific area)



A fundamental knowledge of animals is important to find employment in a zoo. This includes learning about:

  • taxonomy
  • form and function
  • behaviour
  • reproduction
  • social structure
  • diet
  • habitat

You can then apply your animal knowledge to a captive environment. This includes learning about:

Environmental enrichment (feeding/physical/social/sensory)

  • animal welfare
  • risk management
  • captive breeding
  • monitoring health
  • contraception
  • pests/parasites



There is no simple answer as to what you need to study to gain employment in a zoo as all zoos will differ. Some zoos, for example, may require you possess a certain level of qualifications in a suitable area of animal studies. Others may not require qualifications at all, and may have a greater focus on experience and volunteering.


Work experience

It is fundamental to get involved with animals (e.g. through paid or unpaid volunteer work). Having a fundamental knowledge of animals may open up opportunities for you to apply your knowledge as a volunteer at a zoo. If it is not possible to find volunteer work, just get involved with animals in whatever capacity you can (e.g. spending time with animal breeders, farmers, domestic animals etc.)

This will allow you to:

  • gain a better understanding of animals
  • develop confidence with animals
  • gain experience handling animals
  • increase your understanding of animal behaviour,
  • develop communication skills with animals e.g. training

In many cases, employment in zoo keeping or animal industries depends more on experience rather than formal or degree qualifications. We encourage our students to arrange either volunteer or paid work experience in the relevant industry whilst undertaking our courses so that our graduates have a practical experience as well as a strong knowledge base.

There are, however, different rules and regulations for zoos all over the world related to the employment of volunteers. In some zoos, for example, volunteers are vital to the running of the zoo; it may even be a requirement in some zoos to work as a volunteer first in order to gain the opportunity for paid employment. In other zoos, volunteer workers are not utilised due to difficulties related to insurance and workplace health and safety. Many zoos will fall somewhere in the middle.



Networking is a major avenue in which employment opportunities may arise. Put simply, your knowledge and experience are much more likely to earn you a job if people know about you. It is so important to network with people in the industry – the more people that know about your skills, abilities and the valuable contribution you could make as an employer, the more likely you are to get a job.


Course Contents and Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. The Nature and Scope of Zoos
  2. Occupational Health and Safety in Zoos
  3. Captive Husbandry – Nutrition and Feeding
  4. Captive Husbandry - Health
  5. Captive Husbandry - Reproduction
  6. Captive Husbandry - Behaviour and Enrichment
  7. Human-Animal Interactions
  8. Enclosure Design and Maintenance
  9. Problem-based Learning Project – Environmental Enrichment


Duration: 100 hours


Course Aims

  • Describe the nature and scope of zoos as a source of education and conservation
  • Develop appropriate procedures for managing occupational health and safety in a zoo, with a view to minimising risk to staff, animals and visitors
  • Describe the nutritional requirements and feeding preferences of animals within zoos
  • Determine health management measures required for a range of different captive zoo animals
  • Describe the management of breeding in zoos
  • Determine appropriate ways to manage a range of different wild animals in zoos
  • Explain procedures and techniques used to manage human-animal interactions in zoos
  • Identify and describe the qualities of good enclosure design. Develop maintenance programs for different enclosures

The Role and Nature of Zoos

The role of zoos has changed vastly over time. Zoos have been around since the Greeks housed exotic animals in 300 BC. The Aztecs were also known to have their own type of zoo with an assortment of animal families including mammals, reptiles and birds.

Zoos as we know them today came into being in the 1700s. Before this, most captive animals were held in private collections for sport or display. In the 1800s there was a large emphasis on classification and comparison of species. At this time a zoo’s primary role was to help scientific understanding of these species. Aspects of zoos have also changed, such as human-animal interactions, zoo design, husbandry techniques used and the role of zoos in education and wildlife conservation.

Conservation is currently one of the major focuses of most zoos worldwide. Many zoos not only hold animals for exhibition but increasingly play a role in maintaining species of genetic importance. For example, some zoos hold endangered and near-endangered species that have dwindling numbers in the wild. The importance of maintaining genetic diversity is essential to the survival of these species in the wild.


Zoo Design

The physical layout and characteristics of zoos have changed to reflect society’s values and understanding of animal biology and science. In the mid 1800s zoos were designed to house families together. Such as cat house, primate house etc. The buildings were quite elaborate, however, enclosures, mainly cages were small and animals did not live long.

In the early 1900s zoo design was focused on creating a work of art for visitors to enjoy. This meant more effort was directed at maintaining the health of captive animals and thus life expectancy extended. However, mental health of the animals was still not a great consideration and many suffered.

Today, there is a larger focus on education and conservation driving zoo design and function. Visitors now have a much stronger understanding of environmental issues and animal welfare. Thus, husbandry practices and zoo design changed to address these issues. By the mid 1900s the physical and mental health of animals in zoos became a primary consideration in the running of zoos.

In the 1970s the idea of habitat replication in zoos grew in popularity. This idea of creating enclosures to closely mimic natural settings has now become the standard for modern zoo design. It is important to note though that a natural setting for animal will not be any help to its mental well-being if other forms of stimuli are not provided. While a natural setting may be appealing to visitors, it may be of no benefit to the animal if it has nothing to do.


Modern Zoos

Today, wild animals are kept in a wide range of situations, including:

• Zoological Gardens and Aquaria
• Free range zoos or Safari parks,
• Captive Breeding Facilities
• Roadside Zoos
• Petting Zoos
• Amusement Parks and
• Private collections

Many modern zoos have a common ethos of contributing to education, conservation and research while providing entertainment to visitors.

Principles and Ethics of Animal Management in Zoos
Most zoos are governed by a specific set of guidelines and ethics with regards to animal welfare. These are usually produced in conjunction with relevant legislation within that country and any treaties or zoological societies to which the zoo belongs.

These guidelines can be related to the following. These will be covered in further detail in later lessons.

• Enclosure design and size – There are specific regulations on enclosure design and size. Many enclosures are designed to replicate a natural setting.
• Transfer of animals between zoos – Many zoos are signatories to treaties such as CITES (the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species). This controls and regulates the importation of endangered animals (as well as endangered flora).
• Record Keeping – This is related to the transfer of animals. It also ensures the genetic health of endangered species held in zoos.
• Captive Breeding Programs – reduce risk of genetic bottlenecks, trace genetics through generations, provide species with best potential to survive in the wild.
• Feed and Nutrition – Many zoos regulate the type of food provided to species. For example, they do not provide live birds, reptiles or mammals as food to animals.
• Membership - Zoos in Australia and other countries can belong to zoo associations such as the Zoo and Aquarium Association of Australia. These associations can provide accreditation for zoos, promoting best practices and better communication between zoos.

As mentioned the guidelines for different zoos will vary from country to country and region to region. It is important to become familiar with the guidelines for your relevant region and country.


What makes ACS different?

  • 100 hour home study course
  • Flexible study - :start any time, study from anywhere and at your own pace
  • Experiential learning 
  • High level tutor support



Just go to the top of this page for pricing and enrolment options. If you have any questions you can contact us now, by:
Phone (UK) 01384 44272, (International) +44 (0) 1384 442752, or

Email us at [email protected]