Animal science includes many fields like veterinary medicine and the agricultural activities of raising livestock. Learn about career opportunities and salary info as well as educational requirements and courses of study.
Animal science is a broad field that looks at the propagation, management and care of a variety of animals. In animal science programs, you might focus on areas as wide-ranging as livestock care or the physiology of mammals. These programs are found at all educational levels, from associate to doctoral degrees.
Graduates of animal science programs can pursue careers in animal behavior and biology, animal agribusiness, biotechnology, animal products or animal production. Studying animal science can also prepare you to pursue a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. Jobs as farm managers, animal technicians or livestock specialists are also popular. Additionally, you might qualify for positions in public relations and management, sales or administration in animal industries. Graduates of upper-level programs are qualified to work in research, searching for more effective ways to produce and process eggs, dairy, beef and poultry.
Agricultural and food scientists are responsible for food safety and agricultural productivity, working with genetics, biotechnology and nanotechnology for research and development. Animal science specialists in this field tend to develop efficient ways to increase the production of animal products. Typically, positions include animal breeder, poultry scientist and dairy scientist.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for animal scientists are predicted to be favorable between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported an expected growth in employment of 9% during this timeframe. Animal scientists in May 2012 earned a mean annual wage of $73,400, with a mean hourly wage of $35.29.
Animal science associate's degree programs are available at community colleges and accredited universities. These degree programs prepare you for employment in either general animal science or in a specialty area, such as equine science. After completing this type of program, you can typically find employment as a veterinary assistant or veterinary technician. A bachelor's degree in animal science is usually required by employers in the food processing industry and farming, with more advanced degrees being required to work in research. For instance, most agricultural scientists with advanced degrees begin their careers in research rather than in the field.
Master's degrees in animal science allow you to focus on animal behavior and well-being, growth and development, genetics, physiology, nutrition or meat science. A focus on management and administration in the animal industry might also be available. If you choose to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Animal Science, you might find work as a professor, perform research or work as a consultant within the animal industry.
Though the curricula vary in focus, there are core topics generally addressed by all animal science programs. Most programs include the study of physiology and reproductive issues in livestock and, occasionally, companion animals. Animal science programs also blend courses in microbiology, agricultural science, earth science and biotechnology into their curriculum.