- Current students
Please note: Entry into this programme requires you to have a confirmed zoo placement. If you’re interested in a placement with Auckland Zoo, this will be arranged by us as part of your application. If you’re interested in applying for a placement with another facility within New Zealand, please ensure you arrange this with them prior to applying for this programme.
This distance-learning programme can turn your dream of working in the zoo industry into reality. Develop your knowledge and understanding of how to maintain the safety and welfare of animals, and yourself, in a captive wild animal environment. This includes feeding, safety, and hygiene practices, natural behaviours, enrichment, and life histories.
Learn to recognise and respond to health issues and emergencies involving captive wild animals. You’ll learn about what role captive wild animal facilities play in society, both in today’s world and historically, and you’ll explore the impact of zoos on conservation, both locally and globally.
- The only qualification in New Zealand that can train you to become a zookeeper.
- Recognised by all the main zoos in New Zealand as the entry-level qualification to work in this industry.
- As a distance learning programme, you have the benefit of 280 hours at an approved zoological park where you can apply what you’ve learnt about husbandry to a wide variety of exotic species.
- Take part in three compulsory six-day block courses at our Mt. Albert campus, where you'll learn crucial skills and gain knowledge in face-to-face lectures, meet students from other zoos around New Zealand, and attend field trips at Auckland Zoo.
We expect students studying from a distance to be self-motivated and committed, and have excellent time management skills. You must attend all block courses, exams, practical assessments, work experience, as well as complete your self-directed study (research, reading, revision) and assessment writing.
Students must have consistent access to a computer with a reliable internet connection and appropriate word processing and slide presentation software. This will be provided by Unitec and downloadable once you‘re enrolled.
Students must also be able to attend three compulsory block courses, run at Unitec’s Mt. Albert campus.
- Block courses start early on the first day, so if you’re travelling from outside Auckland, we advise that you arrive a day early to account for any travel delays.
- Each block course ends at 5.45 pm at the latest on the last day.
- Tea and coffee are provided throughout the course, and food can be purchased from various outlets on campus. Please be advised that some block courses take place outside regular semester, therefore some food options may be limited.
- Unfortunately, we are unable to provide accommodation for those travelling from outside of Auckland. However, there is plenty of accommodation available within the West Auckland area.
This programme has specific work experience requirements. You must obtain a total of 280 hours of structured work experience at an approved zoo facility over the year of study, split between three different animal groups.
- At least 40 hours must be with invertebrates, fish, amphibians, or reptiles.
- At least 40 hours must be with birds.
- At least 80 hours must be with mammals, with a minimum of 16 hours with at least one highly dangerous animal
You must organise and confirm your own work placement with an approved New Zealand zoo facility in addition to meeting the programme admission requirements before you can enrol in this programme (with the exception of Auckland Zoo). We require written consent from the facility/facilities where you will undertake your work experience. Unlike other placements, Auckland Zoo placements are arranged in conjunction with Unitec during your application process. If you plan on applying for a placement at Auckland Zoo, please do not contact them directly.
Each zoo has different age requirements and final application dates, so it is a good idea to contact zoos as soon as possible to express your interest. For example, Auckland Zoo's minimum age is 18.
For more information, download the programme's additional information.
Approved Zoo Facilities
We have two types of approved zoo facilities; those who can provide the full scope of animal experience required and others - marked with an Asterix (*) - that can't provide the full scope of animal experience required. In these cases, you need to contact other approved facilities to gain experience in areas that can't be accommodated by these smaller facilities. Here is a list of all approved zoo facilities and contacts.
Auckland Zoo - please do not contact directly
Butterfly Creek* - Stacey McCarthy (email or +64 9 2758880 ext 218)
Wellington Zoo - Harmony Wallace (email or +64 4 3816755)
Orana Park - Alyssa Salton (email or +64 3 3597109 ext 810)
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve* - Kirsty Willis (email or +64 3 3596226)
Hamilton Zoo - Jesse Golden (email or +64 7 838 696)
National Aquarium* - Rob Yarroll (email or +64 6 8341404)
Brooklands Zoo* - Eve Cozzi (email or +64 6 7596060)
Where to next?
If you’re interested in continuing your studies, this programme will give you the academic admission requirements for higher-level animal programmes at Unitec, including the Bachelor of Applied Science (Animal Management and Welfare).
For this programme, you will need the following:
- 36 credits at NCEA Level 2 including 12 credits in English;
- 12 credits at NCEA Level 1 in a relevant science subject;
- Provide evidence you have been accepted by one or more approved zoo facilities in New Zealand to complete 280 hours of work experience with them. Work experience must be completed within your year of study and must include minimum hours on specific animal groups (see application information)
If you don’t meet the academic criteria above, we'll also accept the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care (Level 3) or an equivalent qualification. We also have a range of Bridging Education programmes which will help you prepare for further academic study.
If English is not your first language you will also need one or more of the following:
- Have achieved NCEA Level 3 and New Zealand University entrance;
- Be able to provide evidence you satisfy our criteria for existing English proficiency;
- Have achieved at least one English proficiency outcome in the last two years.
If you don’t meet the English criteria above, we have a range of English Language programmes available, depending on your current level of ability.
If you don’t meet these requirements, you may still apply under special or discretionary entrance.
For more information download the programme regulations:
Courses and timetables
For more details on the courses including timetables, please click on the course names below.
|The Zoo Industry (Sem A) (NSCI4734-SA)||15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS)||This course examines the roles of zoo keepers and similar positions, and how the roles pertain to working within the zoo industry and associated facilities in New Zealand and globally|
|The Zoo Industry (Sem B) (NSCI4734-SB)||15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS)||This course examines the roles of zoo keepers and similar positions, and how the roles pertain to working within the zoo industry and associated facilities in New Zealand and globally|
|The Practice of Zookeeping (Sem A) (NSCI4740-SA)||22.5 credits (0.188 EFTS)||This course enables the student to develop best practice skills for the care of captive wild animals in a zoo context.|
|The Practice of Zookeeping (Sem B) (NSCI4740-SB)||22.5 credits (0.188 EFTS)||This course enables the student to develop best practice skills for the care of captive wild animals in a zoo context.|
|Vertebrate Anatomy and Physiology (Sem A) (NSCI5720-SA)||7.5 credits (0.063 EFTS)||To enable students to understand the concepts of anatomy and physiology as they relate to the maintenance of homeostasis and animal health|
|Vertebrate Anatomy and Physiology (Sem B) (NSCI5720-SB)||7.5 credits (0.063 EFTS)||To enable students to understand the concepts of anatomy and physiology as they relate to the maintenance of homeostasis and animal health|
|Principles of Captive Wild Animal Husbandry (Sem A) (NSCI5742-SA)||15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS)||This course enables the student to understand the theoretical principles of best practice animal husbandry in a zoo or similar captive wild animal facility.|
|Principles of Captive Wild Animal Husbandry (Sem B) (NSCI5742-SB)||15.0 credits (0.125 EFTS)||This course enables the student to understand the theoretical principles of best practice animal husbandry in a zoo or similar captive wild animal facility.|