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An animal scientist generally deals with the study of animals with a focus towards breeding, physiology, and nutrition. The job of an animal scientist may fall under various job titles, which may include such things as animal nutritionist, animal researcher, zoologist, or veterinarian. Animal science curriculum includes many facets of study within the subjects of biology, science, and mathematics. People interested in this field should also exhibit a passion for animals. Depending on the specialization, the requirements to become an animal scientist may vary.
An animal scientist requires advanced skills in research and extensive knowledge in topics such as the genetics, nutrition, reproduction, and development of livestock animals—cows, poultry, horses, sheep, etc. The job of an animal scientist also involves research and knowledge about animal products like meat, eggs, dairy, and wool. Additional studies may include research into the improvement of the health and welfare of these animals. Much of this general knowledge can be obtained through a degree in agricultural science.
Additionally, to become an animal scientist, it often helps to hold a bachelor’s degree in animal science. Most people entering this field, however, choose to specialize within a particular area, taking their education another step further. More in-depth study in areas such as immunology, meat and dairy science, genetics, crop science, agricultural economics, horticultural science, and biochemistry are required. Other specialized areas of study include, disease control, feeding techniques, environmental sciences, and muscle biology.
Specialized courses of study to become an animal scientist almost always require postgraduate degrees such as a master’s degree or PhD. These higher level degrees allow for more flexibility and diversity within career fields. For instance, an animal scientist specializing in animal physiology may deal with the reproduction, growth, and development of domesticated, aquatic, or wild animals. Alternatively, he or she may choose to limit the focus of research strictly towards the breeding of these animals.
Another option might include the zoologist or veterinarian. A veterinary or zoological student could also limit his or her area of expertise to focus on animal nutrition, a particular species, or any of a wide range of specialties. To become an animal scientist in the field of veterinary medicine, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) is needed. This degree requires an additional four years of study beyond the bachelor’s degree.
Those considering entry into the field of animal science have many options to choose from. However, any specialization within a particular field of study will require an additional four to eight years of post-degree education to become an animal scientist.
Becoming a veterinarian is often considered to be less difficult than becoming a doctor, and in some ways I suppose it is, because there may be less pressure.
But, doctors only need to learn the biology of one kind of animal, humans. Vets need to learn the biology of lots of different animals, many of which are vastly different. Even the differences between cats and dogs is pretty big. I have nothing but respect for vets who are expected to cram this much knowledge into their heads in only four years, when a would-be doctor might take seven or more.
If you want to work with animals but don't want to spend years in school, you might consider getting a vet nurse diploma. Often these are available for one years study, or two or three depending on how advanced you want to go. You can end up working with a veterinarian, or in many other places, like pet stores, farms, or even a zoo.
It's not quite considered an animal scientist job, but is the next best thing, and you will get to work with animals all day.
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