Top College Degrees for Animal Lovers



College Programs if You Love Animals

Simply put: we have assembled this guide to help you convert your passion for animals into a career.  For many people, the key becomes understanding your options and how to turn your dreams into reality.  In most virtually every case, education and experience will help you land your dream job working with animals.

You will find below a list of common degree types that can help you on your way to becoming a certified, licensed professional in your chosen field of study.  Examples of college majors to help you find a vocation working with animals include:

College Degree Clusters for Animal Enthusiasts

Biology Degrees for Animal Lovers

Marine Biology - Marine biology is a form of wildlife biology that studies animals in salt water environments. A degree in marine biology will provide student with the knowledge necessary to understand, study and evaluate such animals and how they operate in their environment. Marine biology is typically pursued at the graduate level, with interested students obtaining an undergraduate degree in a related field, commonly biology though not necessarily. An understanding of various sciences is required for marine biology, and experience traversing marine environments will be beneficial. Students pursuing marine biology will learn about a variety of animals and organisms that occupy the sea, such as microscopic organisms, deep sea fish that live in sunless environments, crustaceans and mammals. Some marine biologists may choose to focus on a specific group or subgroup.

Zoology and Animal Biology - Zoology and Animal Biology is the study of animals, their environments and interactions, and the cellular makeup and processes that keep them alive. Degrees in zoology and animal biology can be obtained at the associate level and continue until the PhD, though most individuals will typically pursue at least a bachelor's degree. Zoology and animal biology is considered a very broad sub-field of biology, and provides skills and knowledge in scientific research, laboratory science, along with chemistry, physics and genetics.

Marine Biology - Marine biology is a form of wildlife biology that studies animals in salt water environments. A degree in marine biology will provide student with the knowledge necessary to understand, study and evaluate such animals and how they operate in their environment. Marine biology is typically pursued at the graduate level, with interested students obtaining an undergraduate degree in a related field, commonly biology though not necessarily. An understanding of various sciences is required for marine biology, and experience traversing marine environments will be beneficial. Students pursuing marine biology will learn about a variety of animals and organisms that occupy the sea, such as microscopic organisms, deep sea fish that live in sunless environments, crustaceans and mammals. Some marine biologists may choose to focus on a specific group or subgroup.

Environmental Biology - Environmental Biology is an interdisciplinary branch of biology emphasizing the study of the environment and solutions to environmental issues. Environmental Biology fuses biological sciences with information sciences and physical sciences to provide an integrated, quantitative, and multifaceted approach to the environment.  The study of Environmental Biology includes disciplines that include the following: atmospheric science, geodesy, soil science, geology, ecology, biology, chemistry, physics, zoology, oceanography, mineralogy, and limnology.  An Environmental Biologist understand environmental issues most often have chemical, biological, and physical properties integrated within the problem and take a systems approach to understand the matters at hand.

Wildlife Biology - A degree in wildlife biology prepares students with the skills and knowledge necessary to understand and observe the behavior of wildlife in their natural habitats. A student wishing to study wildlife biology will learn about ecosystems and study how animals act and react in that system. Many programs will incorporate classroom education with field experience and laboratory work. The study of wildlife biology requires an understanding of a cross section of disciplines, including biology, ecology and psychology. Degrees are available at the bachelor, master and doctoral level, with entry level positions available to bachelor degree holders. Master degree holders will have more options, and a master's degree is typically necessary for research positions. A doctoral degree will allow an individual to obtain supervisory positions as well as teaching opportunities.

Veterinary Science Degrees for Animal Lovers

Veterinarian - Veterinary studies is a graduate level degree that requires a student to have earned a related bachelor’s degree prior to enrollment in a program. Upon completion, the student will earn a doctorate, doctor of veterinary medicine (D.V.M.), which typically takes four years. Individuals will study a variety of topics related to healthcare, animal biology, physiology and more, as well as becoming familiarized with diseases and other ailments that may be common a given species.  Veterinary programs are highly competitive, and it has been show that more than half of all applicants are refused entry. An ideal school will provide resources and facilities that are up to date and allow for practical education alongside more traditional classroom courses. Students will work alongside experienced professionals, and will also have to participate in clinical rotations which are necessary to obtain licensure.

