7 Top Animal Behavior & Psychology Programs in 2020

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 behavior and psychology fields.

Below we profile the 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

Bucknell University, which is based in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, offers a bachelor’s of arts (BA), a bachelor’s of science (BS), and a master’s of science (MS) degree in animal behavior science.

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, whereas programs in animal science focus on the use of animals for human purposes.

Over the decades, students in the school’s programs have achieved high degrees of success, with various students receiving fellowships, including nine selected as the recipients of National Science Foundation fellowships. An emphasis is placed on undergraduate research, study-abroad opportunities, and internships for the development of practical skills.

Southwestern University
Address : Georgetown, TX

At Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, students can seek a minor degree program in animal behavior. The university, the oldest in the state, was founded in 1840 and offers a unique multidisciplinary degree program that combines science, social science, arts, and humanities.

The minor is offered both through the school’s biology and psychology departments. It explores the historical and cultural development of animals and humans, examining the relationships between animals and other categories of social difference such as race, gender, sexuality, class, and disability. Students in the animal behavior minor program have the opportunity to present their research at a scientific meeting and pursue study abroad opportunities.

Carroll University
Address : Waukesha, WI

Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin gives students the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s of science or a minor degree in animal behavior. The school owns a 60-acre scientific field station near campus that provides a laboratory and outdoor classroom for animal behavior students to learn and study.

Students can also become involved in research training by taking advantage of the school’s partnership with the Racine Zoo. The program requires that students complete an internship as part of their training and take a behavioral analysis research methods course 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. It is also the largest City University of New York (CUNY) college.

Students enrolled in the program take 15 credits in the areas 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 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 in field, laboratory, and zoo environments while in school. They also 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

The 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 for a total of 26 to complete the program. They 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, tackling 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 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.

Methodology: Best Animal Behavior Programs

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 skill-building through research, laboratory work, internships, or other opportunities.
  • Are accredited 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.
Rachel Drummond (Writer)

Rachel is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. A dedicated Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Rachel is interested in exploring the nuanced philosophical aspects of contemplative physical practices and how they apply in daily life. She writes about this topic among others on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).