Animal Assisted Therapy Degrees and Certificate Programs

Animal assisted therapy is a counseling technique wherein patients play with small animals to improve their mental, social and even physical well-being. The practice is not particularly common, and there are no degree programs related to the field; however, some schools do offer graduate-level animal assisted therapy certificate programs through their continuing education departments.

Essential Information

A certificate program in animal assisted therapy provides students with an introduction to the theories behind human-animal interactions and the 'human-animal bond.' Certificate programs in animal assisted therapy are interdisciplinary and include courses related both to animal welfare and to human psychology. Most certificate programs in the field also include a research project or capstone project.

  • Program Levels in Animal Assisted Therapy: Certificate program
  • Prerequisites: Most schools require a baccalaureate degree or work experience in the field
  • Online availability: Some schools offer classes online
  • Other Requirements: Research and Capstone projects

Animal Assisted Therapy Certificate

Students enrolled in an animal assisted therapy certificate program study the basics of animal behavior and genetics. They also study the basics of human growth and development, emotional and mental disabilities, human psychology and other behavioral disorders. Some common course topics include:

  • Animal behavior
  • Psychology of animal assisted therapy
  • Working with animals
  • Small animal behavior and genetics
  • History of animal assisted therapy
  • Animal assisted interventions

Popular Career Options

Individuals who get their certification in animal assisted therapy may go on to start their own practice, becoming independent contractors. Having a thorough educational background in animal assisted therapy can be useful to professionals working in several different careers. Some of these include:

  • Animal assisted therapy specialist
  • Holistic counselor
  • Animal care research associate
  • Patient services technician

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Some individuals who earn animal assisted therapy certificates can find work as social and human service assistants. Employment opportunities in this field were predicted to grow 22% during the 2012-2022 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) - a much faster-than-average rate. As of 2014, social and human service assistants earned a mean annual wage of $31,860.

Certification and Continuing Education

No single association or organization oversees the certification process for professionals working in the field of animal assisted therapy. Students interested in studying the subject should enroll in a certificate program that is accredited by an organization such as the American Association for Veterinary State Boards or the International Association for Continuing Education and Training. Further resources and continuing education opportunities are made available by the Delta Society, a non-profit organization devoted to therapy animals.

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