National Careers Week: 10 Top Tips for a Career with Animals!

by ZSL on

Does working with animals sound like your dream job? To wrap up National Careers Week 2020, we're counting down our top tips for getting into an animal career...


10) Research

Take the time to research the organisation you’re applying for! Get familiar with their conservation projects, ethos and mission, which will help you to tailor your applications and interview answers helping you to stand out. Check out their social media posts and any press releases so that you have a bank of recent news you can call on if asked.

Think about why you’re applying as well – ‘a new challenge’ or ‘to work with animals’ isn’t a good enough answer! Why are you specifically applying to work within that organisation?

Charles Fusari

9) Experiment 

It is very rare that you will end up doing one career for the rest of your life. A lot of ZSL colleagues have tried different careers and moved through the organisation using transferable skills gained from their previous positions.

To gain an insight into the huge range of careers available, come along to our annual Animal Careers Conference! We will have over 15 speakers from all over ZSL talking about their career paths, current roles and any advice they have from their own experiences. It’s a great way to find out more about careers that you may never have thought of!


8) Study 

For certain careers such as veterinary work, qualifications are key. However, don’t worry! For some animal careers, practical experience will make you to stand out.

A formal qualification is not always required – consider an online course, such as our free online conservation course. Research in your own time to increase your knowledge on your chosen subject. There’s always something new to learn.

If you’re looking into a veterinary career and are aged between 13-18, take a look at our Zoo Veterinary Careers Day. Held twice a year at ZSL London Zoo, this event gives you an invaluable insight into the life of a zoo vet and vet nurse, including a behind the scenes tour and practical scenarios.

7) Don’t let rejection stop you

Getting into the zoo world is very competitive and you’re not going to be accepted for every single role you apply for. Use the opportunity to learn: make sure you ask for feedback from your interview if possible and use this to improve for next time. You’ll get there!

Scarlet Macaws during a bird display at ZSL Whipsnade. Keeper training

6) Rework your CV

Rework your CV and cover letter so that they’re tailored for every different job you apply for. Use the opportunity to talk about relevant experience you have gained and show off your knowledge of the organisation. It takes time but it’s worth it in the end!


5) Find your passion 

Find out what you’re passionate about and what you enjoy – if you love doing it now, chances are you’ll still love doing it 20 years down the line!


4) Say YES

Opportunities can pop up when and where you least expect them! It may seem scary but stepping out of your comfort zone could lead to you discovering a whole new career you’d never considered before.


3) Invest in yourself

Whether it’s time or money, invest in yourself. If you’re super passionate about working with animals and want to learn the theory behind animal care, consider self-funding a short online course.

But investing in yourself does not always require spending money. Research local conservation projects to see if you could get involved, spend time volunteering at a local farm to gain new practical skills, or even join one of the oldest (and largest) Zoological Libraries in the world here on site at ZSL London Zoo! 

Jim Mackie training an emperor tamarin at ZSL London Zoo

2) Network

Get out there and make connections with people in the know. Whether that’s volunteering or attending animal based conferences, get your name out there - who you know can really help.


1) Practical experience is key!

Not only will practical experience help you to stand out on your CV, it will also show you whether you really want to do the job.

When looking for practical experience, embrace smaller animal organisations as well as the big ones – helping out at your local farm, cattery, animal rescue centre or vet hospital can give you a great set of skills to help you progress.

ZSL also offers practical experience in the form of our hugely popular Zoo Academy courses. These courses range from 2-5 days, running for those aged 8-17, and include a great range of practical activities to get you started! 

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