Animal biology is a science that focuses on the origins, behaviors and environments of non-plant organisms. Degree programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate degree levels of study. To learn more about career opportunities and academic requirements in this field, continue reading.
Animal biology is the study of the chemical and physical makeup of animals. If you choose to study in the field, you will explore animal evolution, ecology, molecular biology, physiology and genetics. In some degree programs, the focus is on principles of biology that can be useful in solving problems that involve farm, urban, wild and domestic animals. You can pursue bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree programs in animal biology and related fields, including animal molecular and cellular biology, animal and dairy science, zoology, animal science and veterinary medicine.
Although bachelor's degree programs in animal biology alone are rare, you can choose to enroll in related programs, such as those in animal science, that often include courses in animal biology. Courses commonly cover animal anatomy and physiology, ape anthropology, evolution, animal behaviors, infectious diseases and include lab work. Many master's and doctoral degree programs are also available in biology or animal science with a concentration in animal biology. Graduate degree programs in animal biology may have specializations in genetics, zoology, dairy science or animal behavior. Some topics of study include caring for farm animals, livestock management and advanced studies in animal genetics and nutrition.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals in this field must be able to work on their own and with a team, work under pressure, get along with animals and their owners or caretakers, solve problems related to animal health and keep accurate records (www.bls.gov). Careers for animal biologists may be in teaching, research, agriculture, health or government regulation. The BLS projects that between 2008 and 2018 the employment demand will increase by 13% for animal scientists, by 33% for veterinarians and by 21% for animal caretakers, including zookeepers. As of May 2010, veterinarians made a median annual salary of $82,040, animal scientists made $58,250 and animal caretakers made $19,550.
Many career opportunities exist in animal biology, and most require you to have at least a bachelor's degree. Since degree programs in animal biology are science-based, they can provide you with experience in many settings. This could help you decide the area you enjoy most, whether it's working hands-on with animals, working in a lab, conducting research or a combination of those options.
With a bachelor's degree in animal biology, you could pursue a career caring for animals as a wild life rehabilitator or farm manager. As a farm manager, you provide animal care in well-managed settings and monitor their nutrition, health and behaviors. If you choose to become a wildlife rehabilitator, you track animals in their natural settings and work with veterinarians to help them when they're injured. You could also choose to pursue advanced studies in animal biology or a related field, leading to additional opportunities.
With a master's or a doctorate degree in animal biology, you could become a university biology or animal biology instructor. An animal science career also typically requires a doctorate degree. As an animal scientist, you would strive to improve the efficiency and quality of the meat and dairy processing techniques and products by improving animal living conditions, health and nutrition. If you become a veterinarian, you will work with domestic, wild, farm and exotic animals. For this career, you complete a doctoral degree program in veterinary medicine, which takes an additional four years beyond the bachelor's degree.