Zoo Education Assistant job Description

Staff Veterinarian Job Description for a Zoo

Zoo veterinarians care for wild and exotic animals.Zoo veterinarians care for wild and exotic animals.

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Zoo veterinarians treat animals ranging from tiny reptiles to large mammals such as giraffes. Like veterinarians who work with companion animals, they provide basic and intensive care, including everything from administering antibiotics to performing major surgery. They must not only have extensive veterinary knowledge, but also an understanding of the specialized care needed by wild and exotic animals.


After completing a four-year undergraduate degree, zoo veterinarians must attend veterinary school, which takes another four years. Their undergraduate studies should focus on an area such as biology or other scientific discipline that will prepare them for practicing veterinary medicine. After they graduate, they must pass a licensing exam and complete a one-year internship, followed by a three-year residency in their field of specialization. If veterinarians want to take on a senior role or run a training program for aspiring zoo veterinarians, they must also be board certified in zoo medicine. To qualify for board certification, candidates must have professional experience in zoo medicine.


Zoo veterinarians often start their days by making rounds, where they evaluate the health and welfare of the zoo's animals. They interact with the zookeepers, who usually work with a specific species and can offer the veterinarians insight into the animals' health and behavior.
In addition to routine check-ups, vets provide medical care such as setting broken bones, dressing wounds and performing emergency surgery. They may also oversee breeding programs, such as the ones designed to boost the population of a species considered endangered. They also keep detailed records for each animal at the zoo, tracking its long-term health.

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Required Skills

Zoo veterinarians must have excellent communication skills, because much of their job involves interacting with other zoo staff such as zookeepers and veterinary technicians. They often supervise the veterinary technicians and other junior staff, and must be adept at giving instruction. Caring for animals is a team effort, so they must feel comfortable collaborating with others for the good of the animals they treat. They must also think clearly and perform well under pressure, since they must diagnose or administer emergency treatment to an injured or ill animal.

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