Zoo educator

A zoo educator


Zoo educators teach visitors about the animals living at the zoo/aquarium as well as other species and habitats. They provide information about management of zoos, its collection of animals, and wildlife conservation. Zoo educators can be involved in both formal and informal learning opportunities ranging from production of information signs at enclosures to delivering classroom sessions linked to school or university curricula. Depending on the size of the organisation the education team may be a single person or a large team. Consequently the optional skills reqired are very broad and will vary from organisation to organisation. 

Zoo educators also promote conservation efforts. This can involve work within the zoo but also in the field as part of any zoo outreach project(s).

Zoo educators typically do the following:

  • Provide information about the zoo facility, its collection of animals, and wildlife conservation.
  • Host educational shows put on by keepers and trainers.
  • Interact with veterinarians, nutritionists, zoologists, zookeepers, and other zoo staff to keep up to date with the latest happenings at the zoo and its animals.
  • Work with the zoo’s marketing and publicity team to prepare promotional materials featuring zoo programs.
  • Create educational materials for presentations, posters, brochures, banners, workbooks, and other handouts.
  • Adapt materials for various age groups from preschool children to career-minded adults.
  • Observe and monitor animals for health and behavioral issues.
  • Monitor the safety of animal enclosures.
  • Assist in transferring animals to other facilities when necessary.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to zoo educator:

education instructor
learning officer
conservation educator
schools engagement officer
guest experience assistant
visitor educator
aquarium educator
engagement officer

Working conditions

Zoo educators spend more than half their time in educational surroundings. About 20% of their hours are dedicated to planning and preparing seminars and educational shows. About 20% of hours are spent on animal and facility care and maintenance.

Zoo educators generally work full time, and many work evenings and weekends depending on the educational programs offered by the zoo. Some zoos offer special overnight experiences for school groups.

Minimum qualifications

Zoo educators tend to have college degrees in education, communications, zoology, biology, animal science, or a related field, although requirements for this position can vary from one zoo to another. Advancement to upper-level management positions generally requires additional education, such as a master’s or doctorate degree.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Zoo educator is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Zoo educator career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to zoo educator.

zoo section leader
environmental education officer
dog breeder
poultry breeder

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of zoo educator. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of zoo educator with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

fundraising assistant
zoo curator
pastoral worker
cultural centre director
sport facility manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of zoo educator.

  • Animal evolution: The evolutionary history of animals and the development of species and their behaviour through domestication.
  • Zoo community: Zoo and aquarium community on a local, regional and global scale. Zoo membership associations, their guiding principles and how this might affect management of individual institutions within the wider community.
  • Applied zoology: The science of applying animal anatomy, physiology, ecology, and behaviour in a particular practical context.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of zoo educator.

