Animal Nutrition Science

Animal nutrition science involves understanding animal physiology with regard to diet and nutrition. Learn about academic programs and career requirements. Get outlook and salary info for jobs related to animal nutrition.

Is Animal Nutrition for Me?

Career Overview

Animal nutrition science is the study of the dietary and nutritional benefits of animal feed. Degree programs focus on livestock, such as beef and dairy cattle, swine and poultry. Program emphasis is on balancing vitamins, protein, carbohydrates and minerals to ensure that the livestock receive the maximum nutritional benefits. Some programs examine diets for fish, domesticated animals and wildlife.

Career Skills

To work in animal nutrition, you must like animals and care about their well-being. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), skills in math and science are useful; the ability to analyze and apply data is essential. You should also be able to communicate effectively and work independently. Patience and an aptitude for solving problems are also important for a career in animal nutrition (www.bls.gov).

Career Options

With a degree in animal nutrition, you could work at a farm or a ranch, providing a nutritional diet to livestock. You could also conduct research in animal nutrition, assessing what animals are consuming and how food intake affects their own and the health of the consumer. Other options include working in animal care or becoming a veterinarian. According to the BLS, there were about 2,700 animal scientists, 70,300 veterinarians, 190,600 nonfarm animal caretakers and 930,600 farmers, ranchers and agricultural managers employed in 2012.

As reported by the BLS, employment opportunities for farmers and ranchers are expected to decrease by 19% nationwide between 2012 and 2022; nonfarm animal caretakers will see 15%, or faster-than-average, growth in jobs during the same 10-year period. Openings for veterinarians and animal scientists are expected to increase by average rates of 12% and 9%, respectively, from 2012-2022.

The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for nonfarm animal caretakers, which includes zookeepers, was $19,690 in May 2012; animal scientists earned a median salary of $64,260. As of May 2012, veterinarians had a median annual income of $86,640, while farmers and ranchers earned $70,110 per year, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Animal Nutrition?

Undergraduate Programs

An undergraduate or graduate program in animal science with a concentration in animal nutrition can help you acquire the education and experience you need to work in the field. Through an undergraduate program in animal nutrition, you could explore the nutritional needs of livestock, and find ways to create and adapt a diet that includes fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and water. As a qualified graduate, you might pursue a career as a zookeeper, farmer or rancher. You could also apply to a graduate degree program in animal nutrition, animal science or a related field, such as veterinary medicine.

Graduate Programs

Some master's and doctoral degree programs may focus on the nutritional needs of specific animals, such as dairy cattle. Once enrolled, you'll have the opportunity to explore nutritional needs, learn how reproduction affects nutrition and discover techniques to balance a diet. You may also explore contemporary issues and problems in animal nutrition. Most schools require that you conduct research in animal and nutrition sciences by working with dairy cattle, poultry or swine. Upon graduation, you may find work as a college professor, researcher, animal scientist or with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), testing the food animals consume and learning how what animals eat affects human health.

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