For animal lovers or those who enjoy being out in nature, zoology is an exciting career option. Zoologists and wildlife biologists often work in the field all over the world in forests, mountains, or even oceans. They study animals and how they interact with their ecosystem through well-designed experiments. These scientists perform a variety of research on specific types of animals or populations to increase understanding of different species. Outside of research, zoologists work with public officials to develop conservation plans for endangered animals and protect our natural resources.
As human development continues to advance, zoologists are needed to study human and wildlife interactions and suggest ways to limit the disruption of wildlife and their habitats. As a result, careers in zoology are projected to grow 4% over the next decade. For their work protecting the environment, zoologists earn a median annual wage of $66,000.
Most entry-level zoology positions require a bachelor’s degree from a well-respected school. Students take courses such as ecology, anatomy, wildlife management, cellular biology, statistics, and botany to prepare them for their future careers. The best zoology schools will provide ample opportunities to students in the relatively unique major.
While the overall quality of a university is vital to provide a good education, certain zoology programs across the nation go above and beyond. They offer specific hands-on learning opportunities for students focused on zoology, such as research, internships, and extracurricular activities. If the zoology major is popular at a college, they will have more resources to develop the program further and earn accreditation for the subject.
It can be challenging to differentiate between zoology programs, especially because it is a less common major. Let’s take a look at the best colleges for zoology based on the ranking calculated by collegeraptor.com. Note we are unaffiliated with College Raptor.
10. University of California, Davis (Davis, CA)
UC Davis offers three animal biology majors that offer specialized choices for students. These include Animal Science, Animal Science and Management, and Animal Biology. Each track has unique classes and experiences to prepare graduates for their career path. Animal Science focuses on the anatomy and physiology of animals, whereas Animal Biology is more geared towards students seeking a research-focused career. The department as a whole emphasizes the importance of seeking solutions to conflicts between the needs of animals and human development.
Animal majors at UC Davis have plenty of opportunities for learning outside of the classroom. They can choose between research opportunities with faculty or internships at various animal facilities, the School of Veterinary Medicine, or other facilities in neighboring communities. The Department of Animal Science holds a career symposium each year where students can learn about the opportunities available to them.
9. Ohio Wesleyan University (Delaware, OH)
Ohio Wesleyan University has two closely integrated departments for the study of wildlife. Both subjects, Botany & Microbiology and Zoology, provide an extensive array of specialty courses and individualized student attention for the most effective learning. Zoology students have the opportunity to utilize their knowledge with a variety of employers, including zoos, veterinary clinics, wildlife centers, research laboratories, hospitals, and aquariums.
The department also oversees and maintains a research museum and two nature preserves to provide learning opportunities for students and the rest of the community. The Ohio Wesleyan Brant Museum of Zoology houses teaching collections of insects, birds, mammals, and other species. Along with drawing in researchers from across the United States, this collection is used to teach students about taxonomic and evolutionary relationships.
8. North Carolina State University at Raleigh (Raleigh, NC)
NC State’s zoology program has strong core courses to provide a fundamental understanding from the molecular level to ecosystems. After the basic classes, the upper-level subjects can provide further specialization or remain generalized based on the student’s career goals. The course catalog includes topics such as parasitology, fish physiology, forest entomology, and marine biology.
Most graduates use their specialized knowledge to go on to work at government agencies, non-profits, or industrial companies. Others pursue advanced degrees in biological or health fields to continue their education.
Many zoology students in the Department of Biological Sciences take advantage of the Undergraduate Honors Program. This educational path requires students to choose a challenging schedule of classes with honors coursework and at least two semesters of research or teaching. At the culmination of the program, they write an honors thesis and present their scholarly work at a local, regional, or national meeting.
7. University of Wisconsin-Madison (Madison, WI)
Alumni from UW-Madison’s Department of Integrative Biology often point to research as one of the most rewarding aspects of their degrees. Zoology students work alongside faculty members to define a problem for a research project. Afterward, they are responsible for designing experiments and interpreting results, giving them critical practical experience for their future careers. Along with technical skills, students learn the importance of working on a team, adapting to unexpected results, and organization.
The average zoology student participates in 2-3 research credits per semester which equates to 6-9 hours per week. However, based on the student’s availability and commitment, they are able to work as many as 18 hours per week.
Students also have the opportunity to explore the diverse field of zoology through clubs such as the Undergraduate Zoological Society. This group allows for networking among students in the major and provides supplementary education through community events.
