How to Get Paid to Hang Out With Pandas

Illustration for article titled How to Get Paid to Hang Out With Pandas

A new year, a new you. Stop hating your life and start being a panda keeper at the zoo.

The Guardian ran an interview with a 25-year-old panda keeper at the Edinburgh zoo to find out how one can go about caring for newborn pandas for a living. It turns out that for the guy, Michael Livingstone, it started out as a summer job while he was studying animal biology at Edinburgh University.

Because it's The Guardian, the instructions on how to become a panda keeper are very British-sounding:

Trainee keepers also have to take a diploma in the management of zoo and aquarium animals, after which they become fully qualified keepers.


But what can be gleaned from this is that you have to some sort of an education and animal background to work with pandas in a zoo, unlike the requirements to work with killer whales at Sea World.

Also, it sounds kind of exhausting and difficult. There's a lot of mating season bullshit you have to deal with, and then when a panda actually gets pregnant, there are 24/7 shifts of watching her until she delivers.

And there aren't that many job openings.

Getting that first break is the toughest, though. It's a competitive field, says Livingstone. "There are a lot of people who want to work in a zoo or closely with animals, but there are not a lot of positions available, and not much turnover."


Oh and it's "physically demanding" and "a lot of extra hours, not necessarily paid, because it's just what you do." So maybe you shouldn't become a panda keeper. New year, old you.

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1) Get a biology degree, full of things like chemistry and cell biology you won't actually use day-to day. (But are always good to know!)

2) Work FOR FREE at a zoo to build contacts and experience. This mostly involves shoveling shit because they don't let just anyone handle or feed the animals. You might get to chop up some food though.

3) Continue to work for free until a (low) paid position actually opens up and then beat out a million other applicants.

4) Profit!!! (in panda cuddles and probably bites, stale popcorn and pennies)

Truth be told, most people don't make it past step one. A hard science degree is hardly a cakewalk. The "no pay" thing is difficult for people who aren't independently wealthy and need to eat.

Plus there are about a million other things you can do with that degree, that pay (somewhat) more, and vary in the amount of animal cuddles/bites received.