Career Progression in Zoo Keeping
Starting as a trainee, many employers will provide the opportunity to take the Diploma in the Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals (DMZAA) run by Sparsholt College and BIAZA which replaced the old Advanced National Certificate in the Management of Zoo Animals. The course is a two year City & Guilds course taken as home study, a series of essays on general zoo and species husbandry topics, an exam, a specialist project and a portfolio of evidence of day to day practical keeping skills.
Wages are often relatively low considering the training and education which is usually required, however the job is very rewarding emotionally particularly when an animal shows it can trust you.
Once qualified, progression varies between different animal collections, the next steps usually being Senior Keeper, Head of Section, Head Keeper and Senior Head Keeper. However, it is normally the case that a position needs to become vacant before promotion can occur. Moving between zoos, often needing to relocate to do so, and applying for more senior roles is often a quicker way of moving up the ladder.
Further study or experience can be gained in other areas of animal management such as science and research, studbooks and in situ conservation. There may be opportunities to attend meetings or symposia for enrichment, taxon working groups or ABWAK, etc. Good zoo keepers are eager to keep learning for their own benefit and that of their charges.
Examples of keeper progression assessment forms used at ZSL