Zoo keeper kneeling next to a seal, touching the seal's body.

Becoming a zoo keeper

What does it take to become a Zoo Keeper? Find out here.

There are more than 150 zoo keepers employed at our four zoos to ensure world-class welfare and care is provided for a range of native Australian, exotic and endangered animals across the three properties.

Applying for a position as a Zoo Keeper with Zoos Victoria is slightly complex compared to other advertised roles as you must be on our Preferred Keeper List (see below) in order to be considered for a zoo keeping role.

Ensure your qualifications are up to date 

Although a qualification is not required to become an entry-level zoo keeper, qualifications are looked upon favourably due to the high number of applications we receive. 

The types of suitable qualifications include:

  • Certificate III in Wildlife and Exhibited Animal Care: the Taronga Training Institute currently delivers this course at Melbourne Zoo.
  • Certificate III in Captive Animals
  • Certificates or Diploma in Animal Studies/Care
  • Bachelor degrees in Science, Zoology, Biology, Veterinary Nursing or other animal-related disciplines.

Please note: Zoos Victoria have preferred tertiary institutions in which we support our staff to undertake in the ACM30310 Certificate III in Captive Animals at Box Hill Institute or the ACM30321 Certificate III in Wildlife and Exhibited Animal Care at Taronga Training Institute.

Get experience

We recommend getting some work experience or either paid or volunteer experience working with animals (farm animals, domestic animals, or wildlife).

We look for applicants with more than three months experience in the above areas, demonstrating your commitment to a career in animal husbandry.

Unfortunately volunteer animal husbandry experience at Zoos Victoria is only offered to candidates already on the Preferred Keeper List (see below) but there are plenty of organisations that need volunteers to continue their vital work caring for animals including:

  • Your local veterinary surgery
  • Animal welfare organisations
  • Dog training companies
  • Wildlife rescue agencies
  • Local kennels and catteries

Apply for a role on our Preferred Keeper List/Keeper Pool

To be considered for a Zoo Keeping position, applicants must first be accepted onto the Preferred Keeper List/Keeper Pool.

Recruitment to this keeper list occurs a few times a year and is always advertised on Zoos Victoria's website.

The selection process follows the regular recruitment process and also involves a workplace assessment. Once a zoo keeping role becomes available, candidates from the Preferred Keeper List are eligible to apply.

Short-term contracts are offered to the Preferred Keeper List as the roles become available and can range from a few weeks to 12 months, either in a part-time of full-time capacity.

From time-to-time there is also a small number of volunteering opportunities available for candidates on this list.

There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of selection onto the Preferred Keeper List.

Maintain physical fitness 

Zoo keeping is physically demanding and applicants need to demonstrate how they maintain their physical fitness.

Zoo keepers generally work eight-hour days and the bulk of the work involved is outside during all weather conditions.

The physical tasks usually include lots of walking (up to 10km a day), raking enclosures, shovelling, using wheelbarrows and repetitive lifting. 

Applicants who are invited to the Keeper Pool assessment centre will be required to undertake a fitness activity. This activity will measure applicant’s fitness levels across a number of exercises:

  • The Beep Test: this test involves continuous running between two lines 20 metres apart in time to recorded beeps. The assessment can last up to 10 minutes.
  • Push-ups: this test involves participants completing as many push-ups as they can in the allotted 60 second time frame. Participants must reach a 90-degree angle at the bottom of their push-up.
  • Planking: the plank test is a simple fitness test of core muscle strength. The aim of this test is to hold an elevated position for as long as possible.  
  • Grip strength: the purpose of this test is to measure the maximum strength of the hand and forearm muscles. 
  • Lower back strength: this test measures back strength, which is important in core stability and for preventing lower back pain.