Zoology is the study of the habitats and characteristics of wildlife. Entry-level career positions in zoology require people to have bachelor's degrees in zoology or wildlife biology and more advanced positions in the field with greater research responsibilities typically require people to have master's degrees. People interested in conducting independent research in the field and/or in university-level teaching should have a doctorate degree in zoology.
A bachelor's degree in zoology or wildlife biology is typically a Bachelor of Science degree that takes approximately four years to complete and requires 120 total credit hours. (Reference 1, 2) Students in this program spend about two years taking general education courses that give them a broad arts education and two years specializing in zoology. A major in zoology tends to require about 30 credits of foundational courses in biology and biology-related subjects like chemistry and ecology and 30 credits of upper-division zoology-related electives. Graduates with bachelor's degrees in zoology go on to work in laboratories and research teams, both in inside facilities like offices and outdoor facilities like national parks. Students can start preparing for a career in zoology by taking biology, chemistry and ecology courses in high school.
Biology is a fundamental requirement in zoology. This subject introduces students to the organisms that exist in the world around us including animals, plants, fungi and cells. A year of general biology with laboratory sections is a prerequisite for all other courses in the zoology major. (Reference 1, 2) Students interested in pursuing bachelor's degrees in zoology should take a year of general biology with a laboratory in high school and an advanced placement course in biology, if it is available. AP biology is a high school course for which students can get college credit, if they pass the AP exam. Both general biology and AP biology will give students a thorough background in taxonomy, cells and cellular functions and prepare them for more rigorous coursework in zoology.
Most bachelor's degrees in zoology require students to take a year of general chemistry. (Reference 1, 2) This course covers topics such as the periodic table of elements, molecules, atoms, compounds and chemical reactions. Students can prepare for this course by taking a year of general chemistry in high school and a course in AP chemistry, if it is available. Both courses will give high school students an introduction to the concepts covered in the college-level general chemistry course. Furthermore, students will also get experience working with chemical compounds in a laboratory environment, building their research skills.
Ecology or Environmental Science
Bachelor's degrees in zoology require students to take a number of courses in ecology, the study of organisms and their environment. (Reference 1, 2) Students can prepare for these courses in high school by taking a course in ecology or AP environmental science, if it is available. Both courses have major laboratory components in which students learn skills that will prepare them for advanced zoology courses and laboratory work in college. For example, high school students might learn how to measure the effect of radiation on seed growth, how to collect and understand water-quality data and how to use government data to study the environmental, social and economic impact of natural and/or man-made disasters. (Reference 3)
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