What Does an Animal Scientist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by Melissa Ling © The Balance 2019 

Animal scientists study a variety of domestic animal species and frequently work with livestock to understand the biological and chemical processes by which the animals grow. Animal scientists play a key role in maintaining and improving the quality and quantity of the country's food supply.

They may also be more research-oriented, working in zoological fields or specific veterinary fields to help preserve the health and welfare of animals in the wild and in captivity. They may focus their interest on specific areas such as reproduction, nutrition, genetics (animal geneticists), or development.

Animal Scientist Duties & Responsibilities

The duties of an animal scientist may vary based on whether they are 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:

  • Academia: Animal scientists are 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 an educational institution.
  • Research: Animal scientists may be responsible for designing research studies, providing basic care for animal subjects, supervising lab assistants, collecting data, analyzing results, and publishing results in peer-reviewed trade journals or corporate reports.
  • Regulatory agencies: Animal scientists work for regulatory agencies—in state and federal government roles—and may be involved with health inspections of farm production facilities, dairies, and feedlots. These scientists ensure that such production facilities operate in accordance with health codes and humane treatment laws.
  • Animal production facilities: Animal scientists work for animal production operations and 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.

    Animal Scientist Salary

    Salaries for animal scientists vary according to their level of education, experience, and skills. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the salary range for this position:

    • Median Annual Salary: $60,760 ($29.21/hour)
    • Top 10% Annual Salary: $114,800 ($55.19/hour)
    • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $35.510 ($17.07/hour)

    Education, Training, & Certification

    To become an animal scientist, you need to meet certain requirements:

    • Undergraduate degree: You must complete a four-year Bachelor of Science 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.
    • Graduate degree: Some animal scientists choose to pursue graduate studies to earn their master's degree or doctorate. Educators, especially at the college level, tend to hold advanced degrees in this field. Researchers also tend to pursue advanced degrees, which affords them access to the best opportunities in the field.

      Animal Scientist Skills & Competencies

      Animal scientists must have certain skills to be successful, such as:

      • Independence—the ability to perform research with minimal supervision, developing their own research methods and forming their own conclusions
      • Verbal and written communication skills—the ability to communicate research findings in reports, publications, and courses
      • Active listening and interpersonal skills—the ability to collaborate and communicate with other team members, as well as those in academia
      • Time management—the ability to adhere to schedules, sometimes under stringent deadlines

      Job Outlook

      According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for animal scientists and other agricultural scientists is projected to be growing by approximately 13 percent during the 2016–2026 period. 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.

      Work Environment

      Most animal scientists work in research universities, private industry, or for the federal government. They work in offices, laboratories, or in the field. Those working in animal production facilities may sometimes work in unpleasant conditions. 

      How to Get the Job

      APPLY

      Look at resources such as Indeed and Glassdoor for the latest job postings. These sites also provide tips for writing an effective resume and cover letter, as well as preparing for and mastering an interview.

      Also, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS), and AG Careers provide job listings for animal scientists.

      FIND A VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY

      Search for volunteer opportunities in your area, such as at a zoo, animal hospital, or university. Organizations such as International Volunteer HQ and EarthWatch Institute offer volunteer opportunities for those in the industry.

      Comparing Similar Jobs

      If you are considering a career in animal science, you may also be interested in these positions, along with their median annual salaries: