How to Become an Animal Behavioral Specialist

by Lynn Anders

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There are a wide range of career opportunities for animal behaviorists. Animal behavioral specialists can be found working in zoos and wild animal parks or helping owners with their pet cats, dogs, horses and parrots. There are many avenues for becoming an animal behavioral specialist. Each option can start you on a path toward hands-on work with animals; more advanced degrees will ultimately give you more opportunities in the field of animal behavior.

Step 1

Obtain a certificate from a private training program. There are several private programs that will give you hands-on experience and education so you can work with cats and dogs. These programs usually are not accredited by any college association, but they will get you started on a career as a dog or cat trainer who can help owners with their pets.

Step 2

Get an associate’s degree in animal training or zoo keeping. Only a handful of colleges around the country offer this type of program, which trains people for careers in almost any animal field, including as an animal behaviorist. At the Exotic Animal Training and Management program at Moorpark College in California, for example, you can learn basic training and behavior concepts that apply to all animals from dogs to dolphins.

Step 3

Acquire a four-year degree in animal behavior. More colleges are now offering four-year degrees in animal behavior sciences. For example, Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania offers degrees in animal behavior as an interdisciplinary major combining psychology and biology.

Step 4

Become a veterinary behaviorist. Veterinary behaviorists have earned their degree in veterinary medicine with the added training and study of the animal behavior sciences. This allows them to holistically treat animals for their medical and behavioral needs, which are often related.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Lynn Anders has more than 15 years of professional experience working as a zookeeper, wildlife/environmental/conservation educator and in nonprofit pet rescue. Writing since 2007, her work has appeared on various websites, covering pet-related, environmental, financial and parenting topics. Anders has a Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies and biology from California State University, Sacramento.

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