Different Types of Coursework for a Zoology Degree
Zoology is a popular major for those interested in pursuing an animal related career path. Possible career options for those with a zoology degree include zoologist, researcher, zookeeper, marine biologist, wildlife biologist, herpetologist, primatologist, entomologist, ichthyologist, marine mammalogist, and ornithologist. (Note that advanced graduate level studies may be necessary to achieve some of these titles.)
A degree in zoology involves completion of a variety of courses related to the management of animal species and their biological processes. Many programs allow the student to tailor their course of study to focus on individual areas of interest. Students also may have the opportunity to conduct research as well. While specific degree requirements may vary from one educational institution to the next, most animal science degree coursework will include some combination of the following classes:
A behavior course may be offered as a survey course that details the behavior of several species, or it may be broken into more specialized courses (such as avian behavior or marine mammal behavior). The coursework in an animal behavior class teaches students how animals relate to others of their species and environmental stimuli.
Anatomy & Physiology
Anatomy and physiology courses are key foundation elements for zoology students. In these courses, students learn the components and functions of the skeletal, circulatory, reproductive, digestive, and muscular systems. The coursework may include identification of bones, dissection of specimens, and evaluation of live animals. It may also be possible to take more specialized anatomy and physiology courses, such as mammalian physiology or invertebrate anatomy.
Biology courses may include topics in animal biology, invertebrate biology, vertebrate biology, cellular and molecular biology, evolution, microbiology, and ecology. Students usually start with a general biology course in their first year of study and then move up to the more specialized courses in subsequent years.
Calculus & Statistics
Requirements vary from one program to the next, but most zoology degrees require a student to complete at least one course in calculus and statistics. These math courses are important for students who will be completing research and analyzing statistical results.
A course in genetics introduces students to topics in inheritance, selection for desired traits, improvement of animal populations, reproduction, and performance. Students may also participate in laboratory work by evaluating samples with microscopes.
Organic chemistry is a required foundation course in all zoology programs. Courses include lab work. A course in general chemistry is usually a prerequisite for admission to the organic class.
At least one semester of general physics is usually required for an undergraduate zoology degree. Topics in a general physics course may include the study of energy, force, motion, electricity, magnetism, sound, and the variety of scientific laws that apply to these topics.
In the junior and senior year of study, it may be possible for the student to tailor a course of study that focuses on a particular specialty area of interest (i.e., herpetology, ornithology, ichthyology, etc.). Possible elective course titles include mammalogy, ichthyology, comparative anatomy, entomology, amphibian and reptile biology, insect biology, marine ecology, paleobiology, embryology, immunology, virology, developmental biology, field biology, parasitology, and special topics in zoology or biology.
After receiving their Bachelor of Science degree, a student may choose to continue to pursue their study of zoology at the graduate level. Graduate work includes a rigorous course of study in the classroom, completion of a thesis or dissertation, and research work. Graduate students may also be required to work as a teaching assistant or lab supervisor during their degree program. Collaboration with faculty on their research projects may also be a part of the academic program.
Students should carefully choose the programs for which they apply, making sure that the institutions offer the specialized courses in which the student is interested. It is also wise to identify faculty members that conduct research work in a matching field of interest, so the possibility of becoming a lab assistant on such research will be a realistic possibility.