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Animal Science Major Overview

From homes, to deserts, to prairies, and even under the sea, there’s so many animals to love. If you’re thinking about majoring in animal science, you probably already know that! Those who major in animal science learn all about different species and how they live, eat, and even breathe. 

If this sounds interesting to you, keep on reading to learn more about the animal science major. We cover typical college coursework and your post-graduation career opportunities with an animal science degree!

What is an animal science major?

Over the course of their college career, animal science majors develop a strong foundation in science and math, enrolling in courses like biology, zoology, and even anatomy. As expected, they also take a number of courses to learn about animals and their behaviors, breeding, and physiology.

Depending on their specific interests, though, students will often be given the choice to specialize in either animal management or science and medicine. Make sure to check if your school offers such concentrations. We recommend checking the animal science major page on your school’s website or contacting the animal science faculty. For those animal science majors choosing to concentrate in animal management, expect to take classes where you learn about the economics of maintaining and producing livestock, do financial analyses, and explore the fundamentals of marketing. Alternatively, for those who go down the science and medicine path, you’ll likely take a wider variety of advanced science and math courses – and may be expected to partake in research as well!

Coursework to expect

With all that said, what courses can animal science majors expect to take in college?

Well, as with any major, animal science majors should expect to take an introductory animal science course. They will also take other foundational classes like animal nutrition or animal reproduction. As you get further into the major, however, the courses that animal science majors take depend on their specialization or track. While those focusing on animal management may do their advanced coursework in business-related fields, those on the science and medicine path may take classes like organic chemistry, avian physiology, or even physics.

Below are some potential courses you may encounter as an animal science major:

  • Biology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Animal Behavior
  • Animal Nutrition
  • Business classes (if you have an animal management concentration)
  • Crop Science
  • Genetics
  • Soil Science
  • Biochemistry

Besides classes, many universities also offer students the opportunity to learn about animal science through internships, jobs, or volunteering while in college. Such positions are often available at zoos, veterinary teaching hospitals, and any other animal-care-related facilities near one’s college. Some schools go even farther. For example, the University of California, Davis even allows students to live rent-free in one of the university’s animal facilities in exchange for 10 hours of animal care per week. Not only would a program like this save you some money, but it would also give you some incredibly valuable animal care experience! Check out your school’s animal science major webpage or get in contact with the animal science faculty to see what they offer.

Related: Top college majors for the future

Opportunities after graduation

So, once you finish all your class and other college requirements, what can you do with your animal science degree? Well, as it turns out, you may have more options than you realize! Those who majored in animal science open themselves up to a wide variety of animal-related fields. These include farm management, zookeeping, dairy production and management, and even wildlife conservation. 

But, what about those who focused on a specific concentration within the field? Great question! Those who were on the biomedical track while in undergrad can choose to become doctors, physician assistants, nurses, or even dentists. Of course, you will need more schooling for some of those! Alternatively, those who were more policy and research-focused may look into working with a government agency, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Jobs you can get with an Animal Science degree

With all that said, what are some of the specific jobs that you can secure with an animal science degree? Let’s take a look!

1. Veterinarian

The first, and perhaps one of the better known occupations that you can secure with an animal science degree is a veterinarian. Primarily responsible for assessing and maintaining the health of animals, veterinarians treat wounds, perform surgery, vaccinate, and diagnose illnesses in animals. They can also give animal or pet owners advice on how to care for their furry (or not-so-furry) friends, and prescribe medication if need be. To become a veterinarian, one must receive a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and a state license.

2020 Median Pay: $99,250/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 17%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

P.S.: If you’re interested in becoming a veterinarian and want some help funding your education, check out our top veterinary scholarships!

2. Farmers, Ranchers, and other Agricultural Managers

Farmers, Ranchers, and other Agricultural Managers supervise every step of crop production, from planting to harvesting. They make decisions about their products (crops) by evaluating market and soil conditions, disease, and the availability of agriculture-related federal programs. To help maintain and grow their crops, they invest in necessary supplies and machinery, including seeds, fertilizer, and other farm equipment. To become a farmer, rancher, or agricultural manager, one typically must hold at least a high school diploma and have previous work experience in a related field.

2020 Median Pay: $68,090/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): -1%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. Animal Scientists

Like agricultural managers, animal scientists also do a lot of their work on farms, coordinating research and experiments to increase the productivity of crops as well as farm animals. They report their findings to the scientific community, food producers, and the general public – in addition to using them to create new food products themselves. Last, but certainly not least, they travel to a variety of new facilities to oversee new products. To become an animal scientist, one must at least hold a bachelor’s degree in a related field. However, many also go on to earn advanced or graduate degrees before becoming an animal scientist.

2020 Mean Pay: $68,830/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 9%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

4. Conservation Scientists and Foresters

Last, but certainly not least, are conservation scientists and foresters! If you’re passionate about saving the environment, conservation, or anything along those lines, these may be great professions for you. As a conservation scientist, you will be responsible for overseeing conservation activities to make sure they comply with government regulations, establishing plans to manage forest lands and their resources, and more. On the other hand, as a forester, you will be expected to monitor regrowth of forests, aid in forest fire suppression, prepare sites for new trees, and more. To become either a conservation scientist or forester, you will typically need a bachelor’s degree in a related field.

2020 Median Pay: $64,010/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 7%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Also see: What are the fastest growing careers?

Advanced Degrees You Can Pursue with an Animal Science Degree

After graduating with a bachelor’s in animal science, many students decide to pursue further graduate or professional schooling. While graduate, veterinary, and medical school are some of the most popular options for animal science majors, here are just a few of the advanced degrees you can pursue with an animal science degree:

  • Master’s/Ph.D in Animal Science
  • Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
  • Master’s/Ph.D in Zoology
  • Master’s of Science in Agriculture

Frequently asked questions about animal science majors

Is vet school harder than med school?

Not necessarily – both require a similar amount of work. In order to graduate from either veterinary or medical school, students will be expected to have a strong foundation in the biological sciences, a sturdy GPA, and many hours of experience working with animals (either paid or unpaid). In terms of getting in, however, veterinary school is slightly easier (with a 11.7% acceptance rate in comparison to medical school’s 7% acceptance rate). This difference in percentage can largely be attributed to the number of applicants, however. As medical schools tend to receive more applicants, they have to reject more than veterinary schools – leading to a lower acceptance rate. Despite this, both require you to work very hard in order to earn an acceptance.

What GPA is needed for vet school?

While there is no threshold that one must meet in order to earn acceptance into veterinary schools, having above a 3.5 GPA in undergraduate will generally improve your chances of acceptance. This is not the only factor that professional programs will take into consideration when judging applicants, however. If possible, students should also seek out research opportunities, join relevant (animal-related) organizations, and try for a high GRE score to increase their chances of veterinary school acceptance.

Related: Scholarships360 Major Guides

How do I know if the major is right for me? 

Knowing whether or not you’re majoring in the right subject is tricky. Even after being in college for multiple semesters or years, it is not uncommon for students to wonder whether they truly enjoy their major. However, many students also love their majors, and end up sticking with the same one for their entire college experience. So, if you’re thinking about majoring in animal science, ask yourself these questions first:

  • Are you curious about animals, medicine, or agricultural business?
  • Do you value health and wellness?
  • Are you passionate about helping animals and people stay healthy?
  • Do you enjoy working with animals?

If you answered “yes” to a majority of these questions, then animal science may be a great fit for you. And, before you go, if you love animals and are thinking about bringing a pet along with you to college, be sure to check out Top Ten Pet Friendly Colleges and Universities. For now, though, good luck, and have fun in college!

See also: How to pick a major