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Wild Animals/Help! Want to work with penguins. Where do I start?


I am hoping you could help point me in the right direction. I've always loved penguins and finally decided that working with penguins is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I'm 20 years old and attend a junior college in my town. I am wondering what associates I should go for to work towards working closely with penguins. Also, what types of jobs are there for people like me? I know for sure that I want to work with taking care of them. Do I need a certain degree to do so, and what schools offer those degree programs?
I hope this makes sense and could kind of give you an idea of what exactly I'm talking about. Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon.


Hello Sara,

I'm happy to hear that you are interested in a career working with penguins! The first question I have is whether you want to work with penguins in a zoo or aquarium setting, or if you want to be a field researcher. The educational path for the two careers would be a bit different. Basically, to work with penguins in a zoo or aquarium, most (but not all) facilities require you to have a Bachelor of Science degree - and at many places you'll also need to be scuba certified (we had to have both to be animal care staff at the New England Aquarium). Your BS degree could be in veterinary technology, marine biology, biology, zoology, etholgoy, ecology, or other related areas. To be a field researcher, you would need an advanced degree, preferably a Doctorate degree.

I've answered this question in the past here on AllExperts, so I am including the link below to one of those answers, as it has more information that you should find useful:

And here's a link to an article about careers with wildlife by the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park that you might find helpful:

In addition, you should check out the following link, which is from the Moorpark College website (their list of other schools is by no means comprehensive, but it does provide several other options):

Finally, I'm going to reiterate something you'll read in the link to my previous answer about this question. The most important thing you can do, aside from getting your BS degree, is to start volunteering at some sort of animal care facility to get hands-on experience working with animals. If there is a zoo or aquarium near you, try to get a volunteer or intern position as soon as possible, and get as much experience as you can prior to applying for a job as staff at a facility (whether it's there or elsewhere). Getting your foot in the door as a volunteer or intern at a zoo or aquarium is the best possible way to eventually get hired at that particular facility.

I hope this is of some help - good luck in pursuing your dream of working with penguins!

All best,

Wild Animals

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Dyan deNapoli


I ONLY ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT PENGUINS. As a recognized penguin expert, I can authoritatively answer any questions about penguins - from biology, behavior, conservation, habitat or the impacts of global warming, to working in an aquarium setting and husbandry management etc. AGAIN, I ANSWER PENGUIN QUESTIONS ONLY - IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT OTHER ANIMALS, PLEASE ASK A DIFFERENT EXPERT. Thank you!


I was a Senior Penguin Aquarist at the New England Aquarium in Boston for nine years, where I co-managed a colony of seventy penguins. I have extensive experience hand-rearing penguin chicks, managing colony health, understanding penguin behavior, and educating the public about penguins. I've been the guest penguin expert on numerous television and radio shows in the US and abroad, have been the content reviewer for three books about penguins, and have spoken at national and international conferences. I have spoken at four TEDx conferences - my TEDx talk about the Treasure oil spill rescue is featured on the main TED website. It can been viewed at In the summer of 2000, I worked as a rehabilitation manager during the rescue of 40,000 African penguins from an oil spill. I wrote an award-winning book about this event, THE GREAT PENGUIN RESCUE, which Simon & Schuster published in October of 2010. In 2006, I founded an educational company called THE PENGUIN LADY, which is devoted to raising awareness and funding to help protect threatened and endangered penguin species. I provide on-site programs about penguins for children and adults, and donate a portion of the proceeds from every appearance to penguin rescue groups.

National Marine Educators Association (NMEA), Massachusetts Marine Educators Association (MMEA), Association of Zoos & Aquariums, International Zoo Educators Association, Author's Guild, International Women's Writing Guild, North Shore Women in Business (NSWIB), North Shore Business Forum, Mount Ida Veterinary Technology Accreditation Committee, Mensa International

On October 26, 2010, Simon & Schuster's Free Press imprint published THE GREAT PENGUIN RESCUE, a book that I wrote about the remarkable rescue of 40,000 penguins from the Treasure oil spill in South Africa. I worked as a rehabilitation supervisor during this historic event. More than 12,500 volunteers labored for three grueling months, after which 95% of the penguins were successfully released back into the wild. THE GREAT PENGUIN RESCUE has won several literary awards, and is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other stores and online retailers. I authored the Penguin chapter for Scholastic Publishing's New Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia (NBK) in 2008, which is also available online at Grolier. (Most libraries have free access to this database.) I wrote the feature cover story (about the Treasure oil spill rescue) for the January 2011 The Mensa Bulletin. A link to that article, title Rescued Treasure, is here: I've had several articles published online, as well as in Mused Literary Magazine. A paper that I wrote about the New England Aquarium's penguin outreach program was published in the AZA conference proceedings journal in 1998.

BS in Animal Science from Mount Ida College in 1996, AZA Conservation Education School - NC State University 1999, PADI Scuba certified in 1995

Awards and Honors
Distinguished Alumni Award from Mount Ida College in 2002 for outstanding contributions in the sciences - award given in recognition of work done as a rehabilitation manager during the rescue of 20,000 penguins from an oil spill in South Africa. Graduated Summa Cum Laude from Mount Ida College in 1996 - awarded for Exceptional Achievement in the Sciences at graduation ceremonies

Past/Present Clients
Numerous schools, colleges, libraries, museums, cruise ships, assisted living facilities, rotary clubs and more. I've been the onboard penguin expert/guest lecturer on nature cruises to the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. I've also been the guest on numerous TV and radio programs, including CNN, BBC, CBC Radio-Canada, ABC Radio Australia. and Sierra Club Radio. If you wish to obtain specific names or locations, please contact me via e-mail or through my website at

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