Animal science doctoral programs are designed for students who wish to conduct research into animal behavior, nutrition, and development. Students will take classes in animal management and breeding and will also learn about animal biology. Most programs also have components that give students the opportunity to learn about the technology that animal scientists use to evaluate and treat animals. Unlike undergraduate degrees in animal science, online PhD programs for animal science do not focus on the fundamentals. Instead, they are based heavily in research and hands-on learning of advanced topics and concepts.
Most online PhD programs in animal science focus on agricultural animals, like livestock cattle, avian livestock, and domestic animals. However, some animal science programs focus on wildlife management, endangered species, and wildlife diseases. Animal and wildlife science programs also have students take classes in ecology and wildlife biology. Those programs also require intensive research and applied learning.
About Online PhD Programs in Animal Science
Animal science graduate programs are designed to give students specific knowledge of the development of, biology, and behavior of animals. Students will likely take classes that familiarize them with evaluating animals, managing animal systems, and promoting reproduction. Students will typically learn about animal physiology as well. All course work for online Ph.D. animal science programs will be completed over the Internet, although some programs may require students to visit the physical campus for a residential symposium. Examples of classes that students will take can be seen in the list below, which has been derived from Pennsylvania State University‘s animal science doctoral degree program.
- Transgenic Biology. This class explores the use of genetic engineering in animals, as well as the ways in which gene selection can benefit breeding and commercialism.
- Nutrient Management in Agricultural Systems. By exploring how nutrients within animal diets impact agricultural livestock, this class determines the best theoretical approaches toward feeding large quantities of animals within agricultural systems.
- Poultry Evaluation and Selection. This class instructs students on the best methods for evaluating poultry and the products that poultry livestock produce.
- Livestock Breeding Evaluation and Selection. By exploring breeding processes, this class provides an overview on choosing livestock to meet agricultural breeding standards.
- Applied Equine Behavior. This class examines horse behavior within agricultural and domestic systems. It teachers students how to analyze equine behavior and use theories to determine the best methods for training horses.
- Dairy Systems Analysis. This course introduces students to the maintenance of dairy farms as well as the theories behind forging a practical and efficient system for gathering dairy products.
Prior to earning a doctoral degree in animal science, students must first complete a thorough research project known as a dissertation. Dissertations within the field of animal science usually focus on a point of research pertaining to the care, maintenance, and efficiency of livestock or wildlife systems. Some example topics of animal science dissertations include genomic analysis of poultry, the effect of nutrition on animal performance, and factors that affect the quality of animal products. Students typically need to defend their theses in front of professors before they are awarded their degrees.
Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Animal Science
Ph.D. programs in animal science are a good choice for students who wish to manage livestock systems, participate in animal gene research, develop nutritional livestock feed, or operate breeding programs. Students who hope to conduct research to improve farming and livestock management and production can also benefit from a doctoral degree in animal science. Students who have an interest in conducting research and learning about the biology and behavior of different animals will also benefit from animal science doctorate degrees. However, students who are not interested in animal behavior and biology may want to consider a different major area of study, as this field requires research into both areas. For students interested in a broader field of ecology, there are Ph.D. programs in ecology and evolutionary biology or ecology and environmental studies.
Online Ph.D. programs require students to be self-motivated and organized. Students interested in pursuing animal science through online programs should be prepared to finish assignments and complete exams without the structure of a classroom environment. Students who struggle with time management may want to consider a campus-based or hybrid program instead of an online doctoral degree program.
Application & Admission Requirements
To gain admission into an animal science doctoral program, students must first submit an application packet that includes transcripts, a personal statement, and a resume or curriculum vitae. Some universities may require essays are part of the application packet as well. Most doctoral degree programs require students to have maintained at least a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, though exact GPA requirements will vary across universities. Field experience, while not required, often helps candidates get selected as potential doctoral students.
Many universities require students to participate in an interview process prior to being admitted into a doctoral program. During these interviews, students are expected to explain their goals and outline their research interests. In addition, some universities may require students to take exams as part of the application process, such as the Graduate Record Exam or a university-issued exam.
Career Options & Job Market
Students who graduate from doctoral degree programs in animal science typically go on to become agricultural and food scientists. Agricultural and food scientists typically earn an average annual salary of $58,450, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Another possible career is that of a postsecondary instructor, a career that earns around $62,050 annually, according to the BLS. For students who are interested in wildlife animal science, a career as a zoologist or wildlife biologist may be more appropriate. Zoologists and wildlife biologists earn around $57,430 a year, according to the BLS. However, keep in mind that salaries vary depending upon experience, location, and the employer.
Where to Find Information
- American Society of Animal Science A society that promotes the advancement of animal science research and studies.
- Federation of Animal Science Societies A group of three societies that encourage discussion and research into a variety of topics concerning agricultural animal science.
- American Association for Laboratory Animal Science A professional association that promotes responsible laboratory procedures, as well as the advancement of animal science that aims to improve the quality of life of both people and animals.
How to Get Funding
The first step in acquiring financial aid is to look into your university’s financial aid options. Many schools provide scholarship and fellowship opportunities to their doctoral students. In addition, professional associations like those listed above usually offer some financial award programs in the form of grants and fellowships. Finally, students have the option of pursuing federal financial aid, as listed below.
- Federal Direct Stafford Loan. This is a fixed interest loan that can support students as they pursue their doctoral degrees. The maximum award available is $20,500.
- Federal Perkins Loan. This loan is based on financial need and is awarded to full-time students. It offers up to $3,500 each academic year and operates on a fixed interest rate.
- Campus-Based Aid. In addition to participating in federal aid programs, many schools offer financial aid programs of their own. To find out about the assistance your university provides, contact the financial aid office.
- Join professional associations to stay current on animal science research and to gain access to conferences and publications that can benefit your research.
- Contact animal science faculty members to determine whether your research interests match up with your potential instructors’ research interests. This is a good way to learn about the program’s demands as well.
- The best way to learn about a university program is to speak to current and former Ph.D. students. They should be able to give you insight into the programs’ expectations and the amount of work required. You can also speak to employers to see what they expect doctoral graduates to know upon entering the career field.
- Don’t be afraid to contact admissions departments to get help with any questions you may have about the application process.