Veterinary Assistant and Veterinary Technician - Veterinary assistants work alongside veterinarians to provide aid, treatment and care to injured and recovering animals in a veterinary hospital environment. Individuals working as assistants will be responsible for patient intake, recording medical histories, preparing animals for surgery, aiding during surgical procedures, and providing postoperative care while noting any changes in the patient’s health. Veterinary assistance requires individuals to be able to work with animals daily, to perform clerical tasks alongside other duties, and to perform tasks and treatments under the supervision of a veterinarian. An assistant should be courteous, knowledgeable, and capable.

Animal Science Degrees for Animal Lovers

Animal Science - Animal science refers to the study of domesticated animals for a variety of reasons, including areas such as breeding, nutrition, behavior and biotechnology. Originally the study of animal science was used for farm animals, though over the course of its development has expanded to include domesticated pets, and other such animals, and thus has also become a precursor to studying veterinary science.

Equine Science - Equine studies is the area of education and employment that deals with the care, breading and treatment of horses for the purposes of labor, entertainment, and sports. Individuals in this field will also learn the various business responsibilities associated with horses, including marketing, sales, pricing, as well as facility management and more.

Wildlife Management – The study of wildlife management focuses on the balance of wildlife with the needs of people.  The balance is maintained to keep a harmony between the two forces utilizing the best available science.  A wildlife management degree may lead graduates to jobs in pest control, wildlife conservation, and game keeping.

Business Degrees for Animal Lovers

Agriculture Management - Agriculture is the area of study and practice that allows individuals to cultivate crops and breed animals for the purposes of food, fuel, material or health. Modern agriculture requires an understanding of various systems and methods on order to effectively produce high yields while maintaining quality, including management, operations, production and other areas of knowledge that are useful in the field.

Animal Shelter Management – While animal shelter degree programs are not a mainstream degree track, they teach students to care for animals, train animals, and manage animals.  Graduates may then go on to work in a zoo, animal shelter, or humane society.

Farm Management – A farm management degree program helps teach students the ever-increasing complexity of farming and resource management.  Students may elect to specialize in sub-disciplines such as crop rotation, soil management, agribusiness, or agricultural science.

Animal Husbandry – The degree track of animal husbandry is essentially the care and management of farm animals. The specialty of animal husbandry goes further by considering behavior and genetic qualities that may be of benefit to humans.  An example includes selectively breeding to create specific traits for research, utility, or sport.

Working with Animals by College Degree Type

Certificate

What is a certificate?

A certificate is a type of credential issued to students from an educational institution for completing significant programs not culminating in a college degree. The two primary types of college certificates include a professional certificate and an occupational certificate.  An occupational certificate is an academic program designed to develop job skills within a specialized area of study in a short period of time.  Completing an occupational certificate may signify to a prospective employer that a student is prepared to be job-ready within a specific vocation or trade.  According to the NCES, the number of certificates conferred in the 2013-2014 reporting period was nearly 970,000.

What is an example of an animal related job for certificate holders?

Pet Groomer – A pet grooming certificate can take a few months to a few years to complete depending on the program and number of credits taken at a time.  Typical classes include cat grooming techniques, animal dispositions, grooming procedures, and dog grooming techniques.

Associate Degree

What is an associate degree?

An associate degree is an undergraduate degree that can often be completed in two years by successfully taking at least sixty credit hours.  Associate degree programs are often associated with community colleges but are also offered at some four-year schools and trade schools.  There are two broad-based associate degree types:  Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS).  The Associate of Arts degree is focused on a liberal arts education while the Associate of Science is a liberal arts program with a greater emphasis on sciences and math.  Other common liberal arts degrees you may want to research further include an Associate of Engineering Science (AES), Associate of Fine Arts (AFA), and Associate of Arts in Teaching (AAT).

