How to become an interpretation officer: Chris's story

What’s your job?

I’m an interpretation officer at Shepreth Wildlife Park. My job involves going out and doing outreach to schools and giving talks around the park about certain species of animals. Also I do the ‘keeper for the day’ experience where I accompany anyone who goes out to meet the wolves or who goes in with the lemurs.

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Qualifications

Throughout school I was always known as the ‘animal boy’. After I finished my GSCEs I went to do A-levels in biology, photography and geology. I then did a degree in zoology at university. On this course, there were modules on different aspects of animal life, so although it was a lot of work towards the last two years, it was certainly worth it.

Chris - interpretation officer

Best thing about your job

I’m quite lucky because I’ve always had a clear goal. I’ve always wanted to be where I am now. I’ve known that since I was about four.

Top tips

Open your mind however you can: as soon as I got out of university I went straight over to Uganda and I was there for about six months teaching local school children. To see how other people live is a fantastic experience and it helped me understand how we shouldn't take things for granted.

Chris's role is similar to that of a zookeeper. The information below is based on a zoologist role.

What to expect if you want to become a zookeeper

  • Zookeeper salary: From £12,000 to £25,000
  • Zookeeper working hours: 37-40 hours per week. You could work evenings, weekends and bank holidays.

What qualifications do you need to be a zookeeper?

  • Entry requirements: You’ll usually need a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in a subject like animal or zoo management, animal behaviour and welfare, zoology or marine zoology, animal conservation and biodiversity, veterinary science or biology. You could start by doing an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in animal care or animal care and welfare. This may help you to get a job as a trainee keeper with a zoo. Alternatively, you could also do a keeper or aquarist advanced apprenticeship, depending on where you work.

Experience volunteering in a zoo, wildlife centre, kennels, animal sanctuary or similar could be important, as there's lots of competition for trainee jobs.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

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