I recently received this question by email (thanks Kali!) and thought I'd add it to the info available on the blog. I actually don't get this question as much as I used to, and obviously my experience won't be everyone's experience, but I'll be as honest as I can without giving too much away.
So. How much money do zookeepers make?
Yeah, yeah, I know. Keep reading.
Someone once told me something about dream jobs, like zookeeping, that's really stuck with me. Basically, a significant part of the pay in a dream job isn't money. The non-salary benefits of being a zookeeper are pretty obvious, but they do mean that you'll probably never be wealthy. Sure, you can survive on a zookeeper's wages, but the rest is up to you.
I can't really help you with hard numbers, because pay varies so much from area to area and zoo to zoo. But working full time, in my area of the country, you can expect to make about $30K per year as a zookeeper. Less, obviously, working part-time.
If that sounds low, there are other options. You can go into management, or look at the business side of things. You can get into research or lab work or even go into exotic animal veterinary medicine. There's a lot of options out there if $30k isn't enough. But, like I said, for those of us in the field, who love it, the extra pay comes from the other perks we get.
Despite being a specialized and difficult job, zookeeper pay is kind of on the low side for a skilled position. Part of the low-ish pay zookeepers get is simple economics. It's a popular job, and with so many willing candidates out there, zoos don't have to pay a lot to attract qualified people.
Just another aspect to keep in mind when you're considering if zookeeping is the right career for you!