Animal Science Graduate Programs: Overviews by Level

Oct 08, 2019

Essential Information

A MPS in animal science program emphasizes management skills, such as the production of dairy products, while the M.S. and Ph.D. programs focus on scientific research in areas like animal genetics or improved animal nutrition. Schools prefer MPS applicants with an undergraduate degree in poultry, dairy or animal science, or a related biological science. A few schools will accept students with an unrelated degree that includes those subjects. This degree program generally doesn't require a thesis, although some programs include a paper that must be approved by a committee.

M.S. programs in animal science generally have the same prerequisites as the professional studies programs. In addition, some schools require prospective students to have a background or show an interest in agriculture. Most prefer undergraduate work in animal sciences or a related field. Both thesis and non-thesis programs are available.

The doctoral program follows the same requirements for admission as the master's programs and may require a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Students who don't have a master's degree can usually earn one concurrently as part of the doctoral program. Students in a Ph.D. program may have to teach classes within the department and may be required to complete a dissertation to graduate.

Master of Professional Studies in Animal Science

MPS programs cover a broad selection of subjects. Therefore, students take a variety of animal science courses. Students may be allowed or required to choose a specialization and thus take courses with a single focus. Possible classes include:

  • Animal breeding, diseases, genetics and husbandry
  • Animal immunology and nutrition
  • Animal science careers
  • Management and production of beef cattle
  • Management and production of dairy herds
  • Management and production of poultry

Master of Science in Animal Science

Master of Science programs in animal science generally place more emphasis on research than MPS programs, so students are prepared to progress to doctoral programs if they desire. Many MPS programs offer special focuses, such as developmental biology, gut microbiology, animal nutrition or meat science. Many of the courses offered in an M.S. degree program in animal science are the same as those for an MPS degree. Some courses that are likely to be unique to an M.S. program include:

  • Agricultural emergency response
  • Experimental design and data analysis
  • Methods of nutritional experimentation
  • Monogastric nutrition
  • Nitrogen metabolism
  • Statistical bioinformatics and genetics

Doctor of Philosophy in Animal Science

Doctoral degrees in animal science are generally research degrees. Most Ph.D. programs in animal science don't emphasize much coursework beyond the master's level. Rather, they focus on research and a dissertation based on a topic of the student's choosing. Students may be required to show proficiency in a foreign language, or demonstrate knowledge of statistics, computer science or science philosophy. Courses in a Ph.D. program include:

  • Advanced individual research
  • Genetic research
  • Research in nutrition
  • Research in physiology

Popular Career Options

Graduates with an MPS or M.S. degree in animal science can pursue industry, government or county extension management or specialist positions. Doctoral graduates can work as teachers or researchers at a college or university, conduct research for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or offer private consultation services. Graduates can also launch careers in animal science research and development, technical service and procedures, or quality control and compliance. Career choices include:

  • Animal Scientist
  • County cooperative extension agent
  • Livestock publication writer or editor
  • Peace Corps volunteer
  • Livestock or livestock supplies salesperson
  • Farmer or rancher

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 7% increase in animal scientist jobs is expected for the years 2018 through 2028 ( Animal scientists earned an annual median wage of $58,380, as reported by the BLS in May 2018.

Continuing Education Information

Continuing education classes and seminars in animal science are offered on campus and online by colleges and universities, as well as at animal science organizations and businesses. Topics may include dairy nutrition, artificial insemination for cattle or pasture management. A variety of postdoctoral fellowships such as grassland and animal production, sustainable agriculture, animal genetics, or reproductive physiology are available in animal sciences.

Students interested in animal science programs at the graduate level can choose between a doctoral (Ph.D.), a Master of Science (M.S.) or a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree. While the M.S. and the doctoral degree are more research focused than the professional studies option, students in all programs study animal nutrition and physiology and may be able to specialize in certain topics of interest.

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