Animal Behavior

Welcome to the Animal Behavior Section
Welcome to the Animal Behavior Section

Careers in Animal Behavior

So, you love animals and you've decided you might like to pursue a career in animal behavior. One of the first things you should be aware of is that different levels of education are required for specific jobs. In this section on CAREERS, you'll find:

List of Careers

Careers that Do Not Require a College Degree

Careers that Require A College Degree

Careers that Require A Graduate Degree (MS, PhD, or DVM)

Training and Preparation

Technical Training/Special Certification

Community College Programs for Animal Behavior

Graduate Training (MS, PhD) at Accredited Universities

Certification Programs (do not require college)


Careers that Do Not Require a College Degree

  • Dog trainer (although some programs for dog trainers require a degree or certification)
  • Pet shop employee
  • Groomer
  • Professional handler (show dogs)
  • Kennel worker, shelter kennel staff
  • Worker at a stable (horses)
  • Horse trainer (although some programs require a degree or certification)
  • Zoo employee (trainers require degrees or specialized training, see below)

For a listing of jobs in zoos and Aquariums see:


Careers that Require a College Degree

  • Director of Training (at some dog training schools, zoos, other animal programs)
  • Animal related business management (pet super stores, pet food industry)
  • Curators, Docents (most require a BS degree) at a zoo, aquarium, museums


Careers that Require a Graduate Degree (MS, PhD)

  • University professor, college teaching (PhD or DVM)
  • Researcher (PhD or DVM)
  • Research assistant (usually MS or above)
  • Community College/Junior College teaching (MS or above; some require PhD)
  • Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist


Technical Training/ Special Certification (may also require college)

  • Animal Assisted Therapy
  • Animal Control Officer
  • Dog Trainer
  • Horse Trainer
  • Marine Mammal Training
  • Police K9 Training
  • Search & Rescue Dogs
  • Service Dog Training
  • Zoo and Exotic Animal Training


Community College Programs Offering Associate Degree (2 years of college)

  • Moorpark College (CA) Exotic Animal Training + Management


Careers in Animal Behavior University Programs

Graduate Training (Master's and PhD)

There are hundreds of graduate programs that provide academic training related to animals. Many of these programs focus on basic research that is done in a lab setting. Examples of areas of study include: animal communication, applied ethology, behavioral ecology, ethology, natural history, social behavior, experimental psychology and zoology.

Within these categories, a graduate student can work on projects such as the vision of insects, reproductive habits of birds, choice of habitats for fish, sexual behavior in different species, aggression in specific species, sensory mechanisms, etc. If, in addition to the department's curriculum, a faculty is willing to allow a student to gain experience and participate in projects related to applied animal behavior, these degree programs may be well-suited for preparing students who desire a career in animal behavior. For a list of these programs, see the Animal Behavior Society web page at

Applied Animal Behavior Programs

The programs below have provided students with the opportunity to do applied (real-world, non-lab) work in animal behavior. Because faculty members move and retire and research projects may change over time, when deciding on a graduate school it is important to interview faculty and visit the school.

These are at accredited universities; these are not online programs.

Auburn University
Auburn, Alabama
Cynthia A. McCall, PhD
Applied ethology, Learning and Social behavior.
Secondary reinforcement in horse training, learning ability in horses.

University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ
Irene M. Pepperberg, PhD
Learning/cognition, development of communication in birds, African Grey Parrot.

University of California - Davis
Davis, CA
Lynette A. Hart, PhD
Applied ethology – companion animals and wildlife, human-animal interactions.

Bucknell University
Lewisburg, PA
Graduate Studies in Animal Behavior
This program in animal behavior is administered by the departments of biology and psychology. The program is intended primarily for those who hope to earn a Ph.D. or wish to amplify their expertise in an animal-related career, such as laboratory research, field research, or conservation biology. Although much of the coursework is lab-based, some of the students who have completed this program are working in applied areas.

University of California- San Diego
La Jolla, CA
Edmund Fantino, PhD
Operant Conditioning, learning, reinforcement (pigeons)

Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA
M. Jackson Marr, PhD
Operant conditioning, schedules of reinforcement, applications of
behavior analysis at Zoo Atlanta

University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign)

Degree program in applied animal behavior.
The Master of Science in Biology degree offers a specialization in Applied Animal Behavior. This is an interdisciplinary, interdepartmental program administered through the Masters in Biology Program, with adjunct support from the ASPCA ( It is designed to provide graduate training for careers in applied animal behavior, including academia; companion animal behavior consulting; shelter behavior; training and enrichment for animal shelters, zoo, laboratory and livestock animals; and commercial pet care industries.

Indiana University
Center for Integrative Study of Animal Behavior
Bloomington, IN
William Timberlake, Ph.D.
Animal behavior and learning theory, supervised animal behavior
projects in zoos.

Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, MA
Karen L. Hollis, PhD
Learning, conditioning, classical conditioning (fish)

City University of New York/City College (CUNY)
New York, New York
Joseph G. Griswold, PhD (retired faculty)
Social behavior and communication in dogs, has worked with shelter dogs

Cornell University
Ithaca, NY
Katherine A. Houpt, DVM, PhD
Veterinary behaviorist, works with horses, dogs, other domestic animals

Duke University
Durham, NC
John (J.E.) Staddon, PhD
Operant conditioning, work is theoretical and experimental (lab based)

University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN
John C. New, DVM
Therapeutic use of companion animals (animal-assisted therapy)

University of North Texas
Denton, TX
Jesus Rosales - Ruig, PhD

Texas A & M University
College Station, TX
Bonnie Beaver, DVM
Behavior problems in domestic animals, environmental enrichment

Arlington, TX
James Kopp, PhD
Operant conditioning, learning, reinforcement, schedules of reinforcement

Washington State University
Pullman, WA
Frances K. McSweeney, PhD
Learning-reinforcement, work is mostly experimental (lab); has been on the advisory board for the journal Animal Learning and Behavior.

West Virginia University
Morgantown, WV
Kennon A. Lattal, PhD
304-293-2001 x 608
Behavioral theory, pet behavior, animal behavior problems, supervises research on animal behavior problems (dogs, cats)

Back To Careers In Animal Behavior

Careers in Animal Behavior

Technical Training and Certification Programs

Animal Assisted Therapy (sometimes called "pet therapy")

Delta Society-Pet Partners Program

Therapy Dogs International

Animal Control Officer

National Animal Control Association

Dog Trainers/Animal Behavior Consultants

Organizations for Professionals (certification, conferences, Continuing Education)

American Kennel Club (obedience and other clubs to teach training) (Click on CLUBS)

Animal Behavior Society

 Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT)

(certifies trainers, conferences)

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)

(certifies trainers, conferences)

International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP)

(certifies trainers, conferences) 

Private, Non-Profit and for Profit Dog (and Behavior) Training Schools

Cynology College (online program)

Animal Behavior College (online/at-home study)

San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers

Karen pryor Academy

Horse Trainer

Horse Training Schools (academic, apprenticeship, career schools, etc)

Marine Mammal Training

Dolphin Trainer website

International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA)

Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA)

(Does not have individual members, open to facilities and organizations)

The Society for Marine Mammology (SMM)

European Association for Acquatic Mammals

Police K9 Training

United States Police K9 Association

Search & Rescue Dogs

National Association for Search & Rescue

Service Dog Training

Zoos and Exotic Animal Training

Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)


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