  • Coordinate events: Lead events by managing budget, logistics, event support, security, emergency plans and follow up.
  • Build community relations: Establish affectionate and long-lasting relationships with local communities, e.g. by organising special programmes for kindergarden, schools and for disabled and older people, raising awareness and receiving community appreciation in return.
  • Develop educational resources: Create and develop educational resources for visitors, school groups, families and special interest groups.
  • Study topics: Carry out effective research on relevant topics to be able to produce summary information appropriate to different audiences. The research may involve looking at books, journals, the internet, and/or verbal discussions with knowledgeable persons.
  • Apply teaching strategies: Employ various approaches, learning styles, and channels to instruct students, such as communicating content in terms they can understand, organising talking points for clarity, and repeating arguments when necessary. Use a wide range of teaching devices and methodologies appropriate to the class content, the learners’ level, goals, and priorities.
  • Establish educational network: Establish a sustainable network of useful and productive educational partnerships to explore business opportunities and collaborations, as well as stay current about trends in education and topics relevant to the organisation. Networks should ideally be developed on a local, regional, national and international scale.
  • Carry out internet research: Execute efficient search on the internet in order to gather relevant information and share it with others.
  • Educate people about nature: Speak to a variety of audiences about e.g. information, concepts, theories and/or activities related to nature and its conservation. Produce written information. This information may be presented in a range of formats e.g. display signs, information sheets, posters, website text etc.
  • Communicate with target community: Identify and implement the best channels of communication for the community you are looking to work with.
  • Develop educational activities: Develop speeches, activities and workshops in order to foster access and comprehension to the artistic creation processes. It can address a particular cultural and artistic event such as a show or an exhibition, or it can be related to a specific discipline (theatre, dance, drawing, music, photography etc.). Liaise with storytellers, craftspeople and artists.
  • Conduct educational activities: Plan, perform and supervise educational activities for a variety of audiences, such as for school children, university students, specialist groups, or members of the public.
  • Fix meetings: Fix and schedule professional appointments or meetings for clients or superiors.
  • Coordinate educational programmes: Plan and coordinate educational and public outreach programs such as workshops, tours, lectures and classes.
  • Ensure cross-department cooperation: Guarantee communication and cooperation with all the entities and teams in a given organisation, according to the company strategy.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of zoo educator. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Animal training: Animal responses to specific conditions or stimuli. Animal behaviour, ethology, learning theory, training methods, equipment, as well as communicating and working with animals and humans.
  • Ecology: The study of how organisms interact and their relation to the ambient environment.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of zoo educator. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Control animal movement: Direct, control or restrain some or part of an animal’s, or a group of animals’, movement.
  • Lead a team: Lead, supervise and motivate a group of people, in order to meet the expected results within a given timeline and with the foreseen resources in mind.
  • Manage budgets: Plan, monitor and report on the budget.
  • Manage volunteers: Manage volunteers’ tasks, recruitment, programmes and budgets.
  • Speak different languages: Master foreign languages to be able to communicate in one or more foreign languages.
  • Provide nutrition to animals: Provide food and water to animals. This includes preparing food and water for animals and reporting any changes in the animal feeding or drinking habits.
  • Develop craft activities: Develop craft related activities for use with members of the public e.g. face painting, colouring in, mask making. Where possible ensure these activities are linked to relevant educational outcomes.
  • Integrate community outreach: Integrate community outreach within conservation projects to encompass knowledge, social and emotional aspects of learning and engagement.
  • Train animals: Train animals to facilitate their routine husbandry, for treatment, and/or public demonstrations.
  • Delegate activities: Delegate activities and tasks to others according to the ability, level of preparation, competence and legal scope of practice. Make sure that people understand what they should do and when they should do it.
  • Brief volunteers: Brief volunteers and introduce them into the professional work environment.
  • Integrate content into output media: Compile and integrate media and text content into online and offline systems, such as websites, platforms, applications and social media, for publishing and distribution.
  • Manage a team: Ensure clear and effective channels of communication across all departments within the organisation and support functions, both internally and externally ensuring that the team is aware of the standards and objectives of the department/business unit. Implement the disciplinary and grievance procedures as required ensuring that a fair and consistent approach to managing performance is consistently achieved. Assist in the recruitment process and manage, train and motivate employees to achieve/exceed their potential using effective performance management techniques. Encourage and develop a team ethic amongst all employees.
  • Monitor the welfare of animals: Monitor animals’ physical condition and behaviour and report any concerns or unexpected changes, including signs of health or ill-health, appearance, condition of the animals’ accommodation, intake of food and water and environmental conditions.
  • Supervise craft activities: Supervise craft related activities for use with members of the public e.g. face painting, colouring-in, mask making, ensuring that these activities are carried out safely.
  • Communicate in English in a competent way: Competent use of English; R351 refers to level C1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

ISCO group and title

5113 – Travel guides

  1. Zoo educator – ESCO
  2. Zoo Educator Job Description: Salary, Skills, & More – Liveabout
  3. Featured image: By Lance Cpl. Michael Iams – Public Domain
Last updated on November 9, 2022

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