Applied Animal Behavior Science Degree Program Information

Degree programs specifically covering applied animal behavior don't exist, but some schools do offer degrees in related fields such as animal care, general animal behavior and animal science. These degrees are offered at the associate's, bachelor's and doctoral levels.

Essential Information

Degree programs in animal care, general animal behavior and animal science prepare graduates for careers working with animals in a variety of settings, from farms to veterinary offices. Degrees relevant to applied animal behavior are available at the associate's, bachelor's and doctoral levels. Most programs require classroom work as well as hands-on experiences in clinical care or for research.

  • Program Levels in Applied Animal Behavior: Associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees.
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED, standardized test scores and background in the sciences for the associate's and bachelor's programs; a bachelor's or master's degree in ecology or animal science, GRE scores and background in statistics, genetics, physiology and ecology for the doctoral program.
  • Program Length: Varies according to program level.
  • Online Availability: Online programs and courses are available.

Associate's Degree in Small Animal Care

Some community colleges offer Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree programs in small animal care. Students in these programs learn about scientific, practical and theoretical concepts related to caring for animals, and often these programs allow students to gain hands-on experience. These programs emphasize breeding, grooming, training, feeding for pets and other domesticated animals. Students interested in animal behavior can learn about the influence of genetics and training on how animals act.

The classes offered in animal care AAS degree programs prepare graduates to work with pets and livestock. Students learn about animal nutrition, the economics of animal care and the techniques used to keep animals healthy. The courses below are usually offered:

  • Domestic animal physiology
  • Small animal care
  • Laboratory animal care
  • Animal science
  • Business aspects of animals

Bachelor's Degree in Animal Behavior

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree programs combine psychological theories with biological principles to explain how animals act. Students learn to control animal behavior through classroom instruction and laboratory experiments. Programs also cover the methods used to study how animals behave in their natural habitats. Students often conduct original research using lab animals prior to graduation.

A significant portion of the coursework in animal behavior bachelor's degree programs emphasizes ethology, the study of natural animal behavior. Programs also discuss how an animal's ecology affects its behavior. Students usually take classes on the topics below:

  • Animal eating behavior
  • Behavior of laboratory animals
  • Adaptive behavior
  • Animal neurobiology
  • Behavior of primates

Doctoral Degree in Animal Behavior

It is exceptionally uncommon for schools to offer degree programs that award a terminal master's degree in animal behavior, so graduate students enroll in doctorate programs instead. Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs emphasize how animals adapt to new environments and evolve over time. Students take a multidisciplinary approach to researching animal behavior, incorporating ideas from biology, psychology, ecology, neuroscience and anthropology.

Ph.D. program coursework in animal behavior emphasizes research methodology and statistical analysis of objective data. Students are expected to conduct unique research and complete a dissertation project. The subjects noted below are often required:

  • Evolution and animal behavior
  • Animal neuroscience
  • Statistical analysis in animal behavior
  • Animal behavior research methodology
  • Animal observation

Popular Career Options

Earning an AAS in small animal care prepares graduates for entry-level careers in several industries. People who enter the workforce directly after earning an associate's degree usually need further education to move to advanced careers, regardless of their employment experience. The careers noted below are popular options:

  • Animal boarding assistant
  • Veterinary assistant
  • Animal groomer

People who earn an animal behavior bachelor's degree often observe animals in both manipulated and natural settings. Since students learn the methods used to control animal behavior, they often conduct original research. Students often enter the following careers:

  • Ethologist
  • Ornithologist
  • Ecologist

Animal behavior Ph.D. programs teach the skills necessary for a variety of careers. Graduates often choose the careers mentioned below:

  • University professor
  • Animal behavior field researcher
  • Experimental animal behavior researcher

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts an employment growth of 5% for zoologists and wildlife biologists for the years 2012 through 2022. The BLS also notes that the median annual wage for these workers was $58,270 in 2014.

Continuing Education

A very limited number of people become Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists through the Animal Behavior Society. People interested in certification need a doctorate and must have at least five years of work experience in the discipline.

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