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Working with Animals Banner

Animal Behaviorist Jobs

For those who want to work with animals, but want to focus on what animals think and feel, animal behaviorist jobs should be taken into consideration.

The study of animal behavior is a combination of animal physiology and behavioral observation, which together can help create assumptions about animals and their specific behaviors in certain situations. Animal behaviorists are the psychologists of the animal world-they often have extensive backgrounds in animal studies, including biology and anatomy, as well as research experience.

Applied animal behavior studies pets and behavior issues, as well as animals in zoos, on farms, service animals and those in laboratories, as well as animals in the wilds.

The goal of animal behaviorists is to observe the animal, issue and surrounding, determine why the issue is happening or happened, and then chart a course of action to steer the behavior toward a desired action.

Often, animal behaviorists are called upon to assess animals in animal shelters in the U.S., as well as those that are rescued from puppy mills and dog fighting farms, to determine whether or not they can be rehabilitated and adopted out.

In addition to working with rescue groups, animal shelters, zoos and veterinarian clinics, animal behaviorists can also find employment with colleges and universities, both in teaching (with a master's degree and/or PhD) and research, government and private research facilities, and as animal trainers both for performance and service.

They are also employed by zoos to help assess the needs of animals in captivity and ensure that their surroundings are safe and stimulating, to keep the animals engaged and happy in captive circumstances and to simulate the hunting and gathering instincts of animals.

(Theme parks employ animal behaviorists for much the same reason, to ensure the happiness and welfare of their charges in captive settings.)

Most who have animal behaviorist jobs have at least a bachelor's degree in biology, microbiology or ecology, as well as experience working in a laboratory setting. Some may choose to pursue a master's degree in wildlife biology or PhD in zoology before actually concentrating or specializing in applied animal behavior. Some choose to major in psychology and minor in biology or zoology. Others choose to continue in the psychology path, earning a master's degree and/or PhD in psychology with a concentration in animal behavior.

Animal behaviorists work with both animals, and, in the case of domesticated pets, their owners as well, which is where a background in psychology or sociology also comes into play. A well-rounded animal behaviorist often has taken courses in everything from animal behavior and animal learning, to statistics and research methods, to physiological psychology and marriage and family therapy. Animal behaviorists should possess excellent observation skills, be detail oriented and able to communicate effectively.

The Animal Behavior Society offers a certification of applied animal behaviorists (CAAB), which requires either a PhD or master's degree, five years of experience in the field, and a record of professional accomplishment and contribution to the practice of applied animal behavior.

Veterinarians can specialize in animal behavior, which requires, in addition to a veterinarian degree, a two-year residency under the supervision of a veterinary behaviorist, as well as passing an exam to become an American College of Veterinary Behavior, board certified veterinary behaviorist. CAABs often work with veterinarians and develop behavior modification plans and or prescribe drugs to treat behavioral issues.

Animal behaviorists can expect to earn anywhere from $35,000 to $90,000 per year or more, depending on the nature of their job description and the location in which they work, this according to North Carolina's Bioscience Clearinghouse.