Animal Science: Education for a Career in the Veterinary Sciences

Animal science is generally a program where students learn about the physiology, lifecycle, and health of animals. Continue reading for an overview of the major, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

A major in animal science may prepare students to work in the veterinary field. These students could include aspiring veterinarians, which require significant schools, or veterinary technicians or technologists. While animal science focuses on certain animals typically, degree programs may also include other topics that are relevant to studying and working in veterinary sciences.

Essential Information

Most animal science degree programs focus on understanding food-animals, such as cows and pigs, from a scientific perspective. Some programs also have concentrations designed to prepare students to work in the veterinary field. Animal science degree programs may prepare students to enter veterinary medical school or ready them to begin careers as veterinary technicians and technologists.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that veterinarians require licenses to work in the States. Likewise, veterinary technologists and technicians typically must complete credentialing programs. Certification for any of these career fields is usually voluntary, although some positions might have mandatory certification requirements. Each state has different regulations for licensing, credentialing, and certification, so individuals may want to check their own state guidelines prior to enrolling in any educational program.

Career Titles Veterinarian Veterinary Technician Veterinary Technologist
Education Requirements Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Associate's degree Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) +9%* +19%* +19%*
Median Salary (2015) $88,490* $31,800* $31,800*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Options

Veterinarian

These workers act as doctors for animals. They examine animals, give diagnoses, and perform medical treatments. According to the BLS, most veterinarians specialize by the types of animals they treat. Some common areas of specialization include equine, companion animals, and food animals. Veterinarians may also specialize in such areas as food safety and inspection, or they may conduct research on animals.

There is a significant amount of schooling required to become a veterinarian. Prior to starting any four-year veterinary school program, individuals must complete undergraduate coursework in such areas as animal science, anatomy, biology, zoology, chemistry, microbiology, and math. After completing approved veterinary school programs, graduates can apply to their state licensure program, since licensure is mandatory for this field. Although each state may have additional requirements, the BLS comments that generally individuals need to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination to be granted licensure. After being licensed and accruing enough experience as a veterinarian, professionals can become certified in their veterinary fields of specialty.

Veterinary Technician

Technicians usually work under the close supervision of licensed veterinarians. Most of their time is spent performing tests on specimens provided by animal patients. For instance, they may run blood or urine analyses. Technicians also assist veterinarians with other medical exams. Many technicians work in laboratory settings, according to the BLS, but some technicians may also communicate with animal owners to explain an animal's diagnosis or how to administer medication.

The common educational path to becoming a veterinary technician includes earning an associate's degree in veterinary technology, and these programs may include some animal science classes. The majority of states do have required registration or credentialing programs for technicians, per the BLS, and while each state may have additional requirements, most states require individuals to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) as part of the process. Certification is not required for technicians, although technicians can elect to become certified through taking certification exams offered by such organizations as the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS).

Veterinary Technologist

Although technologists and technicians have similar training, technologists have more advanced training, and these professionals generally work in laboratory research. Technologists run tests on a variety of specimens, according to the BLS, and technologists also give animal patients medications and record information about different animal subjects or different experiments. Most veterinary technologists report to scientists, although they may also work with veterinarians as well.

Education requirements for this career involves earning a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology. Individuals who already hold associate's degrees in animal science may find that their degrees fulfill many of the bachelor's degree program's course requirements. Like technicians, veterinary technologists may have to complete credentialing or registration programs, which could involve passing the VTNE, among other examinations. Technologists will most likely be required to obtain several certifications through the AALAS, particularly for professionals who work at research facilities, per the BLS.

Career and Salary Information

The BLS estimates 9% job growth for veterinarians in the years 2014-2024. Veterinary technologists and technicians are projected to see 19% employment growth in the same 2014-2024 decade, according to the same source. In May 2015, the BLS reported that veterinarians and veterinary technologists/technicians earned median annual wages of $88,490 and $31,800, respectively.

While veterinarians require a bachelor's degree before entering veterinary school, a veterinary technician requires an associate's degree, and a veterinary technologist requires a bachelor's degree. Any of these paths may include courses in the field of animal science, as well as other relevant courses to prepare for a career in veterinary science. This field has faster than average job growth expectations over the next ten years.


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