How Do I Become an Animal Behaviorist?

Research the education requirements and experience needed to become an animal behaviorist. Learn about the types of jobs available, salary potential and job outlook to see if this might be the career path for you. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Animal Behaviorist Do?

Animal behaviorists work in a variety of settings, including private homes, zoos and natural settings. They observe animal activities, address the behavioral problems of pets and conserve natural habitats. They observe animals to learn about things like how certain animals interact with members of another species, their mating rituals or group dynamics. Depending on their place of work, animal behaviorists may conduct research experiments and report their findings in papers and articles and/or present them to the public and scientific community. The chart below illustrates the education requirements, job outlook and salary potential for this career category.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Zoology, Animal Science, Biology
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% (zoologists and wildlife biologists)*
Median Salary (2015) $59,680 (zoologists and wildlife biologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is an Animal Behaviorist?

As an animal behaviorist, you can work with animals in a number of settings, including laboratories, homes, ranches or natural habitats. Animal behaviorists are scientists who observe the range of animal activity, from finding how they find food to how they find mates and raise their offspring. You may work for a university, zoo, wildlife preserve, research institute, veterinary office or for yourself.

Perhaps most importantly, you must understand the work you'll be doing as an animal behaviorist. Not only will you recreate natural habitats for wild animals in captivity, but you'll work with pet owners to solve behavioral problems. Overall, your goal is to save the lives of animals, protect them from unnecessary stresses, and conserve their habitats and species.

What Should I Study in College?

There is really no particular degree to becoming an animal behaviorist. However, a bachelor's degree is commonly the lowest degree that employers accept. The study of animal behavior combines psychology, conservation, zoology, biology, law, ecology and sociology. Many future animal behaviorists pursue Bachelor of Science in Animal Science, Bachelor of Science in Zoology or Bachelor of Science in Biology degrees. Some colleges offer bachelor's degree programs in animal behavior.

Graduate programs are also available and recommended for advanced career opportunities. Consider a Master of Science in Animal Science or Zoology degree, and you may go on to get a Doctor of Philosophy in Zoology with an animal behavior emphasis. Some of the subjects you may study include:

  • Mammalogy
  • Eating Behaviors
  • Orinthology
  • Evolution
  • Adaptive Behavior
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animal Rights
  • Social Organization and Pack Animals

How Do I Earn Experience?

Gaining experience in the field or researching your own theories is beneficial for your career and education. Experience is good for your employment opportunities or graduate school. While you're completing your undergraduate coursework, seek out summer internships with zoos, parks and forests. Also consider an assistant position with professors or independent researchers. Some colleges offer fellowships for graduate students or post-graduate students. These fellowships provide research opportunities and clinical experience during the summer or after you've graduated.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few related career options include those of conservation scientists and foresters, biological technicians, and environmental scientists and specialists. All of these careers require at least a bachelor's degree. Conservation scientists and foresters manage and monitor the quality of different outdoor spaces, such as parks or forests. Biological technicians work with a biologist or medical scientist to perform a variety of lab tests and different experiments. Environmental scientists and specialists aim to protect human health and the environment using science to reduce pollution and more.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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