Schools for Aspiring Animal Behaviorists: How to Choose

Jan 02, 2019

Degree programs that cover animal behavior are typically part of a school's zoology or psychology departments. Aspiring animal behaviorists can find programs with coursework in animal behavior at community colleges, technical schools and 4-year colleges and universities, as well as at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels.

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Programs dedicated to animal behavior are uncommon as of 2016; these studies are typically incorporated into other degree programs. Therefore, a program's core focus and subsequent curriculum determines its extent of animal behavior instruction.

Animal Behaviorist Programs

The following public and private schools offer degree programs in animal behavior:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition & Fees (2015-2016, In-state)*
University of California-Davis Davis, CA 4-year, public Master's, Doctorate $13,164 (Graduate)
CUNY Hunter College New York, NY 4-year, public Certificate, Master's $10,438 (Graduate)
Bucknell University Lewisburg, PA 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $50,152 (Undergraduate) $21,900 (Graduate)
Canisius College Buffalo, NY 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's $34,690 (Undergraduate)
Carroll University Waukesha, WI 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's $29,535 (Undergraduate)
Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster, PA 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's $50,400 (Undergraduate)
Hampshire College Amherst, MA 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's $49,048 (Undergraduate)
Southwestern University Georgetown, TX 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's $37,560 (Undergraduate)
University of New England Biddeford, ME 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's $34,760 (Undergraduate)

*Source: National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Students should consider the following before selecting an animal behaviorist school:

  • Prospective undergrad students should determine whether they would like to focus their studies on scientific or humanitarian aspects of the field. A Bachelor of Science program can consist of twice as many science classes as a Bachelor of Arts program, making it suitable for students interested in scientific research and lab work.
  • Students should consider the program's focus; for example, zoologists often focus on one particular animal breed, so graduates of a zoology program may be limited to working in a zoo or similar facility.
  • Prospective students should consider scheduling and travel needs to complete internships, as well as the types of available internships.
  • When choosing a school, one should check to see if it affiliates with the Animal Behavior Society (ABS), which is a voluntary association of animal behavior professionals that publishes information about recent developments in the field, hosts conferences and provides individuals with information about where to find a job after graduation.

Associate of Applied Science in Animal Science

Students in these 2-year programs learn about animal health, biology and more. Most programs permit student to concentrate their studies in topics such as livestock management, equine health or small animal care. Students gain practical experience through lab courses, clinical rotations or externships. Credits earned in these programs may be transferable to a 4-year college or university.

Animal Behavior Bachelor's Degrees

Bachelor's degree programs in zoology or animal science typically consist of 120 credit-hours and require four years of study to achieve a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. Most programs contain internship requirements, some of which may be completed in countries such as Africa or Australia. Students learn about mammology, physiology, animal nutrition and genetics. They also study the behavior and management of domestic animals and must typically also complete a senior thesis or capstone project on an animal behavior topic of their choice.

Master of Science in Animal Behavior

Master of Science in Animal Behavior degree programs typically consist of two years of study. Instruction includes statistics, immunology, animal ethology and more. Students in these programs are usually required to conduct research and write a thesis or complete a comprehensive exam on animal behavior prior to graduation.

Animal Behavior Doctorates

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs last approximately five years and may focus exclusively on animal behavior or may emphasize animal physiology, animal genetics, animal science or even narrower fields. In all cases, students learn biochemistry, ecology and reproductive biology. However, students can tailor their studies via individual research culminating in a mandatory dissertation. They are usually also required to teach undergraduate classes while completing their studies. Most programs provide on-campus labs or are affiliated with local animal facilities that provide research opportunities.

Animal behavior degree programs are available to aspiring animal behaviorists at several 4-year institutions at the undergraduate and graduate level. Students should consider factors such as program concentrations, internship opportunities and more when choosing a school to attend.

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