What Can I Do With an Animal Science Major?

A student leads a horse at a barn.
Iris Xing, an animal science major, tends to her horse after a workout at the Equestrian Center. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Let me introduce myself. I am Kathryn Jackson, student academic advisor in the Department of Animal Science. I am also a UC Davis alumna.

Many students enter the animal science major with the intention of applying to schools of veterinary medicine. But this popular major is also appropriate for other professional careers such as becoming a doctor, nurse, dentist or physician assistant. Continuing on to graduate school to earn a master’s degree or Ph.D. to become a researcher, scientist or professor after graduation is another option. This popular major is also appropriate for pre-health students on a medical, nursing, dental or physician’s assistant track.

Let me give you more examples.

Animal science careers with a bachelor’s degree

Our students have become zookeepers; biologists; butchers; and animal production managers in dairies, beef ranches, horse farms, poultry houses and fish farms.

Working at UC Davis is also a possibility: Several of our recent graduates have been appointed staff positions at our department’s animal facilities.  

Kevn Bellido with chickens
Kevin Bellido, shown as a student, cares for chickens and quail at the Hopkins Avian Facility on campus as an intern in the Department of Animal Science. Bellido is now a principal animal technician at UC Davis. (UC Davis Department of Animal Science)

We also have alumni who have gone on to work in animal shelters as adoption counselors and animal health technicians. One is a dog handler for the Transportation Security Administration.

Graduate degrees to become a researcher or professor

Another option for our majors is to continue on to graduate school for a master’s degree or Ph.D. to become a researcher, scientist or professor.

Researching human medicine with animal models is another popular and lucrative career. Local biotechnology firms such as Genentech and Jackson Laboratories actively recruit our students.

Animal science majors also have entered the agriculture regulation and policy sectors, choosing such careers as working for the USDA in carcass inspection or food safety.

And some graduates also have careers formulating pet and livestock feeds, working in a human eye research laboratory and teaching animal science at a community college.

Students exposed to many different species

Laura Waters examining goat in pen
Animal science major Laura Waters examines a goat at the California State Fair. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

As students move through the major, they are exposed to many different species including pets, livestock, horses, birds and fish. They get a broad education on how animals are used by people, and upper-division coursework focuses more on anatomy and physiology, genetics, nutrition, and behavior. 

Students are required to select a focus area and complete courses in an area of specialization such as horses, companion animals or livestock, or a subject area such as physiology or behavior.

Many of our courses include laboratory components with live animals, dissections, surgeries or field trips to animal production facilities. These experiences often influence career paths as students learn what species and activities they enjoy most.

Intern at the zoo, vet hospital or water buffalo dairy

Our internship opportunities are broad and diverse. Students can intern at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital, the Sacramento Zoo and even a water buffalo dairy! Although internships are not required as part of the major, these hands-on experiences can be life-changing as students are involved in real-life learning with animal industry leaders.

Career development is an important activity in our Animal Science Advising Center. We communicate often with our students through Facebook, our website, e-mail and flyers. Continuing students can learn about part-time jobs.

You Can Live in Our Barns

Students can live at one of nine animal facilities at UC Davis. In exchange for about 10 hours of animal care per week, they receive free rent for a year, with a potential second year of residency.

These facilities include the:

Applications, found at the Animal Science Advising Center, are due in mid-March.

Check out our Department of Animal Science website for links to career positions for newly graduated students, including jobs at UC Davis. The site may also be helpful to students exploring what they could do with an animal science degree.  Also, join us on our Facebook page.

Get connected through our career symposium

Each winter our advising center hosts a half-day Saturday event called the Animal Science Career Symposium. We invite our alumni to come and speak to students to demonstrate what helped these professionals decide on a career path as they went through our major. They also help our continuing students identify what employers look for in potential employees.

We also invite recruiters from organizations such as the USDA, California Fish and Wildlife, the SPCA and Foster Farms to come meet and collect resumes from students at the end of the event.

This highly successful meeting has helped our students become better prepared for employment in animal-related fields as well as provided alumni with the opportunity to give back to the department through their time and valuable advice.

You will be spending 30 or more years in the career of your choice. If you are passionate about animals and science, the animal science major may be the perfect choice for you!

portrait of a woman
Kathryn Jackson  

An academic advisor for the Department of Animal Science, Kathryn Jackson earned her Bachelor of Science in animal science with an equine specialization at UC Davis in 2005 and completed a Master of Science in animal biology in 2009 in the department. She has researched production and reproduction traits in transgenic dairy goats and taught animal science and animal nutrition courses at Sierra College from 2008 to 2012. Contact Kathryn at katjackson@ucdavis.edu.

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