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The Practice of Applied Psychology in Zoos and Aquatic Zoos

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If you are fascinated by animal behavior and often find yourself wondering why animals do the curious things they do, the field of animal behavior holds a great number of opportunities to develop your interests. Students in animal behavior study applied psychology and assist in research and educational settings to better understand a wide variety of animal behavior. In addition to working in zoos and aquatic zoos, animal behaviorists teach in university settings, consult for domestic pet owners, and provide knowledge related to raising livestock most effectively. Here are some points of interest when considering the field of animal behavior.

Most Animal Behaviorists Have Advanced Degrees

If you want to work in one of the most prestigious settings, such as a large zoo, research university, or aquaria, you will need not only a four-year baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited university, but also at least a Master’s degree and most likely a Ph.D. as well. Of course, most professionals who study animal behavior work on their degrees while they are gaining vital knowledge on the job. Completing internships, mentorships, and volunteer work is all common practice for dedicated animal behaviorists to build expertise in a specialty area when they are just starting out.

While most animal behaviorists have a strong background in biology and psychology, they specialize as they find their niche or passion. Some pursue a Master’s work in animal psychology, some in field research with a particular species, while others engage in a curriculum leading toward work in educational settings. Still, others become animal trainers and managers of animal behavior research groups.

If you are fascinated by animal behavior and often find yourself wondering why animals do the curious things they do, the field of animal behavior holds a great number of opportunities to develop your interests.Click To Tweet

If you are interested in the field but are not sure which direction your career path should take, getting involved in a professional organization and attending related conferences and seminars can help you meet people already working in the field and gain valuable insider knowledge about the most desired training and professional development to pursue. One such organization that provides information for those interested in careers in animal behavior is The Animal Behavior Society (

Planning Your Educational strategy

Summer internships, part-time jobs in the field, and volunteer opportunities all provide situations to interact with animal behaviorists, animal psychologists, or those working on special research projects in applied psychology with a particular species of interest. Comparing programs and enrolling in a curriculum that is supported by a fully accredited and highly ranked college or university will leverage the best opportunities over the life of your career. While the field has a wide diversity of specialties, seeking many experiences when you are just starting out will give you a strong foundation on which to build advanced knowledge as time progresses.

If you are just starting out with your first courses in psychology, many online degree programs allow you the opportunity to work in your current job and pursue a degree at the same time. Many colleges have partnerships with local zoos and other settings where you can gain practical knowledge while advancing your skill set. Plus, working alongside peers who are achieving similar goals can help build alliances that can last a lifetime.

While there are jobs in the settings mentioned above, you can also tailor your education for jobs in museums, writing for magazines and other media sources, working with conservation groups in the U.S. and overseas, or running your own consulting service.

Most professional animal behaviorists start as research assistants after the completion of a four-year Bachelor’s degree. Working in a specialized area allows the recent graduate to be sure that the specialty is the right choice for them. Some animal behaviorists seek a variety of opportunities before specializing further. Because there are so many opportunities to try new avenues and to travel, some professionals spend many years traveling in programs to support endangered species recovery efforts.


Studying animal behavior can take many paths, which is part of the attraction to the field. Because there are so many opportunities to engage in interesting professional development in a variety of field settings, a strategic plan is necessary to identify short-term and long-term goals to support your own unique situation.

Seeking education from highly respected sources is one vital step in preparing a strong foundation for your future. In addition, taking advantage of the helpful resources offered through professional organizations is another way to be sure you are making the necessary plans now to support the longevity of your career and engage in professional development that will set you apart from the pack.

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