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Apply: Animal Caretaker Apprenticeship

At the OKC Zoo, Go Wild!

Application materials for the Summer/Fall 2020 apprenticeship will be accepted through January 30th

As a 114-year old institution within Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden has a rich and very successful history. It is one of the oldest zoos in the Southwest region of the United States. Today, the Zoo features a diverse and fascinating animal and plant collection spread across more than 119 acres. 

The Zoo is the only zoo with full, accredited membership in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) as a living museum, and Botanical Garden Conservation International (BGCI) as a botanical garden. The Zoo is home to more than 500 species of animals, including 87 species of mammals, 117 species of birds, 153 species of reptiles and amphibians; and 155 species of fish, aquatic invertebrates and marine mammals. This includes 54 endangered or threatened species through cooperation with the AZA's Species Survival Plans.  

Complementing its animal collection and exhibits, the Zoo has over 20 designated horticultural displays and collections including more than 30,000 specimens of flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, narcissus, iris and ornamental onions every spring. In its horticultural collection, it has 100 Oklahoma native species, 22 of which are listed as imperiled or rare.

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is dedicated to providing professional training opportunities in the conservation and welfare of the species in the zoo’s animal habitats.  Through the mentorship of expert staff, our goal is to provide recent graduates with hands on experience to afford them the working knowledge and experience to make the transition into the competitive job market an easy one.  The objective of the Santa Fe graduate apprenticeship program is to ensure the placement of graduates in professional zoo keeping positions at respected AZA institutions. The apprenticeship, rewarding in many ways, is a paid program. 

Skills and Experiences (hands-on and discussion/observation):  

  • Basic husbandry- feeding, shifting, cleaning and  animal observation
  • Challenges and methods of group care
  • Breeding introductions and management
  • Pre-parturition and neonatal management (including hand-rearing)
  • Transport (in-house and external)
  • Veterinary care
  • Hand restraint
  • Chute handling (where applicable)
  • Hydraulic restraint (where applicable)
  • Daily reporting
  • Diet preparation
  • Avian and Reptilian egg management
  • Field conservation programs
  • Sample collection
  • Guest interactions and education
  • Enclosure landscaping and maintenance
  • Research and scientific management basics 

Application Information:

In January 2020, an animal keeper apprenticeship was established for outstanding Santa Fe College (SF) Zoo Animal Technology (ZAT) graduates. Up to 3 students from the graduating SF ZAT class may be selected to work at Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden for approximately 30 weeks (7.5 months).

The apprenticeship is designed to give graduates additional work experience with new and unique animals. The selected candidate will be able to select a focused area of work.  The available areas are Reptiles and Amphibians, Aquatics, Carnivore, Pachyderm, Hoofstock, Great Ape, Birds and Small Mammals, Marine Mammal, and Behavioral Husbandry and Welfare.  Only one apprentice per area per cycle.  Commitment to the selected schedule and individual work duties will be required.

The selected candidate will be required to relocate to the Oklahoma City area and provide their own housing. The selected candidates will be paid for up to 40-hours/week. There will be no guarantee of employment at the end of the apprenticeship.  The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden respects and understands the necessity for candidates to job search during the apprenticeship, but the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden requests that apprentices complete the 30-week program before beginning employment elsewhere. The summer/fall apprenticeship period begins in late April/early May and lasts until late November and apprentices are requested to remain at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden throughout the holidays if applicable.

For the summer/fall 2019-20 apprenticeship period, all application materials must be received between January 1st and January 31st. Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden staff will select the apprentice(s) after initial review of all applications and Skype/phone interviews of selected candidates. Only certain candidates will be selected for in person interviews (if deemed necessary), as determined by Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden. Please see instructions on how to apply below. 

Candidates chosen for the animal keeper apprenticeship shall be a limited term employee of the Zoo and shall not be entitled to any Zoo employee benefits extended to regular full-time employees, including, but not limited to, health insurance and retirement benefits.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Candidates must graduate from the SF Zoo Animal Technology Program before beginning the apprenticeship.
  • Candidates should be self-motivated, able to work well alone and with others, and willing to learn new skills and make the most of the apprenticeship experience.
  • Candidates must be able to lift 50 lbs. without difficulty, work in adverse weather conditions, and remain on their feet for long periods of time.
  • Candidates must have proof of a valid driver’s license.
  • Candidates must have proof of valid health insurance.
  • Candidates must have a reliable mode of transportation.  

How to Apply

  • Apply online at OR
  • Submit ONE FILE as an email attachment to with the subject line ‘Santa Fe Apprenticeship Application’ on cover letter detailing why you would like to participate in this apprenticeship and how it will help you reach your career goals
  • resume/CV
  • Top 3 choices of taxonomic areas of interest 
  • Only electronic submissions will be considered
  • Only .doc, .docx, and .pdf formats are accepted
  • Applications materials must be submitted by January 31st, 2020 for consideration. 



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