Animal Genetics Degree, Certificate and Training Program Summaries

Degree programs in animal genetics are offered at the master's and doctoral levels. Explore both program options, and learn about common coursework and employment opportunities.

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Essential Information

Animal geneticists use scientific principles to improve the health of wild and endangered species and enhance meat production and quality for the livestock industry. Graduates of animal genetics programs often work at universities, as well as in agriculture and/or livestock operations.

Programs in animal genetics are available at the master's and doctorate levels. Applicants to the master's programs need a bachelor's degree. Programs often have a strong preference for those applicants with a background in physics, calculus, organic chemistry, statistics, biochemistry and molecular genetics. Students will also need graduate admission test scores and letters of recommendation. Master's programs are typically 2-3 years in length and culminate in a thesis or additional coursework for non-thesis programs.

Doctorate program applicants will need a master's degree, with preference given to those with a background in animal and biological sciences. However, there are some specialized programs that are available for those with a bachelor's degree. Students will also need letters of recommendation and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Ph.D. programs are usually 4-6 years in length and require a dissertation based on original research for graduation.

Master's Degree in Animal Genetics

Students in graduate-level animal science programs with a concentration in genetics learn about herd health and gene expression. The program explores all facets of animal genetics from evolution and the interaction between nutrition and reproductive health to the science of meat and lactation. Common coursework includes:

  • Animal husbandry
  • Biochemistry
  • Meat science
  • Physiology
  • Reproduction

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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Animal Genetics

Ph.D. programs focused in genetics train students in statistics, animal management and quantitative genetics. Students will attend both lectures and seminars. Coursework for Ph.D. programs overlaps much of the master's-level curriculum, except with a more tailored focus on genetics. Classes include:

  • Animal production
  • Breeding
  • Nutrition
  • Physiology
  • Statistics

Popular Careers

With a Ph.D. in animal genetics, employment options can be found in universities, agriculture and agribusiness. Commonly held positions include:

  • Professor
  • Research geneticist
  • Food scientist

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), agricultural and food scientists are anticipated to see a 5% increase in employment opportunities between 2014 and 2024 ( As of May 2015, BLS data showed that animal scientists earned a median annual wage of $60,390.

Continuing Education Information

Though students are prepared to enter the workforce, many graduates of Ph.D. programs choose to continue their studies. Advanced educational opportunities are available to Ph.D. holders include law school, post-doctoral research or veterinary medicine.

Students interested in animal genetics can pursue a master's or doctorate degree for in-depth study of genetics and how to use it to improve animal health. Graduates can expect positive job growth as agricultural and food scientists, or work in research and education.

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