After a visit to the zoo and seeing all the neat animals, kids long to hang out with a gorilla or pet a lion. In many children, these visits spark a dream to work with wild animals.
While some zoologists do work in zoos, others may trek through the jungle observing wild populations, study fruit flies in a lab, teach at a nature center or work for pharmaceutical companies, says Fred Dyer, chairman of the zoology department at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Dyer says you don't actually need to major in zoology to break into the field. A four-year degree in biology supplemented with on-the-job experience also works.
"The big challenge that a lot of students face is how to make that transition from a purely academic experience that they would get in college to one of these real-world experiences that people dream about," he says.
If you have a desire to work with a specific branch of zoology such as field research, Dyer says to connect with professors at your school who are already working in that area and to investigate research fellowships, internships and study abroad programs that can provide practical experience.
"(Zoology) is not something people go into to get rich," he says. "They go in to enrich themselves from an experiential and emotional connection to nature."