Animal behavior is not a common degree. Only 10 or so schools in the United States offer degrees that are fully focused on animal behavior. This is likely because the degree requires proximity to enough zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, and other animal-focused operations to provide practical experiences to all of their students. Only a few of these programs are offered by public universities. This presents a challenge when looking for truly affordable programs. We’ve done the research, and here we feature the five most affordable animal behavior degrees available in the United States. You may have many questions about animal behavior as a career or how to afford the programs we feature here, and you can find the answers to questions like that in the FAQ after this ranking. We’ll go into topics like what kinds of careers are available, what kind of pay you can expect, strategies for securing financial aid, and what an animal behavior career might look like for you.
#1. Millersville University
Students earning their animal behavior degree through Millersville University will have a chance to engage in practical learning experiences like internships and co-ops, and jobs with local veterinarians, animal shelters, zoos, aquariums, and animal-training businesses. Graduates from this program will have career opportunities in research, conservation, education, zoos, and aquariums, among others that may be pursued through further study.
- Tuition: $21,635
#2. Utica College
Utica College’s animal behavior degree has a close partnership with Utica Zoo that gives students the chance to experience zoo research, animal care, and husbandry. This is in addition to other field experiences and independent research project opportunities available to students. Students in the program will take courses dealing with zoo animal behavior and husbandry, learning and behavior, animal physiology, neuroscience, biology of vertebrates, biology of invertebrates, and evolution.
- Tuition: $22,1100
#3. Canisius College
The bachelor’s degree in animal behavior, ecology, and conservation offered by Canisius College has graduates employed by 19 different zoos and sanctuaries worldwide and a 100% pass rate on training certification exams by graduates. Students will take courses like animal learning; conservation education; canine evolution, behavior, and cognition; urban ecology; and zoo animal management.
- Tuition: $30,230
#4. Carroll University
All students enrolled in this bachelor’s of animal behavior degree will participate in internships during their time in the program. Examples of places students have interned include the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden Rhino Reserve, Health Heelers Therapy Animal Program, Marineland Dolphin Adventure, New England Zoo, Wildlife Safari, Willow Creek Ranch Therapeutic Riding Center, and Wisconsin Humane Society. Students will also engage in research, both inside and outside of the classroom.
- Tuition: $34,010
#5. Indiana University-Bloomington
The B.S. in animal behavior at Indiana University takes an interdisciplinary approach to the subject by including courses from various programs that all relate to animal behavior in some form or fashion. The program provides students with great freedom to tailor their studies to their interests, so long as they take courses in each of three perspectives. These perspectives are the evolutionary/ecological perspective, the environmental/developmental/ cognitive perspective, and the mechanisms of behavior perspective.
- Tuition: $37,600
Frequently Asked Questions
What will I study in an animal behavior degree?
The study of animal behavior is known as ethology. While in most of its forms, animal behavior is a subspecialty of zoology, it is sometimes offered as a subspecialty of psychology. When you study animal behavior you will be studying animal sexuality, communication, emotions, learning, and culture. The study of these elements within animals is relatively new compared to most academic disciplines, which gives you the rare chance to get in on the ground floor of an exciting scientific field of study.
While many scientists in fields related to biology, and the study of animals more specifically, will tend to specialize in a single species, this isn’t always the case when it comes to animal behavior. Animal behaviorists who want to study communication or love in animals will often study how these are manifest or expressed in a variety of species. Every program in our ranking offers practical, hands-on experiences in the study of animal behavior. Most also give you the chance to begin working on your own research at the undergraduate level. This means that you won’t have to wait to begin applying all the information and techniques you’re learning in the classroom!
What kinds of careers will an animal behavior degree prepare me for?
Students with an animal behavior degree can work in a variety of contexts, including zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, humane societies, animal control, aquariums, and settings which require animal trainers. With advanced study, some of the best careers will likely be in academia and research, or as a zoologist, wildlife biologist, or veterinarian. Animal behavior is a fantastic program for anyone who wants to become a veterinarian. With your bachelor’s, or maybe a master’s degree, you could find yourself working alongside research teams that are studying ecosystems ranging from urban settings to rainforests.
How much can I expect to make in an animal behavior career?
This largely depends on which career path you choose. There is a lot you can do with a bachelor’s degree, but it doesn’t pay nearly as well as the careers that require advanced degrees. Zoologists and wildlife biologists have a median salary of $66,350, while veterinarians make a median annual salary of around $99,250. Veterinarian is also a fast-growing career, expected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow at a rate of 16% between 2019 and 2029, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a job, or even starting your own clinic. While the animal behavior degree has a reasonable amount of utility on its own, graduate study significantly increases your options and earning potential.
Any tips for how to afford college?
Absolutely! One strategy for cutting costs is to complete your first two years of college at a community college. This is also especially good if your grades weren’t everything you’d hoped in high-school, as it gives you the chance to start over at an affordable price. In fact, once you factor in financial aid, community college can cost next to nothing! No matter where you go to college, you’re going to spend your first couple of years on general education classes. Community colleges provide these classes at a fraction of the costs you would find at other schools, and they cover the same material. Look into the schools you’re interested in and learn about their transfer policies. Call their admissions department and talk to a counselor about your chances of admittance to the animal behavior program if you intend to transfer in. Make sure you ask about any specific courses you might need to take in your first two years to be able to get into the program.
Regardless of whether or not you decide to attend a community college first, you will want to make sure you understand how to apply for financial aid. Head over to the FAFSA website and check out their informational articles about applying for college. With the right strategy, college might not be as expensive as you think! Between grants and institutional scholarships (those offered by colleges to their students), you may see a significant portion of your tuition covered. The rest can be covered by private scholarships and private loans. If you’re a part of an organization like 4-H, or if you live in the western U.S. and are part of the rodeo scene, you can get scholarships through those kinds of organizations as well. Talk to your high-school guidance counselor about local scholarships for students in your high-school, town, county, or region. They should have that kind of information on hand.
If you attend religious services, your place of worship may have scholarship funds for students, or your spiritual leaders may be aware of scholarships available through affiliated community organizations. Local community and professional organizations, and even local businesses, may offer scholarships to local students. If you plan to work a summer job, lots of companies offer education incentives to employees, even seasonal and part-time employees. So, make sure you ask about that kind of thing when you interview.
College is certainly expensive. But on average, the opportunities it provides are worth it. And there are many ways to earn your degree that will make it more affordable. So don’t despair if you don’t have much cash. Chances are that you can find a way to make it work!
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