If you have interests in both animals and psychology, then a PhD in animal behavior could be the perfect way to meld those two fields of study. This advanced degree will have you researching and studying topics related to biological and environmental factors that affect animal behavior.
PhD in Animal Behavior: Overview
A PhD in animal behavior is a research-heavy degree option for those who are interested in furthering their careers in biology, psychology, research, or wildlife studies. Entrance into an animal behavior PhD program will typically require you to have a relevant bachelor's or master's degree, ideally one related to biology or psychology. It sometimes can take 5-8 years to complete your PhD in animal behavior. During this time, you will commonly take courses that focus on animal development, primate behavior, neuroscience, evolution, and much more. You will likely be required to develop your own research and complete a dissertation. After the completion of your PhD, there are several career paths available to you, which can be found in the below chart.
PhD in Animal Behavior: Career Statistics
|Job Title||Median Salary (2018)*||Job Growth (2016-2026)*|
|Professor||$82,550 (biological science teachers, postsecondary)||15% (biological science teachers, postsecondary)|
|Postdoctoral Researcher||$48,222 (postdoctoral research associate; 2019)**||10% (biological technicians)|
|Zoologist||$63,420 (zoologists and wildlife biologists)||8% (zoologists and wildlife biologists)|
|Naturalist||$36,296 (2019)**||6% (conservation scientists and foresters)|
|Research Director||$101,841 (2019)**||6% (animal scientists)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.
Career Choices for Those with a PhD in Animal Behavior
First, a majority of PhD holders in animal behavior go on to become professors, as this type of degree is primarily a research degree that prepares one to continue on with their area of interest. The animal behavior specialty is usually housed in biology, life sciences, or psychology departments. As a professor, you will be expected to teach at all levels and will need to continue your research as well as publish journal articles and books.
A postdoctoral researcher is someone who also works in the academic world. After earning a PhD in animal behavior, it's not always possible to find a professor job right away. In that case, a postdoctoral research job allows one to continue working in the animal behavior field while assisting senior professors with research as well as conducting their own.
Outside of academia, a PhD in animal behavior can also allow you to specialize in the field of zoology. Although there is also a PhD in zoology available, the PhD in animal behavior could allow you to become an expert in a distinct field of study that directly relates to animal psychology, the ways animals interact with humans, and similar subjects. The PhD in animal behavior might aid you in a zoologist career that is more research-orientated rather than hands-on with animals. However, as a zoologist with a PhD in animal behavior, you could still work in zoos and for wildlife centers.
A naturalist is someone who might work for an environmental group, a government agency, or for a state park. This job is a mixture of field work and research. As a naturalist, you could work for non-profits that study the environment and animals or for conversation groups that focus on species reintroduction or wildlife issues. The PhD in animal behavior could give you all the research skills you will need as a naturalist.
Last, as the PhD in animal behavior prepares you to become an expert researcher, you could put your skills to use as a research director. Several organizations, including zoos, have research directors who conduct, manage, and oversee both internal and external research projects. The PhD in animal behavior is one avenue for achieving this kind of research-driven career that also focuses on animals.
The PhD in animal behavior can prepare you for a career in many different fields, including those that include the intersection of research and wildlife. You could choose to continue on in the world of academia by becoming a professor or work for a zoo or wildlife organization that requires one to do research.