A scientist that focuses on animals and their biology is called a zoologist, and there were over 17,000 working in the United States as of 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Common study subjects include an animal's species and origin, habits, interaction with other animals and humans, and genetic and biological traits. Much of the work is done in labs and on computers, but sometimes in zoos or in the wild. Several career options regarding employers and specializations are available to an aspiring zoologist, but the salaries and benefits can vary depending on several factors.
Most zoologists begin formal training by studying zoology or biology during college. Specialization often occurs while obtaining a master's degree, and most zoologists possess a doctorate, as it is usually necessary to teach at the university level and obtain research jobs. Some entry level positions may be open to zoologists with only a bachelor's degree. Like all scientists, zoologists should be excellent and motivated researchers and masters of data collection and organization.
The location in which a zoologist works is often a significant influence on salary. Cost of living as well as local need for zoologists are common reasons for this. In Wyoming, zoologists earn an average of $52,750 a year, but not far away in Oregon, the wage average is $63,080 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. California has an exceptionally low concentration of zoologists, but a relatively high cost of living, and provides an average salary of $73,160 a year. The highest paying area of the country is the state of Maryland, boasting a statewide average wage of $91,050 a year. The national average annual salary for zoologists was $60,670 as of May 2009.
The largest number of zoologists work for the government at the state level and earn $53,290 a year on average. Many also work at the federal level, but make $75,690 annually, the highest average wage for any single type of employer. The next highest paying industry is architectural and engineering services, which provides an average salary of $66,200 a year, according to the bureau.
The level of benefits provided to a zoologist largely depends on the the type of employer. Those working for universities will often receive the same type of benefits that all full time faculty members are entitled to, including paid vacation, health insurance, life insurance, and a 401K or other retirement plan. Zoologists working for the government will usually receive comparable government sponsored benefits. Those working as curator or in high level supervisory positions may also receive bonuses. Overall, benefits can add up to another 10-20% of the value of base salary.