What Is an Animal Science Major?

Research what it takes to work in animal science. Learn about the education requirements, job duties, job outlook and salary for potential careers in this field to find out if majoring in animal science is right for you.

What Is an Animal Science Major?

An animal science major can provide you with an in-depth knowledge of animal health, animal behavior, farm management and livestock production. Those who study animal science can pursue a variety of jobs involving the care of animals, though some positions require additional education beyond the bachelor's degree. The most advanced career you can get with this degree is that of an animal scientist. In this position, you'd conduct research on ways to improve the productivity of livestock, spending time studying animal genetics, diseases and nutrition. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering other careers of this field.

Animal ScientistZookeeperVeterinary Technologist
Degree Required Bachelor's degree followed by a Ph.D. Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Education Field of StudyAnimal science, biology Animal science, zoology, nutritionAnimal science, veterinary technology
Key ResponsibilitiesResearching advancements in animal genetics, conducting experiments, breeding animals, advising farmers Feeding and training animals, educating zoo visitorsAssisting veterinarians in providing medical treatment for animals
Job Growth (2018-28) 7%* 16%* (for all non-farm animal caretakers)* 19% (for vet technologists and technicians)*
Median Salary (2018) $58,380*$23,760 (for all non-farm animal caretakers)* $34,420 (for vet technologists and technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Study In an Animal Science Bachelor's Degree Program?

An animal science program teaches you topics including animal care, livestock production, breeding and animal disease control. A major in animal science prepares you to work in a variety of fields, including animal behavior, veterinary sciences, agriculture and biotechnology. Your program will likely offer concentrations in pre-veterinary care, the animal industry or exotic animals. With this degree, you'll have a range of career options, whether you're interested in conservation or game populating.

What Will the Curriculum Look Like?

In a bachelor's degree program in animal science, you may take courses, not only in science, but also in business and marketing. You will gain communication and management skills in addition to a solid knowledge of animal anatomy and physiology. Depending on the area in which you want to specialize, you may focus on studying domestic animals, animal breeding, zoo keeping or agriculture. An animal science major often includes studies in the following subjects:

  • Biology
  • Organic chemistry
  • Animal physiology
  • Exotic animals
  • Domestic animals
  • Cell biology
  • Animal diseases
  • Farm management
  • Agriculture
  • Animal genetics
  • Genetic engineering
  • Animal nutrition
  • Animal behavior

What Careers Can I Consider?

According to the American Society of Animal Science, there are more than 500 kinds of jobs available for animal science degree programs (www.asas.org). Typical careers pursued by graduates of an animal science major include veterinarian assistant, animal breeding technician, animal caretaker (usually a specialization in one kind of animal, swine, cattle, equine, etc.), lab technician, zookeeper, livestock manager, public relations specialist, marketer, kennel keeper, gamekeeper, meat processor, pet safety educator or habitat specialist.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that animal scientists made a median annual salary of $58,380 as of May 2018. Non-farm animal caretakers, including zookeepers, earned median salaries of $23,760 (www.bls.gov) in 2018, and veterinary technologists and technicians made a median of $34,420 that same year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few scientific fields related to animal science include plant science, conservation science and environmental science. Like many animal scientists, plant scientists are categorized as agriculture and food scientists, yet they specialize in the study of ways to make agricultural crops more productive, rather than livestock. Conservation scientists monitor and manage parks, forests and other protected environmental lands. This includes analyzing soil, plant life and wild life. Environmental scientists study ways to protect the environment and global health. While a bachelor's degree can lead to an entry-level work in any of these fields, a graduate degree is often required in order to conduct independent research.