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San Diego Zoo Question & Answers

2013 October 30
by Sarah Fields

John asks…

What are the odds of becoming a vet for San Diego Zoo?

I would love to go to school to become a veterinarian. I would also love to become a vet for San Diego zoo. I don’t want to do normal animals. But I understand I will probably have to work with normal animals first. But working with special animals is my dream.

Sarah Fields answers:

The odds of this happening are very very slim.
First of all, acceptance to veterinary school is extremely competitive. But, let’s assume you get into vet school.
Zoo medicine is the lowest paying and most competitive sub-specialty in veterinary medicine. There are many more people who want these positions then there are positions available. Most veterinarians go through 4 years of undergraduate work and then 4 years of vet school. After this, they go out and get a job. Those wanting to specialize (like you) will do a minimum of a 1 year long internship and a 3 year residency then they go out and get jobs (most specialists make considerably more than general practitioners, but zoo vets make less). You have chosen the most competitive specialty. There are not very many residency programs in zoo medicine and last year there were a total of three positions open in the United States and Canada combined. So, instead of 4 years after vet school before getting a real job you are looking at doing at least one but more likely 2 additional internships before being accepted into a zoo medicine residency. This is assuming you can get an internship in the first place. Even general internships are competitive. So, you’re looking at 6 years after vet school before being qualified to work at the San Diego zoo.
Then assuming you pass your boards which only 30% do on the first time, you can get a job. Zoo veterinarian positions have very low turnover rates. This means that once a person has this job they have it for a very long time. So, after all this work the chances of working at ONE specific zoo are very slim. Even expanding your search to all zoos in the country and you will find that there are many more applicants than there are positions. You’ll most likely end up working part-time for a smaller zoo for awhile if you even make it that far. This career requires that you have absolutely no geographical obligations. So, if you get married you’ll have to leave your spouse or uproot them every time you have move from one internship to the next and then again for your residency and then again for your part-time job and then again if you are lucky enough to get a job working full-time at a large zoo.
Now, all this being said, if it’s truly your dream it is possible if you are very smart and work very very very hard and are willing to make the sacrifices required (like $150-250,000 in debt which will only be higher by the time you’re in vet school). But, entering vet school without being willing to work on “normal animals” as a backup is a very poor investment.

Linda asks…

Going to San Diego Zoo for the 1st time. How many days will it take to see it all?

We are taking a family vacation to San Diego in July and we plan on visiting the San Diego Zoo while there. How many days should we plan to be there to see it all? Any suggestions on things not to miss?

Sarah Fields answers:

It’s really not a place to rush through, there’s so much to see, smell, hear and taste. They have taken great care to make it comfortable to linger and enjoy the minutia of each exhibit. The gardens there are without equal, worth the price of admission alone. If you rush, you’ll miss the magic.

You will need plenty of spending cash for the incidentals throughout the day. The funds help to keep the place the best zoo in the world.

One of my favorite exhibits there is Lorikeet Landing, don’t miss it.

And while you’re there, be sure to stroll through other parts of Balboa Park, one of the finest urban parks in the country.

Lisa asks…

Are there disability vehicles in San Diego Zoo?

So my left foot is injured,, and my family is planning to go to the San Diego Zoo tomorrow. I can’t use crutches right now, and one of those walkers where you put one of your knees on it is also out of the question. Do they have some sort of scooters or wheelchairs in San Diego Zoo?

Sarah Fields answers:

The San Diego Zoo does have electric scooters for rent. I went last January and wish I had rented one because I had cramps so bad that I couldn’t walk! Sorry about your foot! :) hope it gets better.

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