Animal biologists are known as zoologists. They study animals in a research or natural setting to learn about animal behavior and/or how animals interact with their environments. Animal biology and zoology degrees are interchangeable both in terms of employment opportunities and required coursework, including lab work and projects. These programs are available from bachelor's to doctoral degree levels. The majority of zoologists complete their studies at the master's degree level, but there are a few doctorate programs available as well.
Program specializations may include agricultural animals, wildlife conservation, Alaskan wildlife or veterinary medicine.
Bachelor's Degree in Animal Biology or Zoology
Animal biology majors usually begin their studies with core biology courses, then move on to specific zoology coursework later in their study program. Many graduates go on to pursue careers in veterinary medicine. The bachelor's program incorporates classroom, lab work, and field studies.
In many schools, students choose a primary focus related to their desired career path, such as veterinary medicine or wildlife conservation. Along with specific zoology courses, the program places heavy emphasis on mathematics, physical science, and biological science. Coursework includes:
- Animal physiology
- Systematic zoological principles
- Biochemistry and metabolism of animals
- Vectors and parasitology
Master's Degree in Animal Biology or Zoology
There are thesis and non-thesis programs available for a master's degree in animal biology or zoology. Those interested in high-level research positions choose the thesis option. Students with career goals in teaching or government agencies are more likely to pursue the non-thesis option. Studies for this degree are performed in seminars, labs, and through field work.
Coursework for this degree is rigorous and focuses heavily on relationships between animals and their environment, along with more in-depth studies on physical composition of animal life. Some topics covered are:
- Zoology of invertebrates
- Molecular ecological concerns
- Vertebrate and invertebrate microbiology
Some zoologists actually do go on to work in zoos, but the job market in that sector is fiercely competitive. Those with bachelor's degrees in animal biology or zoology generally go on to pursue master's degrees. Some career opportunities are available for bachelor's degree holders in:
- Conservation research
- Government regulatory agencies
- Environmental consulting agencies
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicted that the job market for animal biologists and zoologists would increase by 4% from 2014-2024. Growing awareness of ecological concerns and the need for research may contribute to the need for more zoologists and animal scientists for field work. The BLS also stated that in May 2015, zoologists earned an average yearly salary of $64,230, with those employed by the federal government earning an average of $80,710.
Continuing Education and Training
Students wishing to conduct their own field studies may pursue a doctoral degree. Most field studies leaders and higher academic positions require a doctorate. Students seeking a more hands-on training situation might consider an internship. Internships are available on a variety of levels, some through colleges and universities offer paid positions and school credit. Other internships offered through foundations may require the student to pay a fee to participate.
Education and training in animal biology, known as zoology, places great focus on mathematics, natural sciences and biology. Many bachelor's degree graduates go on to pursue additional studies in veterinary medicine or enroll in a master's degree program.