Careers in animal psychology

Updated April 17, 2017

An animal behaviourist is an individual with a degree in animal psychology or behaviour who studies animal behaviours. Animal behaviourists may specialise in a particular family, such as reptiles or mammals, or even a particular species within a family. There are several career opportunities available to animal behaviourists depending on the type of work the individual wishes to pursue and the animals the individual wishes to study.


Many animal behaviourists work in academic settings, such as colleges or universities, teaching and conducting independent research. This career field typically requires the individual to possess a Ph.D., though some colleges will hire those with a master's degree. However, it is important to note that most opportunities to conduct research are available at larger institutions where the job market is highly competitive and a Ph.D. is a necessity. Animal behaviourists may provide instruction in courses in animal behaviour/psychology, zoology, biology, ecology, entomology, wildlife biology, animal medicine and others.

Government and Private Research

Government and private research institutions offer a growing number of career opportunities for animal behaviourists. With a large number of positions now in health-related research, animal behaviourists can find work for drug companies researching the effects of drugs on animals or investigating the link between animal behaviour and animal diseases. Animal behaviourists may also find work with government agencies in wildlife programs or with private environmental companies examining the changes in migration and foraging patterns, reproduction and spatial dispersion. Most of these jobs require a Ph.D. as well as specific training for the particular job.

Zoos and Aquariums

Zoos and aquariums hire animal behaviourists as curators and researchers. Research within the zoos and aquariums is typically based on the improvement of reproduction and health of the animals, though some research is done on the particular behaviours of animals in captivity compared with that of animals in the wild. Animal behaviourists who specialise in animal behaviour education may be hired to communicate with the public through tours, displays, and lectures and provide information about animal behaviour. Research positions in a zoo or aquarium typically require a Ph.D. while education positions vary, with most requiring a minimum of a master's degree and specialised training or experience in education.

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About the Author

Rebecca Herron has received a background in education from Bluefield State College which, in addition to four years of study, involved volunteer service in public schools and student teaching split between the elementary and middle school levels. She has written online for various websites.