Work at the Zoo
Open since 1927, the Sacramento Zoo is home to more than 120 native, exotic and endangered species and is one of more than 200 accredited institutions of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The zoo is wholly managed by the Sacramento Zoological Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and provides an educational and recreational resource to the Sacramento region.
Open positions are listed below. Click on the blue “more” flag for descriptions and instructions on how to apply.
*Disclaimer: Job descriptions have been designed to indicate the general nature and level of work performed by an employee within this classification. It is not designed to contain or be interpreted as a comprehensive inventory of all duties, responsibilities and qualifications required of an employee assigned to this job.
Reporting directly to the CEO, the Operations & Safety Manager is responsible for leading and improving efforts to provide Sacramento Zoo guests and staff with the highest quality and safest experience possible. The Operations & Safety Manager will provide direct leadership to two critical teams: the zoo’s Security Team and the zoo’s Grounds Team. Additionally, the manager will serve on a daily basis as the zoo’s “Duty Manager,” responsible for monitoring and responding to any number of situations, including, but not limited to: guest service issues, guest safety concerns, security issues, small project contractors, special events logistics, interface with public safety officers and officials, etc. Partnering with stakeholders across the zoo, the manager will establish and oversee appropriate safety policies and procedures related to guest and employee safety, including compliance with OSHA requirements and other regulatory bodies. These policies and procedures will complement those established by specific departments across the zoo, such as Facilities and Animal Care, where job-specific and situation-specific policies and procedures are managed by the departmental directors.
The Operations & Safety Manager must be creative and enjoy working within an environment that is mission-driven, in alignment with the Zoo’s core values, community-oriented, and fast paced. The ideal individual will have the ability to exercise good judgment in a variety of situations, with strong written and verbal communication, administrative, organizational and leadership skills, and the ability to maintain a realistic balance among multiple priorities. The Operations & Safety Manager will have the ability to work independently on projects, from conception to completion, and must be able to work under pressure at times to handle a wide variety of activities and confidential matters with discretion. The nature of the position and the organization dictate the position days and hours worked will include weekends and holidays.
Roles and Responsibilities
- Establishes and maintains a full-time (7 day per week) on-site Security/First Aid Team
- Manages the relationship with the contracted overnight security team
- Provides direct, day-to-day oversight of the zoo’s Grounds Team, ensuring zoo grounds are maintained throughout the entire campus at a high level, kept tidy, clean and organized for all visitors and staff.
- As the daily “Duty Manager,” responds directly to any variety of guest service and safety situations, using sound judgement to address and resolve issues in the moment
- Thoughtfully establishes, reviews and updates appropriate safety and emergency response procedures across the zoo, in partnership with subject matter experts from various departments
- As appropriate, serves as the liaison with external partners and contractors requiring access to zoo grounds to complete small projects. Coordinates efforts across the zoo and across departments to ensure work is completed in a timely and safe manner
- Partners with others across the zoo to ensure compliance with appropriate safety protocols and procedures, including internal safety programs and those regulated by external agencies, such as OSHA
- Establishes and maintains strong internal and external relationships with key stakeholders including local emergency response and law enforcement personnel
- Investigates and documents guest safety and security incidents, as appropriate
- Develops and monitors the Operations & Safety Team annual budget
- Strong connection with the Sacramento Zoo’s mission
- Desire to embrace and support Sacramento Zoo’s Core Values
- Ability to deal with and resolve potentially intense and difficult guest service and safety issues
- Strong organizational and operational skills that reflect ability to perform and prioritize multiple tasks seamlessly with excellent attention to detail
- Direct experience in leadership of a high-volume, guest-facing operation
- Very strong interpersonal skills and the ability to build relationships with stakeholders, including
staff and external partners. Ability to have fun and enjoy a role in a professional, non-profit environment
- Expert level written and verbal communication skills
- Demonstrated proactive approaches to problem-solving with strong decision-making capability
- Emotional maturity
- Highly resourceful team-player, with the ability to also be extremely effective independently
- Proven ability to handle confidential information with discretion, be adaptable to various
competing demands, and demonstrate the highest level of customer/client service and response
- Demonstrated ability to achieve high performance goals and meet deadlines in a fast paced
- Forward looking thinker, who actively seeks opportunities and proposes solutions
Education and Experience Requirements
- Strong work tenure: at least three years of supervisory experience in high-volume guest-facing operation and security/first-aid teams
- Preference for those with experience with both management of grounds/custodial teams and security/first-aid teams
- Experience working in highly regulated environments where on-going compliance with regulatory agencies via well-established and monitored policies and programs is essential
- Experience working in a zoo or aquarium environment, where animals are a part of the guest experience and the operational reality is strongly preferred
- Must be First Aid/CPR certified, or willing to quickly obtain certification
- Must have a current valid driver’s license with no prior traffic violations (within the last five years) and ability to obtain a valid California driver’s license, if relocating
- Proficient in Microsoft Office (Outlook, Word, and Excel)
Submit resume and cover letter by December 8, 2017 to:
Have you ever thought of working with rare and endangered animals?
