Animal scientists study a variety of domestic animal species and frequently work with livestock. They may focus their interest on specific areas such as reproduction, nutrition, genetics, or development.
The duties of an animal scientist may vary based on whether they are primarily involved in education, research, regulation, or production. Some animal scientist positions are primarily administrative, while others offer the opportunity to work with animals in a hands-on capacity.
Animal scientists involved in academia may be responsible for teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, supervising student lab work, and conducting and publishing their own research studies. Publishing research is of great importance to college professors as they seek to secure tenure at their educational institution.
Those animal scientists that are primarily involved in research may be responsible for designing research studies, providing basic care for the animal subjects, supervising lab assistants, collecting data, analyzing results, and publishing the results of their work in peer reviewed trade journals or corporate reports.
Animal scientists working for regulatory agencies (in state or federal government roles) may be involved with inspections of farm production facilities, dairies, and feedlots. These animal scientists ensure that such production facilities operate in accordance with health codes and humane treatment laws.
Those animal scientists that work for animal production operations may be responsible for herd management. They also may be involved with designing methods to maximize the yield of milk, eggs, meat, or other desired products from the animals in the facility that they oversee.
According to the 2014 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of animal scientists are employed by colleges, universities, and professional schools. Other major employers of animal scientists according to the BLS include a number of organizations such as research facilities, state or federal governments, consulting organizations, and animal production facilities.
Animal scientists may also work in a number of related positions with titles other than “animal scientist.” These job titles may include dairy farmer, egg farmer, biotechnology consultant, geneticist, animal nutritionist, animal behaviorist, animal breeder, meat inspector, laboratory assistant, sales agent, and many more.
Education & Training
Animal scientists must complete a four year Bachelors of Science program to earn their degree. Coursework for an animal science degree generally includes classes in anatomy, physiology, reproduction, nutrition, behavior, laboratory science, agricultural marketing, ration formulation, livestock production, biology, chemistry, and statistics.
Some animal scientists choose to pursue graduate studies to earn their Masters or PhD degrees. Educators, especially at the college level, tend to hold advanced degrees in the field of animal science. Researchers also tend to pursue advanced degrees as this affords them access to the best opportunities in the field.
The American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) is a major professional organization for animal scientists. The ASAS publishes the Journal of Animal Science, a scientific journal that presents animal research studies for review. The ASAS has also partnered with the American Dairy Science Association and the Poultry Science Association to form the Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS).
According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) salary survey conducted in mid-2014, the median annual pay for animal scientists is $61,110 ($34.90 per hour). The lowest paid tenth of all animal scientists earn under $37,430 per year, while the highest paid tenth of all animal scientists earn more than $124,760 per year.
The top paying industries for animal scientists by include the management and consulting ($103,420), federal government ($101,920), animal production ($86,920), research and development ($84,260), academia ($57,120), and state government ($57,020).
According to a salary survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, new graduates with a degree in animal science earned an average starting salary of $33,732 in 2009.
According to the BLS, opportunities for animal scientists and other agricultural scientists are expected to continue to grow by approximately 13% over the next decade. This rate of growth is higher than the average rate of growth for all positions considered in the BLS survey. Competition is expected to remain particularly keen for positions in academia, especially for professorial positions at colleges and universities.
Animal scientists with advanced degrees will continue to have the most plentiful job opportunities in the field as a whole. Recent innovations and advances in the field of biotechnology should also continue to create jobs for animal scientists from a variety of professional backgrounds.