We're excited to announce that we're changing our name to Study.com All of our great content and features are remaining the same. Learn more x

Animal Behavior Specialist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

An animal behavior specialist observes animals in order to understand the history and evolution of a species. Specialized areas of the science include ethology, behavioral ecology, comparative psychology and anthropology. Animal behavior specialists may work in zoos, aquariums and museums, as well as wildlife organizations and medical research industries. Educational requirements vary based on the profession.

View 13 Popular Schools »

Job Description for an Animal Behavior Specialist

An animal behavior specialist studies animals' and organisms' eating habits, mating rituals and adaptive processes in their natural environment. By observing survival techniques and nurturing mannerisms, animal specialists can determine how and why species interact, thrive or become extinct. Additionally, they investigate internal changes, evaluating hormonal or genetic causes of behavioral patterns.

Job Duties for an Animal Behavior Specialist

Animal behavior specialists are employed in the fields of ethology, ecology, psychology and anthropology. Each of these sciences investigate animal mannerisms and seek to discover the basis for certain behaviors and how they relate within a genus, to other species or to their environment.


An ethologist studies animals to determine genetic or environmental causes for behaviors. Scientists track the history and evolution of these behaviors to discover if they are derived from predisposed instinct or learned deduction. These specialists may conduct experiments within a lab setting or a natural, though controlled, environment.

Behavioral Ecologists

Emerging from ethology, the discipline of behavioral ecology is to understand how an animal's behavior adapts to their environment. Through empirical observations, the behavioral ecologist theorizes how and why specific changes in behavior have helped certain species survive in an environment.

Comparative Psychologists

A comparative psychologist is concerned with behavioral similarities that might govern all animals, not just one specific type or species. Experiments typically employ only a handful of species and are used to find commonalities among different species in areas of disease, intelligence, reproduction and migratory patterns. Employing studies of ethology, ecology and anthropology, comparative psychologists analyze interspecies behaviors, including those shared with humans.


The science of anthropology is concerned with behavior in human beings and how the social environment surrounding humans affects behavior. To study certain behaviors, such as gender roles or languages, an anthropologist compares two indigenous populations and records similarities and differences. Anthropology is typically separated into cultural, physical, historical and linguistic disciplines.

Requirements for an Animal Behavior Specialist

Generally, the minimum educational requirement for an animal behavior specialist is a bachelor's degree, though academic conditions vary based on the profession and industry. Full-time researchers often need a graduate degree, such as a master's, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and those that treat animals may require a state veterinarian practitioner's license. Zoos, aquariums and museums which employ animal behavior specialists may require a bachelor's or master's degree, as well as specialized training.

Salary and Job Outlook

Many animal behavioral specialist careers fall into the occupational category of zoologists and wildlife biologists. Employment for this group is projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to grow 5% over the 2012-2022 decade. This is slower-than-average growth. The median salary for these workers was $57,710 in May 2012.

Show me popular schools

Related to Animal Behavior Specialist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

  • Related
  • Recently Updated
  • Popular
Degrees in Companion Animal Behavior: Program Information

Animal behavior is an interdisciplinary field that combines psychology and biology to translate animal movements and actions...

Animal Behavior Degree Program Overviews

A degree program in animal behavior combines the disciplines of both psychology and biology in the study of various species....

Graduate Programs in Animal Behavior: Degree Information

Get information on master's and doctoral degree programs in animal behavior. Learn about prerequisites, courses, research...

Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior: Degree Program Overview

Learn about the requirements and courses for a bachelor's degree program in animal behavior. Find out about career choices,...

Animal Doctor Career Options: Overview of Jobs and Opportunities

Popular Schools

Popular Schools

Avg. Wages For Related Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics