Animal Science Careers: Job Descriptions & Salary Info

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Get the truth about salaries in the field of animal science. Read the job descriptions and learn about education requirements and career prospects to decide if an animal science career is right for you.
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Career Overview

Animal science is a research-driven field that often combines lab work with fieldwork. Jobs in animal science can incorporate elements of biological science, animal management, animal production, research and even sales. However, according to projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in this field is likely to experience below average growth over the next several years.

Three careers in the field of animal science for you to consider are animal scientist, zoologist and wildlife biologist. Here's a quick glance at each of these professional choices:

Animal scientist Zoologist Wildlife biologist
Career Overview Animal scientists typically study farm animals and advise farmers on matters from breeding to animal housing. Zoologists research and work with animals and wildlife populations. Wildlife biologists are essentially zoologists who focus exclusively on animal biology.
Education Requirements Usually a PhD, although there are exceptions At least a bachelor's degree At least a bachelor's degree
Program Length 3-5 years for a bachelor's, 6-8 years for a doctorate degree 3-5 years for a bachelor's, 6-8 years for a doctorate degree 3-5 years for a bachelor's, 6-8 years for a doctorate degree
Certification and Licensing Specific certifications available and sometimes required Licensure and certification are rarely if ever required Licensure and certification are rarely if ever required
Work Experience Varies widely Varies widely Varies widely
Job Outlook for 2012-22 Average growth (9%) compared to all occupations* Slower than average growth (5%) compared to all occupations * Slower than average growth (5%) compared to all occupations*
Median Salary (2014) $61,110* $58,270* $58,270*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Animal Scientists

In most cases, animal scientists work primarily with farm and domestic animals, although there are exceptions. Often, you'll research nutrition, disease, growth, genetics and reproduction among farm animals. This is to improve and develop food and other animal-related production. Experiments with animal cross breeding and techniques for meat, poultry and even fish production are commonplace in this industry. As an animal scientist, you could assume many job titles, such as livestock production manager, livestock consultant, teacher, technical representative and animal researcher.

Requirements

To become an animal scientist, you'll typically need to earn a PhD in animal science or a related discipline, although a master's or even a 4-year degree are sometimes accepted. The amount of experience that you'll need in the field depends on the job.

In November 2012, employers posted the following animal scientist positions online:

  • A research animal scientist was sought by the United States Department of Agriculture's research department in Maryland to assist a lead scientist. A PhD was required.
  • A veterinary hospital in Pennsylvania was looking for an animal scientist with a 4-year degree and three years of experience. Job duties included monitoring patients and recording the progress of veterinary procedures.
  • In Florida, a company was seeking a full-time animal scientist with an expertise in aquaculture to study how environmental practices and management policies effect aquacultural products.

Standing Out

A variety of measures can help you stand out as an animal scientist. Becoming a member of the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) can be a solid way to boost your resume. In addition to this, having your research published in a peer-reviewed academic or scientific journal can help you make a name for yourself in the industry. For example, the ASAS publishes the Journal of Animal Science (JAS).

Zoologists

Zoologists usually conduct research and experiments on a wide variety of animals both in nature and in controlled, lab environments. They study how animals behave with their own and other species, collect and analyze data, and synthesize information into scholarly research papers and articles. Zoologists sometimes present their findings to the public or to government officials to impact policies related to wildlife and conservation.

Requirements

Although a bachelor's degree is acceptable for certain entry-level jobs, a master's degree or PhD in animal science, zoology or a related field are required for many other positions. In addition to this, you'll usually need several years of experience in the field. For certain jobs, the reputation you build for yourself through your previous research and body of work can be important.

Employers posted the following three positions in November 2012:

  • A zoo in Tulsa, OK, was searching for a zoological curator with a bachelor's degree in animal science, biology, wildlife management zoology, environmental resources or a related discipline to be in charge of the mammal population.
  • In Washington, DC, a museum was seeking a research zoologist to conduct studies and curate collections. A degree in zoology or a combination of a degree and experience were required.
  • A university in Pennsylvania was looking for an invertebrate zoologist for a tenure-track faculty position in the department of environmental and biological science. A PhD in biology, zoology or a related field was required.

Standing Out

Because job growth in this field is likely to be below average over the next few years, standing out in the job market can be essential. Commonly, potential employers look for demonstrable communication, observation, organizational, critical-thinking and data-analysis skills. As is the case for animal scientists, your previous research work may help set you apart from job competitors.

Wildlife Biologists

A wildlife biologist is typically a type of zoologist devoted to the biology of specific (usually) wild animals. In some cases, you'll study how animals relate to their environment. For example, marine biologists and limnologists are defined this way. In other cases, you'll study animals based on areas of expertise like animal behavior, evolution, genetics or development.

Requirements

As is the case for zoologists, a bachelor's degree is typically required for entry-level jobs. However, a master's degree or PhD in animal science, biological science or a related discipline may be required. Field experience will often be looked at in relationship to the amount of educational training that you've earned.

Here are a few jobs that were posted on the Internet by employers in November 2012.

  • In California, the U.S. Marine Corps Department of the Navy was seeking a wildlife biologist to work with and study threatened and endangered species. Either a degree or a combination of a degree and experience in the field were required. At least three years towards earning a PhD in biological science or a related discipline was preferred.
  • A West Virginia-based agency was seeking three different kinds of wildlife biologists with three different areas of expertise. At least a master's degree and field experience were required for each job.
  • The U.S. Department Of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service needed a wildlife biologist with a bachelor's or master's degree to conduct research with an emergency response agency.

Standing Out

Selecting a specific area of expertise can help you stand out as a wildlife biologist. For example, if your specific area of expertise is mammals, you'll be far more likely to be hired for a position that involves mammal care and research. The more areas of expertise you master in your education and career, the wider you can cast your net when searching for a wildlife biology job.

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