The reality of employment in the zoological field is that a two-year Community College specialized animal program or a four-year University program in an animal-related science, coupled with practical zoo animal experience are required to be considered a competitive applicant for a zookeeping job.
Take a look at a spreadsheet that provides a representative listing of College and University Programs in the United States and Internationally. If you are entering High School, there is a brief listing of some regional HS programs that partner with local facilities to jumpstart your educational career path.
Please note that AAZK does not review any course curriculums or degree programs and does not endorse any specific College or University programs, nor is this spreadsheet meant to be a complete representation of College or University programs.
Practical exotic animal experience can be gained through an integrated college program in partnership with a local or in-house zoological facility, volunteer positions and paid or unpaid internships. It is very difficult, but not entirely impossible to obtain employment with only a high school education, coupled with extensive practical experience in care of exotic animals.
For a listing of current Internship (paid, unpaid, and stipend) please visit: http://aazk.org/job-listings/all/
Exotic animal keepers are expected to be knowledgeable regarding USDA animal welfare standards, husbandry, nutrition, operant conditioning, enrichment and conservation prior to employment. Keepers are expected to be able to lift minimum weight requirements as set by the institution. As a condition of hire, Animal Keepers and Aquarists are often required to work weekends and holidays and in every type of environmental condition.
For more information and additional career perspective, you may also visit the Association of Zoos and Aquariums a Learning Partner with AAZK.