Become an Animal Scientist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become an animal scientist. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in the animal science field. View article »

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  • 0:03 Should I Be an Animal…
  • 0:31 Career Requirements
  • 1:35 Steps to Be an Animal…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an Animal Scientist?

Animal scientists are trained in animal biology, biochemistry, and physiology. They use their knowledge of these fields to perform a number of tasks, such as advising farmers on more efficient ways to remove animal waste or conducting experiments on developing better animal breeds. Accordingly, these professionals might monitor experiments in a lab, plan studies in an office, or recommend initiatives to clients in the field.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's; most animal scientists eventually earn doctoral degrees
Degree Field Animal science; candidates will be considered qualified for some agriculture science jobs with an educational background in biology, chemistry, or another related field
Certification Animal scientists may wish to earn certification from the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists, though this isn't required
Key Skills Communication, data analysis, and decision-making skills; familiarity with Microsoft Excel and Access, DNA sequence analysis software, and VSNi GenStat; experience with animal husbandry equipment and other scientific equipment such as calorimeters, densitometers, and microcentrifuges
Salary (2015)* $60,390 per year (median salary for animal scientists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Animal Health Sciences
  • Animal Nutrition
  • Dairy Science
  • Farm Animal Breeding
  • Livestock Management
  • Poultry Science

Steps to Become an Animal Scientist

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in animal science or a related field, such as biology or chemistry, is the first step to becoming an animal scientist. Bachelor's degree programs in these areas combine classroom lectures with laboratory experiments in order to instruct students on fundamental principles and provide them with hands-on learning opportunities. Students may begin their studies with topics in animal nutrition, behavior, and management. Advanced courses may delve into more specialized areas, like genetics, breeding, and disease.

Additionally, students may be able to find internships while completing a bachelor's degree program. Internships can generally be found by consulting with faculty members, through a bachelor's degree program, or on one's own with outside institutions. The hands-on experience that internships offer can be valuable for students applying for graduate studies in the field.

Aspiring animal scientists should also take humanities courses to sharpen communication skills. Researching and publishing papers may be a significant part of the work of an animal scientist. The ability to communicate effectively is very important when conducting research on complex subjects.

Step 2: Earn a Graduate Degree

Students considering careers in research may need to earn advanced degrees; most animal scientists hold Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees in animal science. These programs generally allow students to conduct independent research in a specific area of interest, like meat science, reproduction, or digestion. Most Ph.D. programs can take up to six years to complete and require candidates to complete a qualifying exam and dissertation on an animal science topic.

Doctoral students might consider joining a graduate student association. Graduate student associations may offer additional educational opportunities, such as seminars and symposia. These associations also allow students to make connections with their peers and others in the field.

Step 3: Review Certification Options

The American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS) offers the Associate Member Professional Animal Scientist (PAS) certification for animal scientists who have at least a bachelor's degree in animal science or a related field. Eligible candidates who pass an exam in at least one ARPAS-approved area ranging from aquaculture to poultry products can obtain the PAS designation; however, work experience is required to become a Full Member PAS.

The ARPAS mandates that Associate Members with bachelor's degrees accrue four years of experience. Applicants with a master's degree will need two years of additional experience, and those with Ph.D.s must complete one year of experience. Maintaining the credential requires participating in 16 units of continuing education annually. The ARPAS also offers board certification in a number of different areas; this is the highest level of certification offered by the ARPAS. Candidates must be members in good standing, have at least a master's degree, and pass an examination given by the American College of Animal Sciences (ACAS).

To review, animal scientists must have at least a relevant bachelor's degree (though many possess a doctoral degree), and voluntary professional certification is available.

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