How to Become an Animal Psychologist

Those who want to become an animal psychologist must first complete the necessary educational requirements by graduating from an accredited psychology degree program. Those who possess a psychology degree with a focus on animals will typically study animal behavior. The term animal behaviorist is often interchanged with animal psychologist. Some animal psychologists may specialize in a specific type of animals such as mammals or reptiles, or even in a particular species within such a category. Animal psychologists may go into a variety of different specialties such as teaching, government or private research, and/or zoos and aquariums.

What degree is required to become an animal psychologist?

Although one may first obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology or biology, typically, an animal psychologist will need to obtain a master’s or a doctorate degree in psychology with a specific focus on behavioral science. If an individual cannot obtain a graduate degree immediately upon fulfilling their bachelor’s degree requirements, they may apply to work as a paid assistant to a certified animal behaviorist until they are able to continue their education via an accredited psychology degree program.

In addition to education, one must become licensed to work with animals. The highest certification that one can obtain in this field is the Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB). Certified applied animal behaviorists come from a variety of different backgrounds, such as veterinarians who have obtained additional training in applied animal behavior. In general, however, they typically all have a broad background in animal behavior theory, as well as application.

How long does it take to become an animal psychologist?

Those who are completing their doctoral degree in psychology can anticipate it to take between four and seven years, depending on the course work that is required. In addition, the exact time that is needed will be dependent upon whether a student opts to attend their educational program on a full-time or a part-time basis. There is also a time factor involved with the completion of one’s dissertation, as well as a period of time that must be spent fulfilling clinical and/or internship requirements. Online psychology programs may help in fulfilling a student’s degree requirements for becoming an animal psychologist.

Also factoring into the time it takes to become an animal psychologist is the period for licensure or certification that may be required for the individual’s specific focus. Those who are pursuing the career of animal psychologist and possess a master’s degree in psychology rather than a Ph.D. may wish to obtain certification through the Animal Behavior Society (ABS). For example, candidates who are attaining their Associate Applied Animal Behaviorist credential must have completed a research thesis during their master’s degree in psychology program and also have two years of animal behavior work experience.

What is an animal psychologist’s salary?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual median wage for psychologists overall in May 2010 was $68,640. This, however, is just an average, and pay can vary a great deal depending on one’s career focus and demographic area. For example, those who work as animal psychologists in 2012 earn an average salary of $80,000 per year.