How doth the aspiring zookeeper...?

Alright, I must admit, my return to the SDMB has not been without ulterior motives. Once again I come in search of advice.

You see, I’m a video game programmer. Or, to translate that into lay-speek: I have my dream job. The problem is, my wife – who helped support me through WAY too much school, dealt with me staying up all hours of the night doing homework, etc. – is NOT working at her dream job. Her dream job would be to work at a zoo. I come to the SDMB to see if anyone has the inside scoop on how to get on the right track toward that eventually happening. Or tomorrow, that would be cool too. :wink:

Let me back up a bit:

We’re about to move from the Dallas area to the Denver area for my new job – but also because we both like the area better. Contemplating that, it struck me that this might be the place we stay for quite a while: pending dark secrets about my new job, this will be the first place in YEARS that we would even consider living in for the long haul. (For the past decade or so, we’ve moved once every year or two.)

Long-term stability means the ability to make long-term plans. So, given that I know I already have my dream job, and that I know what her dream job is, I’d like to figure out how I can support her trying to get her dream job. Then, we will both be happy and rich and our world will explode into marshmallows and kittens! …or something.

The problem is, neither of us know how she can “break into” the zoo industry. We keep hearing that it’s intensely competitive – I believe it! – and she’s no longer a student and therefore doesn’t qualify for internships. Is the answer more school? Better timing on job searches? Volunteering at the zoo? Bribery!!! (We can’t currently afford volunteering, though we may be able to soon…)

I don’t know if there are any zookeepers, friends-of-zookeepers, or significant-others-of-zookeepers (Part 3: The Revenge!) on the SDMB, but if there are, I’m calling out to you!

What can a person with an animal-behavior-focused Biology degree, one summer of experience in an Animal Care position, and several years of experience working in genetics labs (including conservation genetics!), do to get on track toward a paying job at a zoo?

I sort of looked into this when I graduated from college with a degree somewhat similar to your wife’s. I think volunteering would be an essential first step. I volunteered in 2 zoo departments, as a docent and in the development (fundraising) department. I’m not sure why you couldn’t afford volunteering? It could be as little as one afternoon a week, and zoos are open weekends. Also, become members of the zoo and attend/support/volunteer at fundraising events. Once she builds up some relationships at the zoo she can ask questions about what jobs they have, how her current skills would apply, additional classes she might need to take.

She should also network with relevant professors at local universities. The departments probably have professors give talks that are open to the public (although not a lot of general public usually expresses an interest). Maybe they have a mailing list or website she could get on. Internship is just a fancy word for volunteering/part-time job, so if she makes the right connections she can probably create her own “virtual internship”.

She might also find that she can realize much of her dream by working another job that allows her enough free time to volunteer at the zoo.

[Tangent - when I was about 7, my friend’s mom was a volunteer docent and got to take a baby tiger cub to a nursing home for a demo. We got to play with it-coolest day ever!]

Volunteering is a great way to open the door.

Get her the book, Kicked, Bitten & Scratched. It talks about the primo school where animal trainers get trained. Zoos are using those skills much more these days.

I hope that helped.

What I meant was that we can’t really afford for her to not be making an income. It hadn’t occurred to me that there might be options for volunteering in a way that was compatible with another job. :smack:

I’m afraid that’s just a little too awesome.

I’ll check it out… even if it doesn’t help it’s bound to be a good read. Thanks!

My wife already has a college degree (English I believe) but has recently gone back to school at a local college towards a degree in Zoology. We’re currently in Colorado Springs, about an hour south of Denver. She volunteers at the zoo once a week and not too long ago got “promoted” to being allowed to chop up fruits and vegetables for the primates.

I haven’t the slightest idea what her job prospects are once she graduates. She’s out of town at the moment, but I’ll try to pass on any questions you have to her tonight or tomorrow.

Yeah, I’m still healing from trying to pick up a 12-pound mountain lion cub the other day. He wasn’t serious about the biting and scratching, but you know how kittens are… I’m sure the tiger cub would be worse.