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.