Zoologists are responsible for studying animals and their habitats in various locations through the world. They analyze animal behaviour, how they interact with other species around them and how they react to their environment. Some of their duties include developing and conducting experimental studies with animals in controlled or natural surroundings, collecting biological data and specimens for analysis. They also analyze the influence that human activity has on wildlife and their natural habitats. Additionally, they research, initiate, and maintain ways of improving breeding programs that support healthy game animals, endangered species, or other wildlife populations of land or aquatic life.

At a Glance

Imagine you are a zoologist working in the remote wilderness in the Northwest Territories. The landscape is dominated by snow-covered expanses, boreal forests, and icy lakes, offering a unique ecosystem that challenges wildlife and researchers alike.

Your day begins early, and you dress in specialized cold-weather gear to withstand the brisk Arctic temperatures. The crunch of your boots on the frozen ground echoes in the stillness as you walk through the snow-laden terrain, heading toward your research site.

Today, your work focuses on the elusive Arctic fox, a survival master in these extreme northern conditions. Setting up observation points, you carefully blend into the winter landscape. The stark white fur of the Arctic fox seamlessly merges with the snow, illustrating the unique adaptations that enable these creatures to thrive in this challenging environment.

Midday brings challenges as temperatures drop, and you navigate frozen water bodies to study the aquatic life beneath the ice. Cutting through the icy surface, you deploy specialized cameras to capture the underwater activities of fish and other aquatic species specific to the Northwest Territories. Your work provides critical insights into their behaviour and adaptations to the extreme cold of this region.

Later in the day you return to your research base to compile data, review footage, and reflect on the distinct challenges faced by the wildlife in this northern expanse. Your research deepens the understanding of Arctic ecosystems and contributes to preserving the unique biodiversity found here, emphasizing the importance of conservation efforts in the Canadian Arctic.

Job Duties

Job duties vary significantly from one position to the next, but in general, zoologists are involved in the following job duties:

  • Investigate the relationships between animals and their environment
  • Study the development, physiology, and function of animals
  • Conduct surveys of animal populations and prepare reports for management agencies
  • Supervise and coordinate the work of technical staff
  • Collect, process, and prepare specimens for study
  • Analyze data and experimental observations and evaluate study results
  • Conduct research and literature reviews
  • Contribute towards advancing conservation efforts
  • Research the impacts of human behaviour on animals
  • Prepare educational presentations for academic institutions, the government, and the public
  • Prepare and publish scientific papers to report experimental results
  • Conduct research at a molecular level



Work Environment

Zoologists work in a variety of locations, including:

 The office: 

  • Doing paperwork and analyzing data
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the filed
  • Preparing articles and papers based on research findings
  • Researching new studies and advancement sin zoology and conducting literature reviews
  • Caring for injured, sick, or endangered animals
  • Collecting and analyzing datasets
  • Developing fundraising initiatives
  • Keeping up to date with environmental initiatives

The field: 

  • Collecting specimens
  • Conducting experiments
  • Presenting research and experimental findings at conferences and public meetings
  • Releasing rehabilitated animals for taxidermy

The laboratory: 

  • Processing and analyzing samples
  • Conducting experiments
  • Breeding and raising specimens
  • Preparing deceased animals for taxidermy


Where to Work

There are a number of places zoologists can find employment. They include:

  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Colleges, universities, and research institutes
  • Environmental consulting firms
  • Other industries, for example, pharmaceutical research, agriculture and food production, and biotechnology companies
  • Zoos
  • Not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations
  • Self-employed consultant

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills


If you are considering a career as a zoologist, you should have a strong interest in:

  • Biology
  • English
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Physics

In most cases, the minimum education requirement is a university undergraduate degree. Zoologists are often hired by provincial departments upon graduation, so this is an especially ideal occupation for zoologists.

If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a zoologist, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Zoology
  • Biology
  • Ecology

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.


Technical Skills

  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis
  • Data/statistical analysis
  • Animal identification
  • Technical writing
  • Animal handling skills
  • Animal health assessment skills
  • Resource management

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Ability to work independently
  • Self-motivated
  • Verbal and written communication
  • Organizational skills
  • Integrity
  • Time management
  • Inductive reasoning

Environmental employers seek professionals who combine technical knowledge with personal and professional skills. Watch our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.

