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Applied Animal Behavior Science Degree Program Information

Read about associate's, bachelor's and doctoral degree programs in the field of animal care, animal behavior and animal science. Get information on curriculum, career opportunities and continuing education options.

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Essential Information

Degree programs specifically covering applied animal behavior don't exist, but some schools do offer degrees in related fields such as animal care, general animal behavior and animal science. These degree programs prepare graduates for careers working with animals in a variety of settings, from farms to veterinary offices. Degrees relevant to applied animal behavior are available at the associate's, bachelor's and doctoral levels. Most programs require classroom work as well as hands-on experiences in clinical care or for research.


Associate's Degree in Small Animal Care

Some community colleges offer Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree programs in small animal care. Students in these programs learn about scientific, practical and theoretical concepts related to caring for animals, and often allow students to gain hands-on experience. These programs emphasize breeding, grooming, training, feeding as well as pets and other domesticated animals. Students interested in animal behavior can learn the influence of genetics and training on how animals act.

Educational Prerequisites

AAS programs generally admit all applicants who have completed high school or earned a General Educational Development (GED). Since incoming students need to have strong skills in science, taking Advanced Placement high school courses in biology, chemistry and physics is beneficial.

Program Coursework

The classes offered in animal care AAS degree programs prepare graduates to work with pets and livestock. Students learn about animal nutrition, the economics of animal care and the techniques used to keep animals healthy. The courses below are usually offered:

  • Domestic animal physiology
  • Small animal care
  • Laboratory animal care
  • Animal science
  • Business aspects of animals

Popular Career Options

Earning an AAS in small animal care prepares graduates for entry-level careers in several industries. People who enter the workforce directly after earning an associate's degree usually need further education to move to advanced careers, regardless of their employment experience. The careers noted below are popular options:

  • Animal boarding assistant
  • Veterinary assistant
  • Animal groomer

Bachelor's Degree in Animal Behavior

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree programs combine psychological theories with biological principles to explain how animals act. Students learn to control animal behavior through classroom instruction and laboratory experiments. Programs also cover the methods used to study how animals behave in their natural habitats. Students often conduct original research using lab animals prior to graduation.

Educational Prerequisites

People interested in B.A. or B.S. degree programs in animal behavior need to have strong mathematics and science skills. Programs look for students who have completed advanced high school coursework in algebra, biology and chemistry in particular. Most programs also ask applicants to submit their college entrance exam scores.

Program Coursework

A significant portion of the coursework in animal behavior bachelor's degree programs emphasizes ethology, the study of natural animal behavior. Programs also discuss how an animal's ecology affects its behavior. Students usually take classes on the topics below:

  • Animal eating behavior
  • Behavior of laboratory animals
  • Adaptive behavior
  • Animal neurobiology
  • Behavior of primates

Popular Career Options

People who earn an animal behavior bachelor's degree often observe animals in both manipulated and natural settings. Since students learn the methods used to control animal behavior, they often conduct original research. Students often enter the following careers:

  • Ethologist
  • Ornithologist
  • Ecologist

Doctoral Degree in Animal Behavior

It is exceptionally uncommon for schools to offer degree programs that award a terminal master's degree in animal behavior, so graduate students enroll in doctorate programs instead. Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs emphasize how animals adapt to new environments and evolve over time. Students take a multidisciplinary approach to researching animal behavior, incorporating ideas from biology, psychology, ecology, neuroscience and anthropology.

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants need a bachelor's or master's degree in a subject such as ecology or animal science to be considered for a Ph.D. program. Students need to be familiar with basic concepts in statistics, genetics, physiology and ecology before beginning their doctoral studies. Most programs require applicants to submit GRE scores, letters of recommendation and a personal statement as part of the application process.

Program Coursework

Ph.D. program coursework in animal behavior emphasizes research methodology and statistical analysis of objective data. Students are expected to conduct unique research and complete a dissertation project. The subjects noted below are often required:

  • Evolution and animal behavior
  • Animal neuroscience
  • Statistical analysis in animal behavior
  • Animal behavior research methodology
  • Animal observation

Popular Career Options

Animal behavior Ph.D. programs teach the skills necessary for a variety of careers. Graduates often choose the careers mentioned below:

  • University professor
  • Animal behavior field researcher
  • Experimental animal behavior researcher

Continuing Education Information

A very limited number of people become Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists through the Animal Behavior Society. People interested in certification need a doctorate and must have at least five years of work experience in the discipline.

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  • School locations:
    • Arizona (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Northern Arizona University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
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      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
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      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
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    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
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    • Rhode Island (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
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    • North Carolina (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
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      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
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