Animal Assisted Therapy Degrees and Certificate Programs

Oct 14, 2019

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is a counseling technique where patients interact with animals to help improve their mental health. 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 programs require a bachelor's degree in a concurrent field and include a research project or capstone project. Some programs are offered online.

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 through the use of the main degree they obtain. 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 13% during the 2018-2028 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) - a much faster-than-average rate. As of 2018, social and human service assistants earned a mean annual wage of $35,830.

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.

Animal assisted therapy is a growing field that offers a more holistic approach to help heal patients and does not require specific licensing. Holding a certificate can open doors to careers in holistic counseling, animal care research and social and human services.

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