Animal Behaviorist Careers
If you work as an Animal Behaviorist, you likely study the foundational motivation of behavior in animals. This embraces those ‘animals’ ranging from the smallest single cell organisms to the largest mammals and everything that falls in-between. There are many different animals and factors contributing to their behaviors, such as environment and evolution. Therefore, several highly specialized areas of practice for an animal behaviorist are apparent. Ethology, science, laboratory, and applied animal behavior are the predominant fields of specialization in this career subsector.
- Examine the physical environment of the animal along with its relationship to the other creatures existing in its habitat.
- Observe how the animal interacts with its surroundings.
- Apply principles of animal behavior science.
- Research an animal’s methods of communication, instinctual responses, learning methods, psychology, and group interaction skills.
- Suggest various forms of treatment if behavior is problematic.
- Give lectures to students, supervise lab activities, and conduct and publish research projects.
- Collaborate with other researchers and travel to observe animals in the wild if relevant to the study.
- Compile a case study to determine how an animal’s behavior developed.
Median Wage January 2019: approximately $70,000 annually
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not separate out data specifically for animal behaviorists, the outlook for career growth in related fields is expected to be solid as animal care and service positions are expected to grow at a rate of about 22% from 2016 to 2026.
For more information
- National Association of Animal Behaviorists
- American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
- Exotic Wildlife Association
- American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
- Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians
- Animal Behavior Management Alliance
- National Wildlife Federation
- Animal Behavior Society
- American Ornithological Society
- American Society of Mammalogists
- Association of Field Ornithologists
- The Wildlife Society
- American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
- Association of Professional Dog Trainers
- Ornithological Societies of North America
- International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
- Science Director Animal Behavior Journal
- Animal Behavior and Cognition
- SVBT Behavior Prospective Newsletter
- Animal Wellness
- Birds of the World (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
- IAABC Articles
- Journal of Mammalogy (open access articles)
- Journal of Field Ornithology
A career in the field of animal behavior requires more than a bachelor's degree, in most cases. A solid background in genetics, psychology, biology, zoology, or ecology can build a great foundation for anyone considering a career as an animal behaviorist. Advanced degrees in veterinary medicine, biology, zoology, and psychology are preferable for most research and clinical settings. Many animal behaviorists find themselves working for wildlife departments or doing research at universities and veterinary colleges. A PhD is essential if teaching at a college level is your choice of career path.
While dog trainers fall under the umbrella of animal behaviorists, they may not necessarily require an advanced degree. They do tend to have a strong background in canine learning and conditioning techniques. Many are certified through the Association of Professional Dog Trainers or other national groups.
To find an institution of higher education that offers a program relative to your career aspirations to become an Animal Behaviorist, the easiest place to start for most people is to perform a simple search by area of interest. Overall, there are associate, bachelor, and advanced degree programs in public and private postsecondary colleges and universities across the country in the following areas:
- Wildlife Biology
- Animal Behavior
- Wildlife Habitat
- Animal Biology
- Wildlands Science
Use the link provided below and the ‘Browse for Program’ button to search by program area:
Note The American Veterinary Medical Association offers board specialty certification to veterinarians through its American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB). Certification involves a two-year residency program under the supervision of a board-certified veterinary behaviorist and a comprehensive board exam.