Zoologists are biology specialists who study animals in the wild or in a laboratory, often working for state or federal government, consulting businesses, research organizations and universities. Zoologists need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in zoology or biology, but many zoologists have a master's degree or doctorate. Whatever your final educational goals, your preparation for a career as a zoologist begins with high school prerequisites.
The Science Buddies website recommends a full load of science courses in high school to prepare for a college zoology major. Classes in biology, chemistry and physics, including lab sections, provide a foundation for the science courses typically required for zoology majors. Michigan State University, for example, requires zoology majors to take a foundational series of classes in all three sciences, plus related labs, before choosing specialized upper-division zoology sections. Science Buddies also recommends a high school class in environmental science, if available at your high school, to help prepare for ecology-related classes in college.
At a minimum, Science Buddies recommends high school algebra, geometry and calculus for future zoology majors. Statistics is also recommended to help prepare for college-level classes in the subject as part of your major. At Michigan State University, for example, zoology majors must take a math placement exam, and those who pass begin their college math with Calculus I. Students with lower scores must first take pre-calculus, consisting of college algebra and trigonometry, while those with the lowest scores begin with intermediate algebra.
The College Board recommends four years of English for college applicants in every major. High school English will prepare you for required college English classes in your zoology major and for research and writing assignments in your science classes and laboratory sections. In addition, the skills you'll develop in English classes will help equip you to write reports and scholarly articles and make presentations in your future career as a zoologist.
Other Recommended Classes
The College Board recommends additional classes in social studies and foreign language for most college-bound students. Although the specific entrance requirements vary with the college, the Board recommends at least two and one-half years of social studies, including U.S. history, U.S. government and world history or geography. Some college admission offices also require two years or more of a foreign language, according to the College Board. In addition, high school computer classes will lay a foundation for college study of computer programs for zoologists, such as geographic information systems.
Sports and Other Activities
If you envision a career as a field biologist, you'll need to be strong and physically fit to work in remote areas. Individual or team sports and physical education classes will help build the necessary strength and endurance. According to the College Board, college admission officials consider extracurricular activities in addition to coursework and grades. School zoology or science clubs, community activities and volunteer or paid work in zoology can all contribute to your readiness for a college zoology major. For example, volunteer or find part-time work at a zoo, aquarium or nature preserve in your community.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
- Science Buddies: Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist
- Michigan State University: Department of Zoology -- Bachelor of Science Degree
- The College Board: Big Future -- High School Classes Colleges Look For
- The College Board: Big Future -- Extracurriculars Matter — To You and To Colleges