The Difference Between Animal Behavior and Animal Science

Scientifically-minded students who have a strong interest in animals may want to look into the academic areas of animal behavior or animal science. But even though both of these majors concern the study of animals, there are some key differences in what students learn about, the courses they take, and the types of careers they can have.

Ever wonder what animals think about and how those thoughts influence their actions? Students majoring in animal behavior learn about the science behind it through studying the biology and psychology of animals. In order to understand scientific processes, they take basic courses in biology, anatomy, and neuroscience, as well as more specific courses dealing with behavioral ecology, mammalogy, neuroethology, and zoology. To learn about the motivations behind animals’ thoughts and actions, they take courses like animal communication, social evolution, and cognition and sensory perception. Animal psychology courses also help students understand the thought processes behind animal behavior, such as appetite and eating behavior, learning and adaptive behavior, and ethology and comparative psychology. Majors spend much of their time in labs observing animals, their behavioral characteristics, and how they interact. Animal behavior majors are prepared for careers in zoology, animal caretaking, research, and education. They can work at zoos, conservation groups, museums, private research institutes, universities, and government agencies.

Ever wonder about the purpose of animals and how they can be used as natural resources? Students majoring in animal science learn about food animals, their uses, and the management behind it. Majors learn about the nutrition and breeding of animals, including cows, chickens, and pigs, and how to apply their knowledge to the agriculture industry, livestock operations, and farming. Foundational courses in natural science, biology and biotechnology help students understand the basics of animal science, along with advanced courses in animal physiology, management of animals, and animal growth and development. Since animal science is a significant part of the meat industry, majors take courses such as meat science, muscle biology, and the consumer selection and utilization of meat products. Coursework also includes courses that focus on livestock and meat evaluation, animal reproduction, equine science, and animal breeding. Animal science majors are prepared for careers in agribusiness, quality control, veterinary medicine, and farm range production and management. They can work as farm managers, animal technicians, livestock buyers, dairy nutrition specialists, and animal breeders, and typically be employed at meat and dairy processors, inspection services, breed organizations, and agricultural agencies.

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