A 4-year bachelor's degree program covers the fundamental theories and technologies behind livestock and animal production and introduces students to the basics of animal husbandry and animal technology, as well as how to breed and house animals meant for food production, provide them with medical care and treat them in a humane manner.
Prospective animal science majors typically must have completed a high school diploma program or its equivalent before they can enter an undergraduate university program. They should also have a strong interest in animal husbandry and working outdoors, since most of the careers in the industry that don't revolve around research and marketing do involve a great deal of hands-on, manual labor.
Bachelor of Science in Animal Science
Most animal science degree programs are offered at schools in the southern, mid-western and western United States. Students enrolling in these programs should be able to perform the physical work involved in handling and caring for animals. Many animal science programs also provide a background in the business end of the agribusiness industry. Subject majors learn how to run ranches, manage crews of employees, oversee livestock facilities, generate contracts and market meat products. They must also study various breed associations and national guidelines and codes governing the agribusiness industry. Some animal science courses specifically touch upon green technology, sustainable grazing systems and wildlife ecosystem management.
Lessons focus on several areas related to science, business and animal studies. Some examples of core courses found in an animal science bachelor's degree program are:
- Elements of livestock production
- Animal nutrition
- Statistical methods
- Biology and animal genetics
- Range livestock reproduction
- Animal physiology
- Diseases of domestic animals
- Equine production
- Beef cattle management
- Agro bio-terrorism
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
There are several entry-level careers in the agribusiness industry that might be available to graduates of an animal science bachelor's degree program. They include:
- Livestock operations manager
- Ranch hand
- Livestock veterinarian
- Meat marketing consultant
- Meat scientist
- Animal production systems manager
- Meat sales manager
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that farm, ranch and other agricultural managers earned median hourly wages of roughly $30.85 as of May 2015. The number of available jobs for these professionals was expected to decline by 2% from 2014-2024. While farm consolidation is a chief reason for limited employment growth in this sector, local and small-scale farming operations may offset the loss of jobs.
Continuing Education Options
There are some advanced degree programs available for those with a bachelor's degree in animal science. A Master of Science in Animal Science program emphasizes research and typically allows students to choose a particular specialization in the field, such as animal health, animal welfare, animal reproduction, toxicology, microbiology or meat science. A Ph.D. in Animal Science is designed for individuals who are interested in entering academia and becoming professors of meat science, meat production, agribusiness or agriculture.
A four-year undergraduate degree in animal science prepares students to enter the agribusiness industry as ranch hands, meat scientists or livestock operations managers, among other options. Many courses are hands-on, and prospective students should enjoy working outdoors and be physically able to care for and handle animals.