An animal researcher conducts research projects that pertain to various types of animals. To become an animal researcher, you will usually need at least a bachelor's degree in animal science or a related scientific field. Typically, however, the most attractive jobs are available to those who earn master's or doctoral degrees. Additionally, you will need a range of skills for this job, including not only those that involve handling animals, but also those that involve problem solving and using a computer.
Earning a high school diploma or its equivalent followed by earning a college degree in a science-related field is usually the first step when you want to become an animal researcher. You may find choosing a major such as animal science a natural choice when you are interested in this job, but this isn't your only option. You might also find that biology and chemistry or other related science degrees provide adequate preparation for a career in this field. No matter which science degree you choose to pursue, however, you'll likely benefit from earning a significant number of credits in courses that cover such subjects as animal environments, behavior, and nutritional needs as well as reproduction and inherited traits. In most cases, you will need to learn about diseases and other threats to animals as well.
For many animal research careers, an undergraduate degree may not prove enough to land the job you want. Though you may find some entry-level positions available to you without advanced education, stopping with a bachelor's degree might limit you in terms of opportunities for advancement and pay rates. Likewise, you may need a graduate degree if you want to become an independent animal researcher. A master's degree in animal science will likely translate into more opportunities, but doctoral degrees may mean the most career choices as well as the highest pay.
In a graduate-level animal science program, you'll study animal anatomy, biology, and diseases. Your course schedule also may include molecular genetics and pharmacology, which is the study of medication. You might also take courses in embryology, which is the study of animal offspring from the time an egg is fertilized until it becomes a fetus. This type of program may cover animal welfare and agricultural ecology as well as a range of other important animal-related studies. Additionally, such programs often include opportunities to participate in real research projects, work with animals in labs, and even learn from hands-on work in internships as you work to become an animal researcher.
The skills you will need to become an animal researcher will usually include those that involve working with various types of animals. You will likely also need the ability to formulate plans and problem solve as well as have an analytical mind. In most cases, computer skills are also desired, as you may have to input and analyze data, create reports, and communicate with other scientists via computer technologies.