Should I Get A Master’s Degree In Zoology?

Yes, you should get a master’s degree in zoology if you want to become a practicing zoologist. A bachelor’s degree is only good for entry-level positions in this field. While it’s true that an undergraduate degree will allow you to work with agencies of the federal government or work as a research assistant for an accomplished zoologist with a PhD, it is an advanced degree that will get you to positions of more authority.

As a zoologist, your interest is no doubt in the field of research. Observing animals in their natural habitats, recording their behavior and gathering data about them are most likely your areas of interest. You don’t have qualms about traveling to remote locations just to investigate a rare species or spend long hours in the laboratory trying to decipher the results of blood samples of animals you have just gathered.

However, you won’t be able to direct your own research and get funding in your field of interest if you don’t have a master’s degree at the least. Whether you want to work in the area of animal conservation, safeguarding a particular species from threats to their existence or finding ways to promote development without displacing animal populations, it is an advanced degree—preferably a doctoral degree— that will get your foot in the door. Minus this credential, you will only be working on the research interests of someone who has already established himself in the field and has a PhD. Some doctoral degree programs require completion of a master’s degree as condition for entry.

Another reason why you should strive to get a master’s degree is that it opens teaching opportunities in the field in colleges and universities. Do keep in mind that a master’s degree will make it difficult to land a teaching job in an institution of higher education since you will also be competing with those who already have a PhD. Compared to those who only have a bachelor’s degree, you still have a better chance of getting a teaching gig in a junior college if you have a master’s degree.

When looking for a master’s degree program, you should keep your research interest in mind. Some universities have a stronger research interest in areas like cellular and developmental biology while others have faculty who have done extensive research on ecology and evolution. If your area of interest is in marine biology or comparative physiology then you should set aside the necessary time to look for schools where you will be able to find professors whose inclinations are in these fields.

If you are sure that you really want a career in the field of zoology, then you can consider a dual program that will award both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree after you have completed all the requirements. A master’s degree in zoology normally takes two years to complete but in a dual program, both bachelor’s and master’s can be awarded in about five years.

Keep in mind that while a master’s degree will open doors for you to work in leadership roles, it should only be considered as preparation for a doctoral degree. In zoology, this is the terminal degree that will get you to do independent research and hold a career in the academe. A PhD will give you the opportunity to publish your own research and become a well-respected member of the field.

Career Spotlight: Zoologist

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