What Is a Zookeeper's Annual Salary?

Zookeepers must be willing to work with both animals and the messes they leave behind.
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Zookeepers take care of the animals in zoos, amusement parks, shelters, kennels and other areas places where animals are housed and cared for. It is a rewarding job for animal lovers, as it provides hands-on interaction with many different species, but it does require a willingness to work weekends and holidays. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for non-farm animal caretakers in 2013 was $19,910, which is around $9.57 an hour. (Reference 1)

Wage Factors

Location can affect zookeeper salaries, as can industry. In 2013, zookeepers with the highest annual earnings worked in the District of Columbia ($27,670), Washington ($26,810), Hawaii ($25,790), Oregon ($25,580) and California ($25,170). In that same year, those who worked for federal and state governments made the most money with an average annual income of $38,650 and $35,920, respectively. (Reference 1) Animal caregivers working in retail establishments like pet stores ($40,860) and in shelters and rescue advocacy groups ($21,550) were some of the lowest paid in 2013. (Reference 1)

Getting the Job

Many people enjoy animals, and the competition for animal care positions is stiff. To make yourself stand out, get as much animal care experience as you can by volunteering at your local zoo, animal shelter or veterinary clinic. Some positions require only a high school diploma, but many require a degree. A degree will give you an advantage over other applicants even when it is not required. Degrees in biology, zoology, animal science or a life science field are all wise choices. (Reference 4)