STEM Majors for Students Who Want to Work with Animals

    Posted July 8, 2019, 7:50 pm by Suzanne Shaffer

    Are you interested in pursuing a STEM program to work with animals? The animal-related careers in science, technology, engineering or math are as vast as the animal kingdom itself.

    Jobs requiring STEM skills vary depending on the type of animals and the working environment so it’s important to think about where you want to be and what you want to do. Before you pursue a college STEM program, you should be able to answer these questions:

    • What kind of animals do you want to work with (domestic pets, livestock, birds, ocean animals)?

    • What interests you the most (teaching, conservation, medicine, technology)?

    • What type of setting do you prefer (clinical, research, the outdoors)?

    • How closely do you want to work with animals (hands on, observe)?

    • How much education do you want to pursue?

    What are some animal-related STEM majors?

    It may surprise you to know that there are many different career paths available other than veterinary medicine. Here are just a few you might consider:

    Animal Science

    Students focus primarily on the management of livestock species such as cattle, horses, pigs, goats and sheep. Your courses might include meat science, reproduction, genetics, nutrition, biology, chemistry and mathematical statistics. Students with these degrees often pursue graduate degrees in veterinary medicine, reproduction and nutrition. Animal science programs are offered at many colleges and universities.

    Animal Behavior

    These programs are generally graduate-level courses that students pursue after completing undergraduate degrees in a related field. Animal behaviorists generally achieve a master’s or Ph.D. in this field. Coursework may include biology, ecology, anatomy, zoology, psychology or physiology. It is common for colleges to offer advanced degrees in biology or psychology with a concentration in animal behavior.


    Biology majors study a variety of topics and are particularly versatile for finding a path into dozens of animal-related careers or graduate study. Coursework typically includes microbiology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, genetics, immunology, anatomy and physiology. Nearly all colleges and universities offer biology degrees for undergraduate and graduate students.

    Dairy Science

    Students study dairy cattle management topics including milk production, nutrition, herd health, reproduction, genetics and even marketing. Graduates are qualified to work in the dairy industry as farmers, dairy managers, and other dairy positions. Many state schools with agricultural programs offer dairy science degrees.

    Equine Science

    This college major can include equine exercise, physiology, reproduction, anatomy, behavior, nutrition and training methods. Some programs include hands-on riding and competition experiences in various disciplines. Equine science programs are offered by many colleges and universities; an equine science minor is also a popular option for those studying animal science or biology.

    Poultry Science

    This degree focuses on poultry management topics such as egg production, meat production, reproduction, anatomy and physiology, genetics, nutrition, ration formulation, biotechnology, management and marketing. Once graduated, these students can work as egg producers, meat producers, poultry farm managers, or pharmaceutical reps.

    Veterinary Technology

    Veterinary technology majors study a variety of topics related to animal health, disease transmission, anatomy, physiology, and proper use of medical equipment. Veterinary technology graduates are eligible to sit for the national licensing exam which grants them certification as veterinary technicians. These graduates may work as veterinary technicians, veterinary pharmaceutical sales representatives, and a variety of related positions. There are 21 AVMA approved veterinary technology programs that grant a four-year degree and 191 AVMA approved programs that grant a two-year degree.


    Zoologists are qualified to work in zoos, in research positions, and in wildlife conservations organizations. Coursework includes general zoology and other science-related studies. There are a number of educational institutions that offer this degree and also many that offer a graduate level degree in zoology.

    What jobs are available for animal studies majors?

    By majoring in STEM-related animal studies, you can prepare yourself for employment in many animal-related industries. Opportunities are available in business, industry, government, education and research. The ASAS (Animal Society of Animal Sciences) provides many suggestions:

    • Allied animal industries (feed and equipment manufacturers, breeding associations, meat processors, food distributors, pharmaceutical firms).

    • Breeding and livestock marketing organizations.

    • Extension educators with animal science training at state and local level.

    • Food processors and meat packers.

    • Veterinarians’ services and clinics.

    • Government agencies (marketing, forecasting, environmental regulation, disease control).

    • Livestock breeders and feedlot operators.

    • Researchers and laboratories seeking experts in quality control for animal products.

    • State and national organizations related to cattle, dairy and meat industries.

    • Universities and colleges (teachers, researchers, lab techs).

    • Writers and communicators with animal science expertise.

    • Zoos, kennels, animal clinics, horse farms, animal preserves.

    How can you explore animal-related careers?

    There are lots of animal-related volunteer opportunities for teens at shelters and other organizations, but you can also find a teen summer program or high school internship where you get to work in a lab or out in the field with animals. Start searching our thousands of TeenLife listings today!

    Sign up for Free Tips and Guides direct to Your Inbox
    Suzanne Shaffer

    Suzanne Shaffer

    Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parenting for College blog offers timely college tips for parents and students, as well as providing parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze.

    Tags: STEM