Ethologist: Job Outlook and Requirements for a Career in Ethology

Sep 16, 2019

Ethologists require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and employment prospects to see if this is the right career for you.

Ethologists analyze and attempt to understand the reasons behind animal behavior. This is more than just a zoo research position: some ethologists work for governments, large companies, and other industries. A graduate degree is generally required to work in this field.

Essential Information

Ethology is the study of animal behavior. As a subset of zoology, ethology examines such processes as animal aggression, mating habits and animal communication. Ethologists utilize both laboratory and field science methodologies. Many have strong interests in related disciplines, including ecology and evolution sciences. The majority of positions in this field require that applicants hold a graduate degree, although it might be possible to get an entry-level job with a bachelor's degree.

Required Education Limited job prospects with a bachelor's degree; graduate degree is common
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% for zoologists and wildlife biologists
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $63,420 for zoologists and wildlife biologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that, between 2018 and 2028, open job positions in zoology and wildlife biology might increase only 5% ( Expansion was expected in areas concerned with population growth and wildlife habitats. Some growing ethology career areas could be connected with biotechnology, such as ethologists studying genetics and disease prevention.

Salary Statistics

As of May 2018, zoologists and wildlife scientists, including ethologists, earned an annual median salary of $63,420, according to the BLS. Industries that paid zoologists and wildlife scientists the highest annual average salaries included managing firms of companies and enterprises ($82,370), the federal government ($84,450) and engineering and architectural services ($73,470).

Ethologist Career Requirements

Ethologists must have extensive knowledge in biology, animal sciences, evolution, ecology and genetics. Those who earn a bachelor's degree in one of these fields might find employment as ethology researchers, although the BLS stated that a graduate degree, preferably a doctorate, is usually necessary for biological scientists who want to run their own experiments and research projects.

Additionally, most programs that concentrate on ethological studies are found at the graduate level. Graduate-level coursework related to ethology includes animal behavior, neuroethology, animal social structures and animal communication.

Other Skills

Ethologists who conduct and participate in research projects need to know how to raise funds, often by attracting investors or applying for research grants. Workers who hold a graduate degree are usually required to publish research results, which can be accomplished by writing a book or publishing articles in academic publications related to ethological studies. Ethologists also need to be comfortable working away from home for extended periods of time, which can include working in secluded locations far away from urban developments.

Since most scientists work in teams, ethologists must possess strong communication skills. Sometimes ethologists must explain their research to people outside of their field. Likewise, ethologists work with scientists from several related fields and require a base understanding of how those fields relate to ethology. To stay in touch with colleagues, workers also should be able to use communication technologies, such as e-mail and video communication devices.

Ethologists try to understand the reasons for animal behavior through field and laboratory research. A bachelor's degree may be enough to get a beginning ethologist in the door to assist in research, but for those who aspire to lead their own teams and projects, a graduate degree related to ethology is a wise choice. Job growth in this field is expected to be slow in the coming years, and ethologists need good communication skills, a willingness to travel and the ability to raise research funds through grants or investors.

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