Ethologist: Job Outlook and Requirements for a Career in Ethology

Ethology is the study of animal behavior. As a subset of zoology, ethology examines such processes as animal aggression, mating habits and animal communication. Ethologists utilize both laboratory and field science methodologies. Many have strong interests in related disciplines, including ecology and evolution sciences. The majority of positions in this field require that applicants hold a graduate degree.

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Ethologist Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that, between 2010 and 2020, open job positions in zoology and wildlife biology might increase only 7% (www.bls.gov). Expansion was expected in areas concerned with population growth and wildlife habitats. Some growing ethology career areas could be connected with biotechnology, such as ethologists studying genetics and disease prevention.

Salary Statistics

As of May 2012, zoologists and wildlife scientists, including ethologists, earned an annual median salary of $57,710, according to the BLS. Industries that paid zoologists and wildlife scientists the highest annual average salaries included managing firms of companies and enterprises ($80,800), the federal government ($78,540), scientific research and development firms ($66,340), engineering and architectural services ($68,910) and local government agencies ($62,110).

Ethologist Career Requirements

Education

Ethologists must have extensive knowledge in biology, animal sciences, evolution, ecology and genetics. Those who earn a bachelor's degree in one of these fields may find employment as ethology researchers, although the BLS stated that a graduate degree, preferably a doctorate, is usually necessary for biological scientists who want to run their own experiments and research projects.

Additionally, most programs that concentrate on ethological studies are found at the graduate level. Graduate-level coursework related to ethology includes animal behavior, neuroethology, animal social structures and animal communication.

Other Skills

Ethologists who conduct and participate in research projects need to know how to raise funds, often by attracting investors or applying for research grants. Workers who hold a graduate degree are usually required to publish research results, which can be accomplished by writing a book or publishing articles in academic publications related to ethological studies. Ethologists also need to be comfortable working away from home for extended periods of time, which can include working in secluded locations far away from urban developments.

Since most scientists work in teams, ethologists must possess strong communication skills. Sometimes ethologists must explain their research to people outside of their field. Likewise, ethologists work with scientists from several related fields and require a base understanding of how those fields relate to ethology. To stay in touch with colleagues, workers also should be able to use communication technologies, such as e-mail and video communication devices.

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