What is an example of an animal related job for associate degree holders?

Vet Tech or Veterinarian Technician – A Vet Tech degree program is normally a two-year program requiring around 75 earned credits.  Typical classes may include: animal care techniques, office management, basic pharmacology, an introduction to veterinary medicine, and anesthetic nursing basics.

Bachelor Degree

What is a bachelor’s degree?

A baccalaureate, or bachelor’s degree, is an undergraduate degree offered by four-year universities and colleges.  The credit requirements or semester hours range between 120-128 and typically take four to five years of full-time schooling to complete.  A bachelor degree is the type of degree most employers look for in candidates and is also requisite to apply to graduate level college programs.  A bachelor degree program allows students to select an emphasis of study or major along with a minor area of concentration.  By selecting a major and a minor, a student is placed on an educational track within a specific department that helps them specialize disciplines leading towards a college degree.

What is an example of an animal related job for bachelor’s degree holders?

Animal Scientist – An animal scientist will often be a full four-year program which includes around 120 credits.  Students will normally take a variety of classes such as: agriculture management, animal diseases, nutrition, animal husbandry, genetics, and animal biology.  Possible career tracks for an animal scientist include a farmer, rancher, food scientist, and agriculture manager.

Graduate Degree

What is a graduate degree?

A graduate degree includes both master’s and doctorate programs.  A master’s degree is a type of postsecondary degree that is often preceded by a bachelor’s degree.  Unlike the typical four-year program of a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree will often be structured as a two-year program.  The academic rigor and expectations increase markedly from a bachelor’s program to a master’s program.  In addition to the quality and quantity of work required of students enrolled in a master’s program, the emphasis delves deep into research, specific fields of study, and granular analysis more so than introductions to broad-based theories.

What is an example of an animal related job for master’s degree holders?

Zoologist – A zoologist is a graduate program normally two years in length in addition to the successfully completion of an approved undergraduate degree.  Common curriculum for a zoologist includes animal behavior, animal psychology, ecology, developmental biology, and biometry.  Common career tracks for zoologists include a wildlife biologist, animal research specialist, conservation specialist, and zoologist.

What is an example of an animal related job for doctorate degree holders?

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – A doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) is a four-year graduate program blending rigorous academics and hands-on applications.  A DVM program will often include the following curricular requirements: pharmacology, animal behavior, veterinary surgery, anatomy, pathology, and internal medicine.

Career Tips for Landing the Perfect Job Working with Animals

Regardless of which of the above degrees you pursue, the following is a brief outline of requisite steps to land the perfect job working with animals for you.  These steps include:

  1. Work Experience with Animals: Gaining pragmatic experience working with animals is, frankly put, irreplaceable. Learning hands-on in a real-world environment will help reinforce your love for animals, it will spark deep questions, and provide access to other professionals.  Even if you perform the work unpaid, volunteering in order to garner valuable work experience is a fantastic resume builder.
  2. Education: Take animal related classes as early as possible and as often as your schedule allows. Building on your passion for animals will establish a solid foundation for your future success and help formalize valuable professional habits.
  3. Enhancing Your Professional Posture: Take every opportunity to network, take certification courses, and join relevant associations. In every case, these purposeful decisions will build towards greater professional moments and eventually the ability to help others just starting out in the animal industry.
  4. Utilize Resources: Make an effort to utilize resources to help bolster your continuing education and professional trajectory.  These resources are animal specific and overt indicators of your objective to become a professional.

Resources for People Who Love Animals

American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB)

World Wildlife Fund

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Canine Companions for Independence

American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS)

Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS)

Holstein Foundation

Animal Behavior Society

Humane Society of the United States

National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA)

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners

American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF)

National Dog Groomers Association of America

National FFA Organization (FFA)

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

Poultry Science Association

Society for Conservation Biology

Animal Welfare Association

American Animal Hospital Association

Best Friends Animal Society

 

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