Dairy Science Degree and Certificate Program Information

Dairy science degrees at the associate's, bachelor's and master's levels offer courses in cattle management techniques, food microbiology, agricultural economics and meat and dairy production. Programs are taught at many colleges and universities.

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Essential Information

Students in dairy science degree programs have opportunities to work directly with animals through laboratory experiences and internships. Master's program students are expected to also complete thesis projects. Potential career titles for graduates include research scientist or dairy equipment sales specialist, among others. Online courses in dairy science may be available.

Associate's Degree in Dairy Science

Associate's programs give the student a broad overview of dairy science, and the animal study portion covers pigs, poultry, and horses as well as varieties of cattle. The structure of these programs provides entry-level instruction for those interested in working in agriculture. Genetics and nutrition play a large part of the classroom academics in this program. Some programs offer a specific focus such as herd management, and many dairy science programs are revising their curriculum to include instruction on green agriculture. Coursework at the associate's level offers classroom lectures and hands-on time working with animals. Classes in the associate's program include:

  • Domestic animal anatomy
  • Training and behavior of domestic animals
  • Meat, dairy and poultry products
  • Cattle management practices and skills
  • Dairy cattle selection and judging

Bachelor's Degree in Dairy Science

Majoring in dairy science at the bachelor's level requires the student to look at the broader picture of dairy farming. In this program, students learn dairy farming from business, environmental, and scientific viewpoints. Farmers with academic training improve their knowledge of feeding, dairy business management, and animal health and advance more quickly than those whose skills are acquired through on-the-job training. Most college and universities require students to attend lecture, lab, and hands-on internship classes. Coursework focuses on dairy-related subjects and also includes business topics like media relations. Some of the more dairy-specific classes students will be required to take include:

  • Domestic animal physiological reproduction
  • Livestock and livestock carcass evaluation
  • Lactation and care for companion animals
  • Applied agricultural economics
  • Basic meat science and cattle genetics
  • Nutrition and health in animals

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Master's Degree in Dairy Science

The master's program is primarily for students who intend to go into research or academic fields after graduating. The study of dairy science at this level is comprised of directed study under a faculty or staff member. Both thesis and non-thesis options are available for those interested in graduate study. Most colleges and universities allow students to choose their own thesis or research topic (to be approved by a faculty member), while some insist students select from a pre-determined list of options. Few graduate schools offer doctoral degrees, and the coursework for Ph.D. programs mirrors that of the master's program with a heightened focus on veterinary medicine. While some courses are mandatory, such as veterinary science classes, the majority of coursework for the master's degree is completed independently by the student, with minimal guidance. Students choose from subjects including:

  • Genetics and breeding
  • Dairy management
  • Food microbiology
  • Dairy-related infectious diseases
  • Metabolic studies
  • Immunology

Popular Careers

Not all dairy science students head straight for the farm. This degree also prepares a student for other dairy-related fields such as:

  • Biotechnology
  • Dairy equipment sales
  • Research
  • Feed and pesticide sales
  • Dairy marketing

While a few students with degrees in dairy science actually do go on to run their own farms, most head for industrial or academic careers. Some options are:

  • Research science
  • Teaching
  • Peace Corps

Employment Outlook

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in the field of agricultural and food science is expected to increase by 5% from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). Increased demand for agricultural products is expected to drive employment for agricultural and food scientists.

Continuing Education

Certificate programs are available for dairy science and dairy management. Both certificate programs are tailored for the student who wishes to enhance his or her skills in dairy farming and acquire business management techniques. A less common certificate option teaches green dairy farming techniques and blend general farming knowledge with heightened environmental awareness to dairy farmers.

Degree programs in dairy science prepare graduates not only for work on a dairy farm, but also in research, teaching, biotechnology and marketing. Bachelor's degrees address dairy farming on a larger scale, while master's degrees are intended for students who plan to go into research or teaching after graduation.

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