Animal Behaviorist

Career and Professional Options For The Modern Animal Behaviorist

Today’s veterinary care sector is a far more complex field than it was even a few decades ago. In many cases, the veterinary care a pet may receive is fully equal to that a human patient can expect. The animal behaviorist is an example of this growing emphasis on providing a full spectrum of care to animals of all types, ranging from domestic pets to livestock and zoo animals.

What is an animal behaviorist?

An animal behaviorist is a professional who is focused on the study of animal behavior and behavioral modification. This can be especially important when attempting to ensure that the environment of a pet or other animal is conducive to its physical and mental health.

Domestic Animals and Animal Behaviorists

Animal behaviorists often work with domestic animals and pets. This can range from studying many pets in order to determine what type of home environment is best for them, to working with individual pets in order to rectify inappropriate activities.

A common example in this field is developing techniques to curb antisocial behaviors among domestic pets, without requiring the use of painful or inhumane disciplinary methods.

Additionally, animal behaviorists may help determine if a pet’s behavior is the sign of deeper mental or emotional distress, or is in fact a sign of a disease or medical condition. In many cases, skilled animal behaviorists will publish information that can be used by veterinarians and other individuals to effectively evaluate the underlying reasons for a pet’s behavioral issues. Professionals in this field are usually known as applied animal behaviorists.

Animal Behaviorists and Zoos

Many zoos and wildlife preserves make extensive use of animal behaviorists in order to help create enclosures that promote the comfort and health of their occupants. This can be especially important due to the wide variety of animals held in most zoos and the need to create enclosures that are comfortable while occupying a limited amount of space. In other cases, animal behaviorists may work with other professionals to help encourage endangered species to effectively reproduce in captivity.

Wild Animals and the Animal Behaviorist

In addition to working with domestic and zoo animals, animal behaviorists often work with wild animals in order to determine their habits. This can be especially important with the growing number of suburban and rural communities where humans and wild animals are coming into contact with each other. The animal behaviorist will attempt to determine the best methods to modify the behavior of the wild animals, as well as educating any local residents in how to avoid potential confrontations.

In other cases, the animal behaviorist may work with wildlife management programs to develop methods to ensure the safety of wild animals, such as by determining their migratory behavior and developing strategies to reduce the potential for encounters with humans. This can be especially important when dealing with endangered species, which often require careful treatment by the behaviorist.

Becoming an Animal Behaviorist

With such a wide range of potential careers, there are a number of methods used to become an animal behaviorist. Currently, while this field has a number of professional certification services such as the Animal Behavior Society (ABS), which certifies applied animal behaviorists, there is no state or federal requirement for certification. However, as this is a field requiring highly qualified individuals, those interested in becoming an animal behaviorist, no matter their specialty, should expect that most employers will demand some form of professional certification.

Types of Qualifications for Animal Behaviorists

Most animal behaviorists have completed a graduate program in animal behavior, in addition to usually having a strong background in veterinary medicine. The first step for most animal behaviorists is to obtain a BA/BS in one of the following disciplines:

In most cases, these specialties will give the candidate the backing he or she will need to become an effective animal behaviorist. After completing the bachelor’s degree, the candidate will then progress to a graduate program. Depending on the school, the program and the final career intentions of the student, these programs can range from a master’s degree to a doctorate with a specialty in animal behavior.

Preparatory Work

In addition to the academic work required to become an animal behaviorist, it is wise for those interested in this field to prepare themselves by working in fields where they will have extensive contact with animals. In some cases, a student may be able to work with an animal behaviorist, which can further prepare him or her to become a certified or applied animal behaviorist.

Salary and Professional Opportunities

Due to the wide range of fields that animal behaviorists work in, it is difficult to determine the salary and professional options of any given career path. In some cases, animal behaviorists working in the private sector or at large public institutions may earn a yearly salary of $90,000 or more. In most cases, those who have obtained a higher level of education will have more promising career and salary options.

Why Become an Animal Behaviorist?

The study of animal behavior and its modification is becoming an increasingly important field in zoology and veterinary medicine alike. As pet owners, livestock managers and wildlife specialists come to prefer humane behavioral modification techniques, animal behaviorists will find their unique skills in high demand.

Furthermore, with the popularity of modern shows that showcase humane techniques of pet behavior modification, it is likely that the demand for private applied animal behaviorists will continue to grow. Due to the growing emphasis on the humane treatment of pets, the ability to assist owners in eliminating improper behavior without recourse to traditional forms of punishment will make the animal behaviorist a valued member of the veterinary care community.

Becoming an animal behaviorist is an excellent choice for those who are interested in joining an expanding and highly valued field. Whether it is as an animal behaviorist supervising a zoo or wildlife park or as an applied animal behaviorist helping a family work to adjust the behavior of their beloved companion animals, the animal behaviorist is part of an increasingly well-compensated and respected field.

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