Role Models

Douglas Morris

When I was young I spent a lot of my time outdoors. I was always interested in ecology and I grew up hoping that I could help to advance our ecological and evolutionary knowledge. My university education started in the early 1970s and resulted in a Ph.D. by the end of the decade. I moved into a university position as an assistant professor and continued my research in ecology. For the last twenty years, I have been involved with several universities, both in Canada and internationally.

My research into evolutionary ecology has focussed on the ecological and evolutionary implications of habitat selection, with small mammals as the primary study organisms. I view this research from a "big picture" perspective and try not to restrict my understanding of any particular group of species. The editor and referees of an important scientific journal recognized the value of my early theories and empirical work, and this helped to solidify my interest in habitat selection. Since that time I have expanded my basic theories and answered many questions about habitat’s role in ecology and evolution, and its use by wild species.

I enjoy spending time in the field and encourage students to participate in the fieldwork. This hands-on activity allows us to gain insights into the ecology and evolutionary biology that we would otherwise lack. Often my thinking is stimulated by fieldwork and by experiences at our various field sites. My teaching role goes hand-in-hand with my research. I am able to refine my understanding of nature and pass on that understanding to new generations of ecologists. Fieldwork is one important way that I keep myself grounded in what is important and practical.  I stay up-to-date with current information by reading journals, reviewing manuscripts, developing theory, teaching students and networking with colleagues.

The Internet allows me to connect, and share ideas, with other scientists around the world. I also attend the annual meeting of The Canadian Society of Zoologists plus one major international conference each year. There are numerous employment possibilities associated with the growing government and societal emphasis on environmental issues. In the academic setting, advancement through salary increases is associated with achievement. Beyond the full professor level, advancement is mainly through the administrative stream. From a personal perspective, in the future, I intend to learn more about the adaptive behaviour of animals as indicators of environmental stress.

My goal is to be more active internationally and to demonstrate how to solve problems in conservation with the knowledge we have gained, and continue to gain, in two decades of field research on small mammals. If you are considering the life of university zoology or ecology professor you will require education in mathematics as well as a graduate degree in biology. The discipline needs people who can look at problems from a broad perspective. It is best to be more interested in the problems themselves rather than in particular animal or plant species. People with a broad background and experience in international conservation projects will have an advantage.

Environmental positions are available from coast to coast but many are located in Ottawa and provincial capitals. My day-to-day activities vary with the season. During the fall and winter, I concentrate on teaching and I interact with students, other faculty members and administrators. In the summer months, I enjoy being active in fieldwork at our Arctic, southern Alberta, northern and southern Ontario sites. I have the opportunity to work with many different biologists, foresters, and government agencies. The hours I work per week are officially thirty-five but are often eighty or more, especially in the fieldwork season.

The other duties that go with teaching and fieldwork are statistical analyses, computer simulations, handling wild animals, use of a variety of capture and safety equipment, writing, reviewing manuscripts and grant applications, organizing seminars and symposia, and administration. Research and teaching new generations of students to think about ecology, evolution and conservation are mutually rewarding. I am fortunate and thankful, to enjoy the freedom to think in new and creative ways. This freedom of thought allows me to contribute innovative solutions to environmental problems.

Your Impact

Zoology has many areas of study. Some zoologists specialize in animal behaviour, physiology (how organisms work and how the environment influences them), anatomy (how the physical structure of an organism works) and taxonomy (how we classify organisms into groups). What all these subfields have in common is that their research is critical to understanding environmental concerns and protecting Canada’s animal species.

This occupation allows for one to specialize in groups according to their interests. For example, an individual can specialize in mammals, birds, or reptiles. In addition, if all these species interest you, you can examine the differences between species and why these differences emerge.

Critically, zoologists can further humanity’s understanding of the relationship between climate change and species behaviour. Your findings can inform changes in human behaviour that can further the welfare of animal species across Canada.

Occupational Classification

Zoologists are classified in the following occupational grouping:

NOC Code: 21110-Biologists and Related Scientists

What is an NOC Code?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

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