Year Long Student Keeper Programme

APPLICATIONS for 2021-2022 are now CLOSED

Placement Details:

The Student Keeper Programme is a year long unpaid placement undertaken within our animal keeping sections. Alongside the hands-on practical learning, there is a full, formal learning programme. This will allow you to expand your knowledge and gain an insight into the theory of zoo animal husbandry as well as developing professional skills.

Subject areas include: Nutrition, Welfare, Ethics, Enclosure Design, Business as well as many more.

Placements are based on a particular group of animals as its main focus, and applicants can indicate which animal group they would prefer to focus on. Due to the nature of the Zoo’s layout animal sections cover multiple taxa, this means there isn’t a team that exclusive looks after big cats or hoofstock. For example the team we call Tigers have birds, reptiles, primates, inverts as well as tigers.

The placement focus animal groups are:

  • Hoofstock
  • Carnivores
  • Birds
  • Elephants
  • Sea lions
  • Reptiles
  • Small Mammals
  • Primates


Applicants must be:

  • 18 years old or older
  • Enrolled on, or have completed an animal/conservation based course
  • Minimum QCA recognised level 3 diploma
  • Able to attend full-time, 5 days, on placement per week which may include weekends

Student Keeper Testimony:

I had dreamed of being a zookeeper as a child, and enjoyed regular visits to Colchester Zoo. I was lucky enough to be offered a Student Keeper placement, working on the sea lion section, which involved caring for Patagonian sea lions and Humboldt penguins.

Before starting the programme, I was expecting to learn how to look after the species on my section, and the different skills that are needed to work in a zoological environment. However, by the time I finished at Colchester Zoo I had gained so much extra knowledge and learned new skills that I hadn’t expected. As well as gaining experience on section, I also expanded my knowledge of zoos during the workshops with the education team.
Working directly on section really made me feel like part of the team, and I became good friends with the keepers on my section and the other student keepers.

Since finishing the programme, I have been working as a trainee keeper at a different zoo. The skills and experience I gained from the course were vital for securing the job, and I still use things I learnt at Colchester Zoo on a regular basis. I have decided to study for a master’s in conservation and biodiversity. The animal experience I gained from the programme helped with my application, and I am expecting to use the knowledge I acquired by working with animals in my studies.
Annette Coster


We are no longer accepting applications for 2021-2022 Student Keeper Programme.

Please note: 
All of our placements are unpaid voluntary roles and we are unable to provide accommodation.
Places available are limited and each place is offered subject to an application process.
If your application is accepted you will be contacted after the closing date with details of how to progress to the next stage of selection assessment.

If you have not heard from us within 2 weeks of the closing date (07.05.2021), please assume you have been unsuccessful on this occasion.
Placements are only granted following application and a successful selection assessment.

Newsletter Signup

Sign up to our newsletter for all the latest deals, news and more!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter