Alternative titles for this job
Zoologists study animals and their behaviour in the wild or in captivity, and how they interact with other species and their environments.
Zoologists usually earn
$47K-$111K per year
Senior zoologists usually earn
$102K-$197K per year
Source: Landcare Research and universities, 2022.
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 minimum wage and $77,000 a year.
- Zoology lecturers and research officers usually earn between $75,000 and $104,000.
- Zoology professors can earn between $146,000 and $197,000.
Zoologists working in crown research institutes
- Zoology technicians usually earn between $57,000 and $73,000 a year.
- Senior zoology technicians usually earn between $67,000 and $82,000.
- Zoology scientists usually earn between $75,000 and $111,000.
- Senior zoology scientists can earn between $102,000 and $134,000.
Zoologists working in the private sector may earn more than this.
Sources: Landcare Research, 2022; Massey University, ‘1 July 2021-30 June 2022 Collective Employment Agreement', 2021; The University of Auckland, ‘1 September 2019–31 August 2022 Academic Staff Collective Agreement', 2019; University of Canterbury, ‘1 July 2021–30 June 2022 University of Canterbury Collective Employment Agreement', 2021; and University of Otago, ‘1 July 2021 Academic Salary Scales', 2021.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(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?
Zoologist (marine biologist) video
Emily Frost talks about life as a marine biologist – 2.46 mins.
We do lots of different things.
I particularly look at marine animals and see how we can try help
them with climate change. Climate change is going to increase the temperature of
the oceans, and it's also going to make it more acidic – like a lemon. Over time,
this will impact how animals respond.
So my job is to look at whether they can survive and then what we can do to try
help them. So ocean acidification is something that I'm particularly
passionate about. So acidification is where the pH starts to go low,
and this can be incredibly detrimental to different marine animals. So this kit
will go from purple to yellow. Purple is higher pH,
if you think of baking soda is a really high pH.
It goes then to yellow, which is very acidic, thinking more about lemons.
So an easy way to do this is to blow and bubble into water. This will show
us what is actually happening when we put more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
because of, say, using cars and things like that.
And this will have a big consequence for different marine animals.
I spend about 80% of my time in the laboratory.
I then go and spend some time in our aquarium where we
house some of the animals and then the rest of the time is in the field doing
field work. So I am looking at
how the DNA changes with climate change.
And so these dyes pick up DNA and what it does is it amplifies
different genes to a level where we can detect it on a machine. I wanted to be a
marine biologist since I was about 5 years old,
and I saw some crabs on the beach and I decided that I wanted to help them. So
after I left high school,
I spent 3 years doing my undergraduate degrees in marine science and
I then went and completed my master's in zoology and marine science.
I then went and completed my PhD at Auckland University,
which took 4 years. You do need a qualification to be a marine biologist,
so if you want to work a lot on boats or you want to work as technicians,
a master's is where it's at.
If you want to be more of an academic and more in the policy realm than I would
recommend doing your PhD.
My advice for anyone who's in high school and wants to pursue marine biology is
to remain passionate.
Being passionate about the marine life is the most important thing you can have.
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 15 May 2023