Animal Behaviorists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Those interested in becoming animal behaviorists must have a minimum of a high school diploma or the equivalent. Helpful courses include biology and psychology.

Postsecondary Training

Educational requirements for animal behaviorists depend, to a great extent on the area of the industry in which the individual is interested and the specific job. Animal behaviorists generally pursue an undergraduate degree in either biology, psychology, zoology, animal science or a related field. Individuals then may seek advanced degrees in either biology, zoology or psychology with a concentration in animal behavior.

There are some positions that require a master’s degree or doctorate in psychology and a concentration in animal behavior. Others require individuals to go through veterinary school and hold a doctorate in veterinary medicine.

Those interested in a career in research or working as a zoo curator, must generally hold a Ph.D. There are some animal behaviorists who also have a degree in animal husbandry, comparative psychology, behavioral ecology, sociobiology, ethnology or another specialized scientific field.

Those interested in careers helping people understand and relate to their pets need a master’s degree if they want to become associate applied animal behaviorists or a Ph.D if they want to become certified applied animal behaviorists.

It should be noted that there are some animal behaviorists who work as animal trainers such as dog trainers. While they do not always have advanced degrees, many have a strong background in canine learning and conditioning techniques.

Other Education or Training

Continuing education opportunities are provided by various associations including the Animal Behavior Society (ABS), the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Various voluntary certifications are available for animal behaviorists depending on the area of the industry in which they wish to be involved. One of the most recognized certifications, comes from the Animal Behavior Society (ABS), one of the leading professional organizations in North America for the study of animal behavior. This organization provides two levels of voluntary certification. One is the Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and the other is the Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. The difference between the two is that in order to achieve the Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist certification, individuals require more education and experience.

In order to become an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (ACAAB) individuals must hold a Master’s Degree from an accredited college or university in biological or behavior sciences with an emphasis in animal behavior. They must have completed a research based thesis and have had graduate course work in behavioral science courses, ethology, animal behavior, comparative psychology, animal learning, conditioning and animal psychology. They additionally are required to have at least two years of professional experience in applied animal behavior, have presented a talk at an ABS meeting, and have professional endorsement letters from people in the industry.

The Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) certification has much of the same requirements, but also needs individuals to hold a Doctoral degree from an accredited college or university in a biological or behavioral science with an emphasis on animal behavior, including five years of professional experience, or a doctorate from an accredited college or university in veterinary medicine plus two years in a university-approved residency in animal behavior and three additional years of professional experience in applied animal behavior and five years of professional experience in the field.

Learn more about these certifications at their Web site: http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/applied-behavior-caab-application.php

Other voluntary certifications are offered by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Experience requirements depend to a great extent on the specific job. Some individuals get part time jobs while others obtain experience in other ways. Those interested in teaching on a college level, for example, may obtain experience working in a smaller school or community college. Those interested in working in labs or research facilities, may obtain experience working as research assistants. Still others obtain experience through internships.

First and foremost, animal behaviorists should have a great respect for animals and enjoy working with them. Individuals must have the ability to work alone and as part of a team. As it is not always easy to get animals to do things in a timely manner, persistence and patients are essential.

Animal behaviorists should be critical thinkers. They need to be articulate and have excellent communication skills, both verbal and written. There is a great deal of writing necessary in this job, whether it be writing reports or applying for grants. Computer competency is also mandatory.