Do you love animals more than anything and would also like to be close to them professionally? Then the profession of zookeeper would be a good way to realise your dreams. The daily routine is sometimes quite demanding and the salary is comparatively low, but working with animals can enrich and fulfil your life.
If you decide to pursue this career path, you should be aware of a few things beforehand. Imagination and reality sometimes diverge quite a bit, and not every person is equally well suited for this profession.
How do I become an zookeeper in Austria?
In order to gain a foothold in this profession, you need an appropriate education. In Austria you can either do an apprenticeship, attend a technical school (Vienna) or get a degree via the second educational path.
Apprenticeship: The apprenticeship lasts 3 years and has a dual structure. This means that the training takes place in a training company (practical part) and in a vocational school (knowledge acquisition). Prerequisites are a completed 9th year of school, a minimum age of 15 years and an entrance examination. In this case, you will receive an apprenticeship allowance, which is stacked upwards according to the year of apprenticeship. The training ends with the apprenticeship-leave exam.
Technical school: The public school also lasts 3 years (2 years with Matura). The practical part is completed in one of the 80 different internships. A minimum age of 15 years (maximum age 21 years), a completed 9th school year and an entrance test are also required. In this case, school fees must be paid.
2nd educational pathway: The third possibility to become an zookeeper is via the 2nd educational pathway. The training lasts 2 years and is possible from a minimum age of 21. The prerequisite is proof of 2 years of work experience. You can complete a theory course at Wifi Vienna. A course fee must be paid for this training option.
How do I become an zookeeper in Germany?
In Germany, training (including retraining) is limited to apprenticeships.
Apprenticeship: In Germany, the apprenticeship also lasts 3 years (2 years with Abitur, with work experience) and is divided into practice and theory. After half of the apprenticeship period, an intermediate examination must be taken. The apprenticeship ends with a practical production test and a knowledge test. In contrast to Austria, there are no prerequisites for the apprenticeship and you have the possibility to acquire the master craftsman’s diploma after the apprenticeship. This enables you, for example, to open your own business.
Here you can inform yourself about current apprenticeship positions.
In which areas can an zookeeper work?
Trained zookeepers are sought in a wide variety of areas. Depending on the specialisation during the training (specialisations: zoo, clinic, home), you can choose from a range of employment opportunities:
- In zoos or zoological gardens
- Animal parks/nature parks/wildlife parks
- Pet shops
- Animal shelters/boarding kennels
- Veterinary clinics/veterinary practice
- Breeding farms
- Laboratory animal care
- Private sector
What does the job profile of an zookeeper look like?
Quite clearly, loving and feeding. That’s how most people imagine the job of an zookeeper. But in practice, the day-to-day work is not quite so romantic. In addition to feeding, there are other, sometimes unpleasant, tasks to be done:
- Procurement, storage and preparation of feed (also live animals)
- Cleaning and maintenance of animal accommodations
- Care measures, maintenance of animal health (weight checks, dental health, fur and claw care, wound care, etc.)
- Production of play and occupational aids
- Use and maintenance of technical aids
- Participation in medical activities, such as examinations, operations, etc.
- Observing and monitoring animal behaviour (changes in behaviour), recognising signs of illnesses
- In some cases, training measures are necessary
- Passing on knowledge to owners
- Breeding measures, rearing of young animals
- Participation in animal transports
- Professional euthanasia
- Compliance with animal and environmental protection
- Computer work, business management tasks
Is the profession of zookeeper suitable for me?
Loving animals alone is usually not enough, as the profession can be very demanding, both physically and mentally. If you decide to take up this profession, you should also be aware that the daily routine is not all sunshine and cuddles. What you should bring with you:
- A good hand for dealing with animals, of course
- Empathy and good communication with people
- Mental and physical strength
- Patience and empathy
- Manual dexterity and fun with handicrafts
- Fearlessness (there is always a risk of injury when working with living creatures)
- Free from animal allergies/animal hair allergies
- Not afraid of blood, dirt and bad smells
- Willingness to work overtime, spontaneously, night and weekend shifts
- High level of self-discipline, perseverance, independence and determination
- Accurate and clean work
- Ability to work in a team is a must in most cases
- Ethical awareness
How much do you earn as an zookeeper?
The average starting salary is between 1800 and 2400 euros gross. Depending on specialisation, further training and experience, the gross salary can subsequently increase between 2500 euros and 3000 euros. In the private sector, the salary can also be significantly above average.
During the training period, the apprenticeship salary is broken down by apprenticeship year (approximate guidelines):
Training year 1: 750-950 €
Training year 2: 850- 1020 €
Year of training 3: 950- 1040 €
If you are good with animals, mentally and physically fit, and have no problem with dirt and blood, you are ideally suited for the job of zookeeper. But always remember that there is more to the job than just petting and feeding animals.