Zoos, aquariums and marine parks offer a wonderful opportunity to work with rare and endangered animals. But there are many other organizations that offer the same careers, with a slightly different focus. Rehabilitation groups, wildlife sanctuaries, nature centers, and private animal education facilities are sprouting up around the country, and each offers different experiences for their employees.
For starters, do some research to find out which organizations are in your area. The Internet is a valuable tool in finding many of the private institutions. Call or make an appointment to stop by and ask what careers are available and what kind of experience they require. Most, if not all, animal facilities have some brochure or seminar aimed at people entering the career field. This can provide you with ideas or answers to your questions.
Next, begin to volunteer at the facility of your choice. You want to make sure you’ll enjoy the job as much as you think you will before you head down the career path. Volunteering is often the best way to get your foot in the door. It is a good way to put some animal experience on your resume. Some animal facilities even partner with local schools to allow students to earn credits or community service hours.
Last, but not least, increase your knowledge by taking classes. Although most animal knowledge comes from experience, a solid education always helps. Contact your local university or community college for information on course work geared toward your desired career.
Finally, be dedicated. Research your prospective career, and find as many activities as possible that will assist you in the end goal of finding employment. Working your way into the animal field requires time and patience, but the reward is immeasurable.
Below is a brief sampling of possible jobs and career opportunities many zoos, biological parks and marine parks offer. Even if you’re not interested in a hands-on animal career, all wildlife facilities have a wide variety of other professions available. The bonus is that you will still be working close to animals.
Daily animal care, including feeding, exhibit cleaning and behavioral observation
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Responsible for the medical diagnosis, care and treatment of the animals
Oversees the management of the facility, sets protocols and policies, and assists with animal acquisitions
(Animal Health Technician)
Assists the veterinarian with general animal care
Provides customer service, data processing and information for members and visitors
Designs artwork for logos, newsletters, flyers, signs, and advertising
Trains animals to demonstrate natural behaviors on demand for public programs
Presents programs to visitors, both on and off zoo grounds
Development and Fundraising
Cultivates community and business contacts to support the zoo
Facility & Grounds
Repairs equipment and maintains the facilities throughout the park
Concessions & Retail
Customer service positions in food and retail departments
Accountant responsible for managing the zoo budget
Works with plants and landscaping, both inside and outside of animal exhibits
Public Relations & Marketing
Promotes public awareness through advertising and coordinates special events
Do I need to have a college degree?
Although some zookeepers have a two-year degree, most jobs now require a four-year degree in biology, zoology or a related field. This is an extremely competitive field, and education is as important as experience.
Is working with the animals as fun as it looks?
Yes and no. Working with animals is not easy. It takes dedication and responsibility. Most zookeepers work weekends and holidays, as the animals still need care on those days, too. The work is outdoors, so weather can sometimes be an issue. But, the job is never boring, as each day brings new surprises and fulfillment.
