Animal science is the study of various animal species and the care of animals by humans. Individuals can pursue bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in the field. While each option has a varied curriculum, all of the programs typically provide an opportunity to gain practical experience with animals. Earning a degree in animal science can lead to or advance careers in animal production, business or the animal industry. Standard admissions prerequisites for bachelor's degree programs include a high school diploma, or for graduate programs, an applicable degree and GRE scores.
Bachelor's degrees take four years, while master's degrees take two years. Doctoral programs may vary. Other requirements might include final exams, dissertations, internships or professional experience.
Bachelor's Degree in Animal Science
Bachelor's degree programs in animal science provide students with hands-on practice in animal agriculture while gaining fundamental knowledge in areas of nutrition, anatomy, physiology, reproduction, genetics and management of animals as well as topics like production, research, service and sales. Students in the program study a variety of animal species, including laboratory, domestic, farm and exotic animals, and become proficient in caring for animals and operating scientific equipment. They may also gain skills in critical and ethical thinking, communication, problem-solving and teamwork.
Some programs may offer students opportunities to participate in internships or independent studies and allow specialization in the field, such as livestock, equine studies or biotechnology. Programs may offer courses that discuss topics like:
- Animal nutrition
- Livestock techniques
- Animal cell biology
- Animal breeding and identification
Master's Degree in Animal Science
Master's degree programs allow students to study issues impacting regional, national and global societies; such issues might include animal behavior, genetics, biotechnology, animal management, nutrition and reproductive biology. Students may also conduct research in animal facilities to gain hands-on experience. Coursework may also revolve around animal productivity, profitability and sustainability. Students may study topics that include:
- Ruminant nutrition
- Domestic animal metabolism
- Dairy production
- Livestock evaluation and genetics
- Lactation physiology
Doctoral Degree in Animal Science
Animal science programs at the doctoral level typically offer students the option to research an area of expertise in the field, such as immunology, dairy nutrition or endocrinology. Students within these programs must complete examinations and a dissertation or publication-worthy piece of writing based on their area of research before graduating. Throughout a doctoral program in animal science, students delve into courses that complement their areas of research. Students may study topics such as:
- Nutrition issues
- Dairy management
- Cell culture
Popular Career Options
Graduates from a bachelor's degree program in animal science can find careers in animal production or animal agriculture in positions such as:
- Assistant farm managers
- Zoo curators
- Poultry breeders
- Livestock agents
- Veterinary technologists
Master's degree recipients who have studied animal science can find careers in animal-related fields beyond those at entry-level. Individuals may find positions as:
- Animal scientists
- Animal research coordinators
- Agricultural librarians
- Equine extension specialists
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Ph.D. graduates from an animal science program are prepared for a wide variety of careers in research, technical consulting and education. Since individual research largely determines the direction of a specific career, a graduate's job opportunities are subjective to their specialization. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professors of agricultural science, under which animal science can fall, earned a median income of $90,780 in May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
People who earn a degree in animal science often choose to apply their knowledge towards education in veterinary medicine. To work as a veterinarian, people must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and meet state licensure requirements. DVM or veterinary residency programs may be offered in combination with Master of Science and Ph.D. programs.
Animal science degrees are available for students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Concentrations can be found at all levels, allowing students to specialize in a particular animal type or area of the field. Careers in agriculture, animal care and research are open to graduates.