Colleges and universities across the U.S. offer bachelor's, master's and doctorate programs in animal behavior, as well as post-doctoral residency training programs. Veterinary behaviorists are individuals with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) who've completed a residency focusing on animal behavior, and many have successfully passed the veterinary behaviorist exam offered by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB), but there are also relevant educational offerings in the field at lower levels.
Animal Behavior Specialist Schools
Animal behavior specialist programs in the United States are offered at a number of institutions, including those listed here.
|College/University||Location||Institution Type||Degrees Offered||Tuition and Fees (2018-2019)*|
|University of California-Davis||Davis, CA||4-year, public||Master's, Doctoral||In-state $13,570; Out-of-state $28,672 (graduate)|
|Bucknell University||Lewisburg, PA||4-year, private not-for-profit||Bachelor's, Master's||$56,092 (undergrad); $24,496 (graduate)|
|Canisius College||Buffalo, NY||4-year, private not-for-profit||Bachelor's||$28,488 (undergrad)|
|Carroll University||Waukesha, WI||4-year, private not-for-profit||Bachelor's||$31,918 (undergrad)|
|Franklin and Marshall College||Lancaster, PA||4-year, private not-for-profit||Bachelor's||$56,550 (undergrad)|
|Hampshire College||Amherst, MA||4-year, private not-for-profit||Courses||$51,668 (undergrad)|
|Southwestern University||Georgetown, TX||4-year, private not-for-profit||Bachelor's||$42,000 (undergrad)|
|University of New England||Biddeford, ME||4-year, private not-for-profit||Bachelor's||$37,620 (undergrad)|
Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
School Selection Criteria
There are a number of considerations for students planning to study animal behavior.
- Students interested in working directly with animals may prefer programs in applied animal behavior or behavior counseling, which include field experience trips to animal shelters and hospitals, where students learn to use training equipment and perform behavior assessments.
- Students who have completed a DVM program may receive specialized training in animal behavior through post-DVM residency programs.
- Students with a DVM may look for residency programs that require interaction with animals other than cats and dogs, like horses or exotic birds.
- When considering programs that require research, prospective students may want to find out if there are faculty at the school with whom they share research interests in animal behavior-related topics, as they may act as advisors and supervisors.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
Undergraduate students can earn either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in animal behavior. These programs begin with foundational coursework in the sciences, including biology, psychology and chemistry. From there, graduates can take more advanced courses in topics such as animal cognition and behavioral neuroscience. Prior to graduation, students may be required to submit a capstone research project.
Master of Science in Animal Behavior
Master's degree programs may offer concentrations, including applied animal behavior or evolutionary foundations of animal behavior. Completion of a research-based thesis paper or final project is often required. In some cases, courses required for a master's degree program may be applicable toward a doctorate degree. With a master's degree and two years of professional experience, an individual can apply for the Associate Applied Animal Behaviorist certification through the Animal Behavior Society (ABS).
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Animal Behavior
Ph.D. candidates complete a dissertation relating to their field. Students should consider school characteristics when selecting a Ph.D. program, like access to faculty and affiliated animal clinics. The ABS offers a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists credential to individuals who have earned a Ph.D. and completed five years of professional experience.
Post-DVM Residency Programs
Students with a DVM who seek additional training in animal behavior can find residency programs that focus on behavioral therapy and rehabilitation. Students work in school-sponsored animal clinics or shelters under the guidance of a faculty member. Many residency programs require completion of a peer-reviewed paper or research project.
Animal behaviorists assess and treat undesirable behaviors of animals. They can prepare for their career by pursuing studies at a public or private institution, and typically complete a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree.