Ask the Aquarium — “How can I get a job at an aquarium or zoo?”


The first thing to do when you’re hoping to
work at a zoo or aquarium is to figure out what you want to do, what you’re passionate
about. Just because working with animals isn’t your
thing doesn’t mean that you can’t be part of a zoo or aquarium and part of the special
job that we have. I had kind of a weird route that I took to
the job that I have. I started out actually with a bachelor’s degree
in theater. When I first graduated, I moved to Chicago. The beautiful Shedd Aquarium is there in Chicago. Just to try and get in the door because I
passionately wanted to work with animals, I started out in visitor services as a seasonal
for one summer. That allowed me to get my foot in the door,
start learning about the different roles that different people had at the Aquarium and where
I might fit in and starting to get to know the people that did those jobs and letting
them get to know me and my work ethic and what I could bring to the table. I was hired on there doing presentations. That helped me to get a job down at the Houston
Zoo, where I was a zookeeper there for four years and got to really get messy and make
mistakes and learn about training, animal training, hands on. Now, I’m really lucky to be here at the Tennessee
Aquarium where I have a job that really incorporates all those things I learned over the years. I have the focus on programming, helping to
design, put into place and — a lot of times — do the programs we do for our guests every
day and working, hands on, with the animals as well. You can start out by setting yourself up for
success with a four-year degree. Typically, you’ll want to do something like
zoology or general biology. People who are interested in animal training
might study behavior or even psychology. Ideally, as you’re getting that four-year
degree, start volunteering and looking for internships as well. It’s [volunteering] a good opportunity for
you to see if this really is what you want to do. And if it is, then volunteering is also going
to put you on the right path. The animals, obviously. [Laughs.] I get to spend time with a huge variety of
animals. Having that relationship with a wild animal
and that one-on-one time with them is something that very few people in the world get to experience. With it comes the most-important part of all
of our jobs here at the Aquarium, no matter what we do, which is the mission we have to
inspire others to love animals the way that we love them and to be protective of them
and the places that they live. [MUSIC]

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