Is an Animal Science Degree Right for You?

Many students choose a bachelor’s degree in animal science as a pre-veterinary track, or to lay the groundwork for future graduate study in animal physiology, nutrition, or genetics, according to North Carolina State University.

However, others use an online bachelor’s in animal science as a launching point for a career in animal husbandry, farm management, agribusiness, or other careers in agriculture. Animal science is a good fit for students who are passionate about animals and particularly interested in livestock or wildlife management, or related careers.

Advice for Earning Your Animal Science Degree Online

Those who want to earn an online bachelor’s degree in animal science should know that such programs are seldom offered fully online, particularly for pre-veterinary tracks. Many required courses in the natural sciences, such as biology and chemistry, will require lab work that must be completed on a college campus, and animal science degrees almost always incorporate hands-on field work.

However, some schools offer online degree completion programs for those who have associate degrees in a related field, and other colleges offer a broad selection of online courses for non-lab classes. We recommend that students map out their career plans ahead of time and select a minor that complements those plans. For example, a minor in business is a smart pairing with animal science if you wish to pursue a career in agribusiness.

Required Courses

Students will start out taking foundational science courses in biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, and anatomy and physiology. Then, when they move on to their major area of study, they will learn about animal management, animal cell and molecular biology, animal diseases, and genetics and breeding. Other required courses might include:

  • Animal Welfare
  • Animal Nutrition and Feeding
  • Equine Science
  • Beef Cattle Management
  • Growth and Development of Domestic Animals

Common Career Paths

Animal science studies prepare students to work in fields related to animal care and management. Typically, graduates go on to work in the agricultural or wildlife animal management fields. They can also go on to enroll in graduate school to become veterinarians, geneticists, or related scientists. Some specific careers that animal science bachelor’s degree graduates can pursue include the following:

Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

  • Expected Growth: -8%
  • Average Annual Salary: $70,010

Farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers own or work on land where they grow crops, raise livestock, and produce agricultural products, like milk, cheese, and eggs. These workers have historically learned how to perform their duties through experience, but agricultural managers are increasingly earning bachelor’s degrees in agriculture or a related area like animal science to prepare for the increasing complexity of farm and land management, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The employment growth and salary figures above are provided by the BLS.

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

  • Expected Growth: 7%
  • Average Annual Salary: $61,880

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals either in their natural habitat, or in a controlled environment. Wildlife biologists may tag certain wild animals to keep track of their population and migration, while zoologists might provide assessments and take blood or urine samples to evaluate the health and nutrition of animals in captivity.

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to find entry-level work in the field, but a graduate degree may be required to advance in this career, the BLS explained. The above employment growth and salary figures are available through the BLS.

Agricultural and Food Scientists

  • Expected Growth: 10%
  • Average Annual Salary: $58,450 (median income for 2010)

Agricultural and food scientists, an occupation that also includes animal scientists, study ways to make crops more productive, farm animals healthy and more plentiful, and ensure that food is safe for public consumption. They are most commonly employed by the research universities, the federal government, and private industry, according to the BLS. While the BLS stipulates that a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to enter the field, a Ph.D. is common for research careers. Salary and employment growth statistics were gathered from the BLS.

Veterinarians

  • Expected Growth: 36%
  • Average Annual Salary: $91,250

Veterinarians provide medical care to animals, and their daily tasks include vaccinating, diagnosing, and treating animals, as well as providing surgical care and euthanasia as necessary. The vast majority of vets (77%) provide care for pets, but some vets specialize in working with horses or food animals, work for the government in animal inspection, or conduct research, according to the BLS.

While veterinarians must have a professional degree in veterinary medicine to become licensed, a bachelor’s degree in animal science can be an excellent undergraduate pathway to a program in veterinary medicine. The above job growth and salary figures were gathered from the BLS.

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

  • Expected Growth: 52%
  • Average Annual Salary: $31,570

Vet techs assist veterinarians in providing routine animal health care, such as taking blood or stool samples to help diagnose a health condition, providing vaccinations or medications, taking X-rays, or even giving first aid to animals in emergency situations.

While vet techs typically must have an associate or bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology, experienced vet techs with associate degrees may decide to finish out a four-year degree in animal science in hopes of leveraging their experience for other careers with animals. The above employment growth and salary figures are provided by the BLS.

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