Posted in Career Insights
how to become an animal behaviorist

Animal behaviorists or animal behavior specialists are people who observe animals and figure out why they act as they do.

Animal behavior specialists can have different levels of education.

They can specialize by choosing to focus on certain animals. For example, they may become a canine specialist.

Or, they might focus on many animals by becoming an animal behaviorist.

In order to become an animal behavior specialist, many people get a bachelor’s degree. Some even earn a graduate degree and consider voluntary certifications. They also must continue to learn throughout their career.

However, there are many jobs that an animal behaviorist can have. And not all of them require graduate degrees or a lot of experience.

Taking a course like the Canine Specialist Distance Learning Course at the Stratford Career Institute can help get your career as a dog specialist started.

So how do you become an animal behaviorist?

Choose a Career Path

Animal behavior specialists can find a number of jobs at various degree levels working at a zoo, an aquarium, veterinary office, or a private institution.

A good way to help figure out what career is best for you is by volunteering and interning at organizations such as veterinary clinics and animal shelters. This can help you decide if you want to take a job as a canine specialist or go to school to eventually earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. Every animal behaviorist job requires different training and education, so make sure you do your research beforehand.

Job Type and Location

When researching how to become an animal behaviorist, you may come across a variety of job opportunities. Some of these applied animal behavior jobs may only require an undergraduate degree, while others may need someone with extensive experience in education, research, and animal handling. Ultimately, the education you need depends on the type of environment you want to work in. Here are some of the animal behaviorist requirements you may encounter during your research.

Pet Daycare or Groomer

If you love taking care of animals and making sure they stay clean and comfortable, working at a pet daycare or groomer may be a great option. For animal behavior specialists, this career has the lowest barrier to entry, requiring no college degree. Instead, many pet groomers get their experience doing training programs or apprenticeships.

Veterinary Hospital

A popular career choice for animal behaviorists is working as a veterinary assistant. This career focuses on the health and welfare of animals ranging from dogs and cats to birds and other exotic pets. Most veterinary technician or assistant jobs require an associate’s degree in the same subject. 

Zoos, Aquariums, and Museums

Public education organizations such as zoos and aquariums are some of the most popular places for animal behaviorists to work. These institutions often hire animal behaviorists for a wide range of jobs, including curation, conservation, research, and volunteer training. 

For example, to become a zookeeper, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in biology or animal husbandry. In addition, you usually need prior internship experience at a zoo or other animal handling institution. Zookeepers are responsible for feeding, cleaning, and caring for several species of animals. However, they may also be responsible for designing exhibits, participating in animal research, and maintaining enclosures.

Conservationists, on the other hand, usually need more education. A typical conservation worker has a Ph.D. or DVM and extensive training in a specific discipline, such as entomology, mammalogy, or ornithology. This line of work often involves field research, managing nature preserves, and reintroducing injured animals to the wild.

Education and Research

Another option for those interested in how to become an animal behaviorist is teaching and academic research. Universities hire animal behaviorists to teach in several departments including animal science, biology, entomology, and ecology. To teach at a four-year institution, you must have a Ph.D. or other doctoral degree related to animal science. However, a few community or junior colleges may hire those with a Master’s degree.

Animal behaviorist education requirements for research depend heavily on their specialization. For example, if you want to work in an animal sciences department, you may need a Ph.D. specializing in animal husbandry. In contrast, you may need a degree in veterinary medicine to teach veterinary courses.

Bachelor’s Degree

If you decide that your career goals require that you get a bachelor’s degree, then you have many options such as zoology, psychology, animal science, or biology. While these may not necessarily affect your career choices, they may determine your specialization during your career.

Consider a Graduate Program

After completing your bachelor’s degree, getting a further graduate degree can open up more career paths. This can be a master’s degree, a Ph.D. or a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. All of these programs and degrees have a variety of education requirements and take different lengths of time, so you should consider which program is best for you and for your career goals.


While earning a certification is voluntary and up to you, having one can help assure people of your qualifications to work with their animals.

The Animal Behavior Society certifies that an animal behaviorist meets the ethics, education, and experience required by the society. There are two levels of certification with different requirements for experience and education. More information about certifications can be found on the Animal Behavior Society’s website.

Vets can also be certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

Continue Learning

It is important that an animal behavior specialist never stops learning, regardless of your degree. This can be done by attending special events and conferences as well by keeping up with new research in your field.


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Enroll in a Course Today!

You can begin looking into a career as a canine specialist by taking an introductory online course with Stratford Career Institute. Or, browse through our course catalog to choose another class that interests you. Enroll today!