Animal Control Degrees and Training Requirements
Research animal control programs. Get information about courses, requirements and continuing education options to make an informed decision about your education.
Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice
Animal control officers work closely with law enforcement organizations, and therefore benefit from an understanding of the laws regarding animal abuse and animal rights.
These 2-year Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Science programs in criminal justice broadly cover the criminal justice system, including topics in corrections, courts and national laws. Critical thinking is a core skill; students learn to comprehend the cause of crime and analyze policies that aim to control crime and aberrant behavior.
The educational prerequisite for prospective students wanting to enroll in an associate's degree program in criminal justice is a high school diploma. Some schools may require the submission of standardized exam scores, such as the SAT or ACT.
In addition to general education courses, students take courses in topics like the ethical implications of action and inaction in various situations. Possible subjects include:
- Criminal law
- Evidence and laws
- Criminal investigation
- Forensic science
An associate's degree in criminal justice is acceptable for some entry-level positions related to animal care. Often, animal control is a function of a law enforcement entity, like a county sheriff's agency. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that most animal control workers receive on-the-job training in lieu of going to college, some jurisdictions prefer to hire graduates of associate's or bachelor's degree programs for employment as police officers (www.bls.gov). An associate's degree may prepare an individual for positions like:
- Animal warden
- Dog catcher
- Humane officer
- Animal park code enforcement officer
Continuing Education Information
An associate's degree in criminal justice does not provide training on how to handle animals that may have been abused or neglected. However, organizations like the National Animal Control Association (NACA) offer training programs for people who wish to become animal control officers.
NACA offers four levels of training. The first level's classes deal with topics like zoology, shelter operations and companion animal behavior. In the second level's courses, individuals learn about search and seizure, investigations into animal cruelty and how to handle a variety of animals. The third level includes training in use of a collapsible baton as well as training in euthanasia. In the fourth level, professionals learn about impoundment of large numbers of animals and how to handle puppy mill situations, in addition to other topics.
Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice
While bachelor's degree programs do not focus on animal control, animal control officers are often part of the county sheriff's department. These 4-year Bachelor of Science programs cover topics like law enforcement's role in society, investigation techniques and community corrections strategies. Students may have the option to focus their studies on specific areas, like corrections, law enforcement, legal processes or loss prevention; many programs offer the opportunity to gain experience through internships.
In addition to general education courses and the core criminal justice courses, students can choose from a handful of electives to learn more about topics that interest them. Some common course topics include:
- Research methods
- Juvenile justice
- Judicial administration
- Forensic investigation
Although - according to the BLS - a bachelor's degree in criminal justice is often helpful for employment in law enforcement, professionals generally must complete on-the-job training after graduation. Graduates may find that they qualify for entry-level positions like:
- Police officer
- Corrections officer
- Sheriff's deputy
The next step for graduates of bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice is a master's degree. These programs sometimes focus on administration of criminal justice and require that a student complete and defend a thesis. Common courses include police administration, administrative law and theory of criminology. Some of these programs are offered part-time and online; others are available in the traditional classroom format with full-time study. Full-time programs can be completed in 18-24 months.
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