If you plan to become a zoologist, research scientist, or want to teach zoology at a college or university, you must have a PhD in zoology. Zoology PhD programs typically run between two to six years in length and are offered at many public and private colleges and universities with biology, science and zoology departments. In many cases, the college or university will hire the PhD student upon completion of their degree program, so that they can continue in their research endeavors, and also contribute to the campus research facilities and area organizations.

Preparing for a PhD in Zoology

Many colleges and universities require students to pass a preliminary comprehensive examination during their last year of graduate studies if they intend to work towards a PhD in zoology. This may include both a written and oral exam. You may choose to specialize in a particular branch of zoology during your graduate program. Specializing in a certain field can offer more career opportunities and also help you focus your studies for a research project at the PhD level. You can work with your academic advisor or mentor to determine which branch of zoology may be the best match for you.

Applying for a PhD in Zoology

When you are interested in pursuing a PhD in zoology, you will need to work with your college or university's biology, zoology or sciences department to create a research program under the guidance of a mentor or on-campus researcher. You may need to work with an advisory committee and present a proposal for your research study, which includes specific goals and objectives of your research. This is often called the "Plan of Work" and must be approved by the committee before the end of your third semester or other timeframe during your graduate studies.

In some cases, this Plan must include a certain number of hours of research credit, and the topic for your dissertation. After this has been reviewed by the committee and approved, you may be required to pass a final exam and then carry your research forward to publication.

Completing a Zoology PhD Program

Students who are interested in completing a zoology PhD program need to be very committed to their studies and be prepared to work on long-term research projects. You will be using different scientific methods and approaches to draw conclusions, develop new theories and conduct experiments. When you are working on a research project with fellow students and collaborators, you may be expected to create scientific reports, work on presentations, and also review different types of data.

Many components of a zoology PhD program take place in a lab setting or on the field, and in some cases, are part of an independent study research program.

You may need to complete up to one or more semesters in a teaching role on campus as part of your Zoology PhD program. This requirement varies by school, and additional teaching hours may be needed depending on your course of study and topic. The advisory committee will determine how many hours of teaching are required during your initial interview and proposal presentation.