Online Veterinary Science & Animal Care Degree Programs

For many Americans, pets are family members who deserve quality care -- a trend that has contributed to growing career opportunities for animal lovers nationwide. Some animal care professionals, like veterinarians, must invest in advanced veterinary science degree programs, but even animal care support professionals, such as animal caretakers and veterinary technicians, should consider formal training.

At a Glance: Veterinary Science and Animal Care Programs

Many animal care professionals are required to complete some form of higher education; others may simply benefit from specialized training. According to The College Board, there are several majors related to the field, including veterinary technician, pre-veterinary studies and animal science degree programs. Program levels and durations range from one year (or less) certificate programs to advanced doctoral programs requiring years of study.

Though veterinary science and animal care degree programs can and do vary from one school to the next, many include at least some of the same basic courses (as reported by The College Board):

  • Biology
  • Animal anatomy and physiology
  • Genetics
  • Animal nutrition
  • Lab animal science and exotics
  • Parasitology
  • Veterinary pharmacology
  • Veterinary radiology
  • Animal behavior

Note that though schools offer online animal care and veterinary science degree programs, the hands-on nature of the field might require students to spend at least some time in the lab or classroom, or a local veterinary or animal care clinic.

Looking Ahead: Careers in Veterinary Science and Animal Care

While animal care and veterinary science degree programs can certainly be precursors to veterinary careers, there are actually a number of professions that might benefit from this type of training. Here are a few of them. along with key career and education highlights from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • Veterinarian - Veterinarians provide medical care for a wide variety of animals, including pets, livestock and even wildlife. Some may choose to specialize in a certain type of animal, like equine or exotic animal veterinarians. They tend to provide preventive care as well as the diagnosis, treatment and research of medical conditions. The BLS states that veterinarians must earn a doctoral or professional degree before practicing, a process that usually entails completing a pre-veterinary science degree program plus an additional four years of veterinary medicine training. Demand for veterinarians is projected to grow 12 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS. Advances in the fields of food and animal safety, disease control and public health should help drive at least some of this growth. The BLS suggests job prospects may be particularly good for candidates with specialized training in areas such as farm animal care.
  • Veterinary technologist or technician - Veterinary technologists and technicians perform limited diagnostic medical tests and supervised examinations. They might draw blood samples, administer shots or take x-rays, though the scope of their duties can vary from one practice or state to the next. Duties may be at least partially dependent on the type of training received. Most veterinary technologists and technicians complete some type of postsecondary training before entering the field; common credentials include two-year associate degrees and certificates. The BLS projects employment of these professionals to rise 30 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022 -- much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand may be especially strong in rural clinics.
  • Animal care professional - Animal care and service workers provide basic animal care in a variety of settings, including kennels, zoos, stables and even aquariums. Day-to-day tasks often include feeding, bathing and exercising animals. Animal trainers also tend to fall within this career category. Though a high school diploma combined with field experience often suffices for many entry-level positions, according to the BLS, some employers prefer candidates with formal training via animal care degree programs. Positions may also require professional certification through organizations like the Pet Groomers Association of American or Pet Sitters International. Demand for animal care professionals is expected to grow 15 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022. The BLS projects competition will be very strong for zookeepers and animal training professionals, especially those who work with mammals and horses.

These careers represent only a few of the potential paths graduates might pursue; other options include zoologist, veterinary assistant, animal scientist or rancher. Each occupation has its own training requirements, however, so it pays to research options thoroughly before enrolling in a degree program. Sites like the BLS and The College Board are a solid place to start, but prospective students should contact schools directly to learn more about specific program offerings.

Sources:
"Major: Animal Sciences," The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/agriculture-related-sciences-animal-sciences-animal-sciences
"Major: Preveterinary Studies," The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-preveterinary-studies
"Veterinarians," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinarians.htm
"Veterinary Technologists and Technicians," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm
"Animal Care and Service Workers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/animal-care-and-service-workers.htm

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