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Schools with Ethology Programs: How to Choose

Ethology is the study of animal behavioral patterns and the underlying instincts that control these behaviors. Continue reading to learn about what you should keep in mind when choosing an ethology program, and to view some U.S. schools that offer ethology degrees.

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Ethology is a highly specialized discipline that students pursue upon completion of an undergraduate science degree. Schools with biology programs that feature an emphasis on ecology, ethology or evolution should give students both the necessary scientific training and a useful introduction to ethology.

Schools with Ethology Programs

The following 4-year schools offer programs for students interested in studying ethology:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2015-2016, In-state)*
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 California-Davis Davis, CA 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral $13,164 (Graduate)
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

Don't forget the following as you consider ethology programs:

  • Students may want to see whether a school has practicing ethologists with research experience among its faculty members.
  • The ratio of students to ethology faculty members can be important since students at schools with a limited number of ethology specialists may be forced to compete for help and opportunities.
  • Research positions often count for credit, allow students to earn distinction, and can help potential ethologists build a firm foundation in scientific methods.
  • There will likely be financial differences to consider between private and public schools that offer the program.

Bachelor of Science in Biology or Animal Behavior

Because bachelor's programs in ethology are not available, students should instead earn a bachelor's degree in biology or animal behavior so that they may study ethology at the graduate level. Some schools offer concentrations in ethology that act as an introduction to the subject. If a school does not offer an ethology concentration, students should select classes in ethology as electives to prepare themselves for further study.

Master of Science in Biology; Ethology; or Ecology, Evolution and Behavior

Ethology is highly specialized, and most students need to earn at least a master's degree for entrance to the field. Programs at the master's level have varying names. Students should consult program advisers as early as possible; some programs require students to fulfill prerequisites beyond those earned in a bachelor's program. These degrees require the completion of lab-related work and projects, as well as a research thesis.

Doctor of Philosophy in Biology

A Ph.D. in Biology with a focus in ecology, ethology or evolution is the usual terminal degree for ethologists, although many Ph.D. programs in the life sciences have ethology components. After students complete an ethology-based dissertation, they are eligible to begin their work as researchers.

Students interested in studying ethology can pursue a bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree in the field from public or private institutions across the country. When selecting a program to apply to, students should consider things like the number of faculty and research opportunities.

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