7 Top Animal Behavior & Psychology Programs

Whether you want to work in a zoo with animals or study the way certain animals communicate with one another, an advanced degree in animal behavior or psychology may be helpful. An undergraduate degree may gain you entry into the field, but a master’s or doctoral degree may really enable you to obtain that extra learning to become  involved with research or deeper exploration into animal the animal behavior and psychology field. Below we list seven top animal behavior and psychology programs that provide hands-on skills and interdisciplinary learning. Whether you are just considering the field or want to look for more advanced degree options, this list can help as a guide.

Bucknell University
Address : Lewistown, PA

Bucknell University, in Lewistown, Pennsylvania (located in central Pennsylvania, about 60 miles north of Harrisburg) offers a bachelor’s of arts, bachelor’s of science and master’s of arts degree in animal behavior science. Why so many degrees? The school launched its animal behavior program 40 years ago, making it available to students as a joint education offering through both the school’s psychology and biology departments. At Bucknell, the programs emphasize the evolution of animal life, unlike programs in animal science, which focus on the use of animals for human purposes. Students in the school’s program over the decades have achieved high degrees of success, with various students receiving fellowships, including nine selected over time as recipients of National Science Foundation fellowships. An emphasis on undergraduate research, study-abroad opportunities and internships are also hallmarks of these programs.

Southwestern University
Address : Georgetown, TX

At Southwestern University, in Georgetown, Texas, (located about 30 miles north of Austin) students can seek either a bachelor’s of arts or a bachelor’s of science degree in animal behavior or even take advantage of the option to seek a minor as long as they consult with a program chair. The university, the oldest in the state, was founded in 1840 and is one of the few to offer a program that offers the study of animal behavior at the undergraduate level, its website says. The interdisciplinary major is offered both through the school’s biology and psychology departments, and includes four biology mini-courses, a year long research methods course, and a capstone research project (for both the BA and BS degrees). Each AB (animal behavior) student has the opportunity to present their research at a scientific meeting and to find one-on-one opportunities for collaborative research.

Carroll University
Address : Waukesha, WI

Carroll University, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, (located about 20 miles west of Milwaukee) gives students the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s of science degree in animal behavior. The school owns a 60-acre scientific field station near campus that provides a laboratory and outdoors classroom for AB students to learn and study more. Students can also become involved in research training by taking advantage of the school’s partnership with the Milwaukee County Zoo. The program requires that students complete an internship as part of their training, and take a research methods in behavioral analysis class during their fourth year.

Hunter College
Address : New York, NY

Hunter College in New York City gives students the option to pursue a master’s of arts degree in animal behavior and conversation (ABC) through a 36-credit program. The college, founded in 1870, is one of the oldest public universities in the U.S., and the largest City University of New York (CUNY) college. Students enrolled in the program take 15 credits in the area of animal behavior and conservation and 12 credits in psychology. The remaining credits are taken as electives offered through the psychology department in areas such as comparative psychology, ethology, and special topics. A certificate program in ABC is also available through the school and requires completion of 15 credits at the graduate level, which can later be applied to the master’s degree if students are then accepted into the program.

University of Washington
Address : Seattle, WA

Those looking for a more advanced degree in animal psychology, such as at the PhD level, can turn to the University of Washington, in Seattle. The school’s graduate program incorporates training at both the psychological and zoological levels, broadening student understanding of animal behavior and behavioral ecology. Students graduate with a PhD in Psychology, focused in Animal Behavior, and can become engaged in research at field, laboratory and zoo environments while in school. They will have access to a variety of departmental resources extended to faculty members involved in research in fields like behavioral genetics, evolutionary psychology and social behavior.

University of California, Davis
Address : Davis, CA

he University of California, Davis offers students a PhD in Animal Behavior. A master’s degree may also be granted to students seeking a PhD, given that they seek permission and are given it to complete the steps for obtaining that degree. Students in the PhD program take 20 core units in animal behavior and six units in elective courses also, for a total of 26 needed to complete the program. The have the support of a committee as they choose their elective coursework and begin to develop their dissertation plan. Students normally take five years to finish the program, doing all their core and elective work by their second year, and completing and defending their dissertation by their fifth, and final, year.

Arizona State University
Address : Tempe, AZ

Arizona State University, in Tempe, also offers a PhD program in Animal Behavior. A total of 84 credit hours is needed to complete the program, which includes two core courses: one in research strategies and the other in a seminar on current issues in animal behavior. The program is interdisciplinary, providing integrative perspectives from fields as varied as domestication, ecology, evolution, neuroscience, physiology, and others. Students need to develop a research proposal that needs defending for their admission to candidacy and, as a final part of their program, defend their dissertation through a public seminar followed by an oral exam.


Animal behavior programs are typically interdisciplinary in approach and give students a broad range of perspectives when it comes to the field. The programs that were selected for this list:


  • Offer hands-on skills either through research, laboratory work, internships or other learning.

  • Provide accreditation through regional accrediting institutions. Several have also been listed on the Animal Behavior Society’s guide to graduate level programming.

  • Have faculty that is involved in animal behavior research or deeply interested in animal psychology and issues. For example, professor Peter Judge at Bucknell University is looking at the reconciliation behavior of Hamadryas baboons following conflicts.