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Here's how zoologists specialize in certain aspects of animal life

Image: 123RF/Elnur Amikishiyev.

Tasks of zoologists are determined by their specialities and by their employers.

They may study live animals in controlled or natural settings; dissect animals to study their anatomy and physiology; be involved in the identification and classification of animals; do research into the diagnosis, the prevention and the treatment of both animal and human diseases; or work as a consultant or curator for a zoo, aquarium or wildlife park.

Zoologist can be involved or specialise in any one of the following fields:

  • Aquaculture: commercial production of aquatic animals
  • Arachnology; study of spiders, scorpions, ticks and mites
  • Carcinology: study of crabs, shrimps and other crustacea
  • Cell biology: study of cells
  • Developmental biology: study of how animals develop from egg to adult
  • Ecology: study of organisms in relation to the
  • Environment; this area could include freshwater biology, marine biology and terrestrial ecology
  • Ecotoxicology: study of toxic environmental substances and their effects on animal life
  • Entomology: study of insects
  • Ethology: study of animal behaviour
  • Evolutionary biology: study of evolution and evolutionary relationships of organisms
  • Genetics: study of heredity
  • Herpetology: study of amphibians and reptiles
  • Ichthyology: study of fish
  • Laboratory animal science: breeding of experimental animals
  • Malacology: study of molluscs
  • Mammalogy: study of mammals
  • Morphology: study of the structure of animals
  • Nature and environments conservation: conservation of the environment
  • Nematology: study of nematodes
  • Ornithology: study of birds
  • Palaeontology: study of fossils
  • Parasitology: study of parasites
  • Physiology: study of how animals function
  • Protozoology: study of unicellular animals
  • Systematics (Taxonomy): identification and classification of animals
  • Toxicology: study of toxins and venoms

The work settings of zoologists vary from pure research and laboratory work to fieldwork. Museum zoologists are involved in the preservation of valuable animal collections, research on the classification and distribution of animals and the construction of interpretive displays for the education of public visitors.

Watch the video to learn more:

Personal requirements

  • Love nature and have a genuine interest in biological science
  • Able to work independently or as part of a team
  • Imaginative and curious
  • Good judgement and problem solving skills
  • Keen observer
  • Patience and perseverance
  • Accurate and have an aptitude for detail

How to enter

Schooling & school subjects compulsory subjects: MathematicsPhysical Science recommended subjects: Life Sciences 


Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to study

Degree: BSc degree course with Zoology as a major, with second major such as: Botany, Chemistry, Physiology, Geology, Biochemistry, Genetics, Microbiology - UWC, NWU, UCT, UJ, NMMU, RU, Wits, UKZN, UFS, US, UNISA, UP

Post-graduate study: An honours degree or preferably an MSc or PhD degree, is essential for the full professional development of the zoologist.

Post-graduate studies involve a series of research projects chosen by the student in accordance with the area of interest. Employers prefer postgraduates.


  • Schools, universities of technology and universities
  • Medical and industrial laboratories
  • Departments of Agriculture and Water Affairs
  • Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
  • Zoos and aquariums
  • Wildlife parks, SA National Parks
  • Research organisations
  • Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute
  • Museums
  • Manufacturers of fertilisers, insecticides and livestock remedies

Getting started

  • Watch films, videos about, and read books and articles about, animals
  • Try to arrange a vacation job as a zoologist’s assistant
  • Arrange to speak to zoologists about this career and ask permission to observe them at work

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