“I would like to be a zoologist or a chef. I love animals and cooking, which one?”
I love questions like this because it’s fun to explore different types of careers, especially ones that you don’t hear about everyday, like a zoologist! What a very broad spectrum of interests you have! Let’s explore them in three different ways:
One of the first things I have my students do when they are looking at different careers is to look at the facts. I have a few different places on the internet that I go to get information about careers. One of my favorite new places is a website called www.iseek.com. This is actually a website that is specific to Minnesota (and no, I don’t live in Minnesota—I actually live in Hawaii!) but it has so much great information that is super clearly laid out, that it’s totally worth a visit. So lets see what iSeek says about the two careers you are considering. We’ll look at a couple different categories and you can look at the rest when you have time.
1. Preparation- what skills and training will you need?
To be a chef or dinner cook:You must have a high school diploma or GED; complete formal training; complete on-the-job training, have a good sense of taste and smell; and have the ability to work as part of a team. To be a zoologist or wildlife biologist: You must have a high school diploma or GED; complete at least a bachelor’s degree in a biological science, have excellent oral and written communication skills; and be self-motivated. Think about what kind of training you want to get, do you have the drive to get a four year bachelor’s degree, and maybe even a PhD? Consider the different skills that are required—what skills are you most interested in using?
2. Outlook- how many people are employed in these careers and where?
There are 914,160 people employed as chefs or cooks in the entire United States whereas there are only 19,530 people who are employed as zoologists. So this might mean that there are less jobs out there (ie. you would have to work a little harder to make it in this field- does that sound like a good challenge to you?) There is also a higher concentration of zoologists in certain parts of the US like Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Is there a part of the country that you are pretty sure you want to live in?
3. Wage- how much money would you be able to make in this career?
Money isn’t everything, but this is another area where there is quite a discrepancy between these two careers. Zoologists on average earn $60,670/year whereas chefs earn $38,770/year. This could make a difference to you based on what kind of lifestyle you are hoping to achieve in the future.
Now keep in mind that facts don’t always add up, so it’s always a good idea to combine multiple factors when you are trying to make a decision about something as important as a career. You want to keep in mind what type of skills you have the aptitude for (meaning you are naturally prone to learning these skills), what your interests are, and what matters to you most in life. And one of the best ways (you’ll hear me say it again and again) to make a decision about which career would be a good fit for you is to test drive it!
Volunteering at a zoo or wildlife refuge would be an amazing way to gain skills for this career and really test out your interest in this field. Likewise working a part-time or summer job in a restaurant as soon as you are old enough to, would give you the inside scoop about what type of work environment you’d encounter as a chef. Try out a cooking class, start making a meal for your family once a week, maybe even see if you could be their “head chef” and lead your family members or friends to make a meal together! Oh, also check out a previous GPS Gal interview with Bianca who went to culinary school to be a chef. She’s now in Germany actually working in a restaurant!