What do you like most and least about your job?
Least – Working outside in hot/wet weather and dealing with sick or injured animals.
Most – Knowing the animals at the zoo are well cared for and that we help to educate the public.
What do you get paid per year?
Salaries differ in each region of the country depending upon the size of the institution and the cost of living in the surrounding area. The average yearly salary for entry level animal care staff ranges from $20,000 to $30,000 per year. More experienced staff and managers will have a higher salary. Benefits (medical, dental, sick leave and vacation), are included in most salaries.
What do you do everyday?
Keepers spend most of their mornings preparing diets, feeding and cleaning the animals assigned to them. The afternoons can be spent working on special projects, behavioral observation and afternoon feedings. Trainers and educators spend a large portion of the day preparing for shows, and presenting programs.
Will I get to have direct contact with the animals?
Usually not. The animals on exhibit are not tame. However, for some animals, contact is necessary for maintenance purposes. Trainers and educators work with smaller animals that are often trained and handled for shows and performances. No matter if it is a hedgehog or a tiger, zoo animals are not pets and are not handled as such.
Where can I find job openings?
Most zoos have position posted on their website. The American Association of Zookeepers and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums each have monthly publications that list openings from around the country.
Many zoos and wildlife parks have information packets on job opportunities available at their facilities. There are also associations affiliated with these facilities that can give you information on careers and locations of parks local to your area or state. Below is a brief listing of associations and facilities to contact.
American Association of Zoo Keepers
3601 S.W. 29th Street, Suite 133
Topeka, KS 66614-2054
American Society of Zoologists
Box 2739, Lutheran College
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Association of Zoos and Aquariums
8403 Colesville Road Suite 710
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3314
Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Department of Labor
Washington, DC 20212
National Audubon Society
645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20003
National Wildlife Federation
1400 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
National Marine Educators Association
P.O. box 51215
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
North American Association for Environmental Education
P.O. Box 400
Troy, Ohio 45373
A strong background in zoology or related science background is necessary for most of the jobs that involve working closely with animals. Other jobs like marketing, education or exhibit design might require different backgrounds, so a diverse education is always important.
Contacting your local college or school counselor will help guide you toward an appropriate educational pathway for your desired job. Below is a brief listing of colleges in California that offer Biological/Science degrees and related course work.
California State University & University of CA
Most colleges offer a range of majors in the zoological or biological sciences.
Los Angeles Pierce College
Animal Health Technology Program
6201 Winnetka Ave
Woodland Hills, CA 91371
Exotic Animal Training and Management
7075 Campus Road
Moorpark, CA 93021
San Diego Mesa College
Animal Health Technology Program
7250 Mesa College Drive
San Diego, CA 92111
Oregon Coast Community College
Associate of Applied Science degree
program in Aquarium Science
Jefferson Community College
Animal Management Program
1220 Coffeen Street
Watertown, NY 13601
University Of California, Davis
College of Veterinary Medicine
1 Shields Ave.
Davis, CA 95616
Santa Fe Teaching Zoo
3000 NW 83rd Street
Gainesville, FL 32606
University of West Florida
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
There are many two year colleges in California and other states that offer Associate of Arts degrees and certificates in zoological/veterinarian/biological sciences or related fields. The Regional Occupational Program, which works with many high schools and offers animal assistant classes, is another resource.
To begin a career working with or caring for animals you should start by volunteering. You can call your local zoo, humane society, veterinary clinic, or wildlife center to find out what help they might need. The internet is a great resource for locating some private sanctuaries.
Volunteering establishes you as a dedicated worker and gives you important job experience for future positions. Many facilities hire from their ranks of volunteers due to their experience and familiarity with the job. This will give you an inside track in a competitive market.
As a volunteer you have the ability to experiment with the jobs you might want to choose as a career. You can determine what job or jobs best suit your interests before you make the long term commitment of becoming an employee.
There are many opportunities for young adults, college students and anyone interested in animals to volunteer at the Sacramento Zoo. Visit the Volunteer page for details.