6. SUNY College at Oswego (Oswego, NY)
Zoology students at SUNY Oswego have their choice of a wide variety of internship opportunities, study abroad initiatives, and research activities. Popular internship employers for students include the Buffalo Zoo, Detroit Zoo, Dolphin Quest, National Aquarium, and Wildlands Conservancy.
There are also state-of-the-art facilities affiliated with the SUNY Oswego campus that provide ample options for research. Oswego’s Rice Creek Field Station is a 330-acre living laboratory that houses classrooms, telescopes, and hiking trails. The facility supports academic instruction, research, and public service in natural sciences and environmental education. Students can apply the skills they learn in the classroom to field-based or laboratory research projects.
Another popular research laboratory is the Shineman Center. Home to many advanced labs and a leader in sustainability, the facility shows the college’s dedication to STEM programs. Zoology students conduct research work alongside peers from many departments, encouraging interdisciplinary experiments.
5. Michigan State University (Lansing, MI)
At Michigan State, students can choose between integrative biology and zoology. Integrative biology provides a broader education with courses from other departments, whereas zoology students study classical subjects such as ecology, animal behavior, and marine biology.
Furthermore, students in the zoology program can choose one or more concentrations to modify their education independently. These concentrations include animal biology and neurobiology, ecology, evolution, and organismal biology, marine biology, and zoo and aquarium science. This setup allows students to tailor coursework to align with their professional interests and make them more competitive in the job market.
Using their specialized knowledge, alumni go on to work as animal caretakers, biology assistants, cytogenetic technicians, teachers, park naturalists, and museum managers.
Students in the College of Natural Science can also choose to pursue a dual degree and get their Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees within the same or different departments.
4. Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)
Students at Ohio State University experience biodiversity through study abroad options. The Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies program allows students to travel to Panama to conduct research on tropical biology. They gain exposure to diverse ecosystems, from underwater reefs to tropical rainforests.
If students are interested in learning about the behavior and welfare of exotic animals in a variety of environmental habitats, they can visit South Africa. The classes take place primarily in field settings such as open range, sanctuaries, and zoos to learn about the relationship between wildlife and their environment.
Finally, zoology students can stay closer to home by taking summer courses on Ohio State’s “Island Campus.” Located on Lake Erie, Stone Laboratory is a biological field station that provides practical experience and helps students decide whether research is for them. The introductory and upper-level courses focus on hands-on learning about subjects from field ecology to animal biology.
3. Ohio University (Athens, OH)
Ohio University in Athens offers four zoology and animal degree programs that provide students with a variety of options. Graduates from the Wildlife and Conservation major meet the necessary course qualifications for state and federal civil service registers as a zoologist. In addition, the programs in the Biological Sciences department provide training for graduate school.
The quality education and accomplished professors draw in many prospective zoologists to Ohio University. In 2019, 179 students graduated with Zoology or Animal Biology degrees.
In addition, students can learn more about their area of study through student organizations in the Biological Sciences department. These include pre-veterinary clubs, research organizations, and honor societies. The Wildlife Club is dedicated to exposing its members to the native animals of Ohio. They participate in many activities such as hiking, camping, conservation work, and animal viewing. The club also plans events for the department, such as wildlife presentations.
2. Berry College (Mount Berry, GA)
The zoology program at Berry College is celebrated for its hands-on learning, small classes, research facilities, and graduate success. The campus’s 27,000 acres are home to a wide variety of ecosystems and a working farm with livestock and equine centers.
In addition, the faculty members are devoted members and accomplished teachers. They are experts in physiology, genetics, animal behavior, and many more interesting subjects. For example, Dr. Sunday Peters is a specialist in livestock genetics and a breeder of a patented strain of chickens. He mentors many zoology students, writes scholarly articles, and contributed to a chapter in the book “Livestock Epigenetics.”
Students are able to translate classroom knowledge to real-world work experiences through the LifeWorks program. This is a paid professional experience that helps students prepare for the future through experiential learning. Zoology students find jobs in preventative medicine, animal husbandry, veterinary clinics, and managing livestock.
1. University of Oklahoma (Norman, OK)
The University of Oklahoma is the #1 most popular zoology college based on enrollment. The school handed out 193 degrees in 2018, an increase of 5% from the previous year. In addition, zoology students earn 5.2% more than the average graduate, making it a good investment.
The popularity of the program has opened up a wealth of opportunities for students in the department. They are encouraged to pursue their own research interests, whether it is in evolution, animal behavior, or cell biology. Faculty will work with students to help them publish their work or present at national and even international conferences.
There are also numerous clubs and programs to help zoology students succeed and make connections within their major. The Biology Aid Program connects upperclassmen tutors with younger students in Introductory Zoology, a mutually beneficial relationship.