Animal Science Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about career options for graduates in animal science. Explore the educational requirements, training needed, and the job duties of workers in the field of animal science to see if this is the right career for you.

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If you love animals and would enjoy working with them, then a career in animal sciences may be for you. There are a number of career options in this field, each with their own set of requirements. Most include courses in math and science. Animal service careers lead to jobs working in many environments including veterinary offices, zoos, and labs.

Essential Information

There are many career options for graduates in animal science, including a veterinary technician or technologist, zookeeper or animal food technician. Educational requirements for jobs in animal science vary greatly and depend on a person's chosen career path. Graduates of a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science are well prepared to enter veterinary school.

Required Education Associate's or bachelor's degree in animal science
Other Requirements Veterinary school - B.S. degree in animal science
Projected Job Growth Veterinary technologists-19%, food scientists-5%, animal trainers-11%*
Median Salary (2015) Veterinary technologists-$31,800, food scientists-$62,470, animal trainers-$27,690*

Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Veterinary Technician Career Overview

Veterinary technicians are similar to nurses helping doctors. They assist veterinarians during examinations of small, large or undomesticated animals. They may perform a variety of medical tests to diagnose illness, such as testing blood and urine, taking blood samples, preparing tissue for sampling and helping with treatment planning. Veterinary technicians differ from veterinary technologists in that technicians generally require only an associate's degree to enter the field, and technologists usually require a bachelor's degree. Veterinary technicians work in clinical practices while technologists work in more research-related environments.

Education Requirements

Veterinary technicians should earn a 2-year degree in animal science at a vocational or technical school. To prepare, students need to take courses in math, biology and science while in high school. After obtaining employment, technicians are generally trained on-the-job.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs for veterinary technicians and technologists are expected to increase more than 19% from 2014 to 2024, faster than all occupations (www.bls.gov). More than 90% of veterinary technicians and technologists worked in veterinarian services (private clinics, animal hospitals, laboratories, colleges and universities, and rescue leagues).

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Zookeeper Career Overview

Zookeepers are responsible for the daily care of wild animals in zoos, nature reserves and animal parks. They may be responsible for cleaning cages, feeding animals and creating different ways to keep the animals stimulated, healthy and adjusted. Zookeepers keep daily journals on each animal, observing behaviors and watching for illnesses, which they report to a veterinarian.

Education Requirements

Educational requirements for a zookeeper position depends upon the actual position and the amount of experience an individual has working with animals and may range from minimal to a bachelor's degree. Potential zookeepers may earn a 2- or 4-year degree in animal science or another science. They should take courses in math and communications. Volunteering to work in an animal shelter or vet office can help students gain experience working with animals.

Career Information

Animals depend on care each day of the week, so a zookeeper's schedule may vary greatly. A zookeeper is on their feet a good portion of the day and must be able to keep track of, and coordinate, special diets, play time, water features, health issues and well-being of each animal under the zookeeper's care.

Depending on the size of the zoo, zookeepers may be responsible for only one group of animals, such as large animals or reptiles, or they may be responsible for all animals. Informing the public about conservation issues, care of the animals and births at the zoo usually fall under a zookeeper's job duties. BLS estimated that zookeepers made a $59,680 median annual wage in May 2015.

Animal Food Technician Career Overview

Animal food technicians work with scientists conducting research, testing foods and developing agricultural products. Technicians may work in breeding or investigating nutritional values of agricultural products in a lab.

Education Requirements

Individuals interested in becoming an animal food technician should start with science and math courses in high school. Depending on career interests, most animal food technicians pursue at least an associate's degree though many jobs prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree, particularly for positions as biological technicians. Since many animal food technicians and scientists conduct research in a laboratory, lab classes are essential for this position. Students should also be proficient with computers.

Career Information

Animal food technicians work under various conditions both indoors and outdoors. Hours also vary depending on career path and can be irregular and long. According to BLS, about 6% of food science technicians work in educational environments and about 45% work in food manufacturing. Employment of food science technicians is expected to increase by 5% from 2014-2024. BLS quoted a median annual wage of $62,470 for food scientists in May 2015.

Those seeking careers in veterinary sciences can work towards becoming an animal food technician, zookeeper, or a veterinary technologist or technician. All fields require completion of accredited degree or specialized programs and may include internships or working in the field to gain hands-on experience.

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