How to Become an

Ethologist

The complete career guide to be an Ethologist: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $71,830
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 10.3%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Flexible Hours
    Career Attribute

An ethologist closely works with animals to gain a deeper understanding about their behavioural patterns. Ethologists may study animals ranging from domestic livestock to wildlife.


What is an Ethologist?

Duties

Your duties as an ethologist include the following tasks:

  • Undertake field work outdoors which involves closely observing animals, taking down notes on associated behaviour, taking photographs and using other means as needed to document findings.
  • Perform controlled experiments on animals in laboratory settings to understand their reactions related to sleeping, feeding, nurturing their young, etc.
  • Apply for funds to continue research and interact with investors to expand the scope of work.
  • Work alongside other scientists to track animal behaviour especially in the case of rats, rabbits, mice, etc. for drug testing or reactions to certain diseases.

Day in the Life

Ethologists spend most of their time in close proximity to animals to observe, study and document their behaviours, whether it is in relation to finding potential mates, responding to threats in the natural environment or their general lifestyle. While this is the primary focus, you may also recreate such an environment in laboratory settings to further study genetic and physiological aspects of an animal. The day to day functions are very much dependent on the type of work you are doing, for instance working with a wildlife research program will require more hands-on assignments than working as a research partner in a laboratory. Most ethologists are expected to publish academic papers in the long term so ethologists spend considerable time pursuing their research from various direct and indirect sources.

Work Schedule

If you choose to become an ethologist working for a research center, zoo or a wildlife sanctuary, you must be comfortable with irregular working hours in rugged terrain. In that case, the work schedule fluctuates based on the complexity and quality of work. You could be traveling to remote corners of the world for animals in forested areas or secluded river basins, to gain insight into their behavioural patterns in their natural habitat. You may also work in standard office environments such as research institutes, laboratories, colleges and universities to teach or conduct experiments. Such functions are similar to any academic professional – 9 am to 5 pm working hours and assigned vacation or leave days.

Growth of the Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, job opportunities in ethology and related industries are expected to increase by 4% between 2014-2024. There will be promising careers for those focusing on wildlife habitats and the biotechnological impacts of preventing serious diseases and pursuing genetics. If you prefer to veer away to alternative career paths, there is plenty to choose from. For example, you can specialise in becoming a veterinarian to provide healthcare for domestic farm animals, pets and the occasional wildlife. You could also look to a microbiologist’s career if you like the idea of researching micro-organisms like viruses or bacteria.

Typical Employers

Ethologists are in demand by a wide range of employers across different industries. Based on your specialisation, you can be working for natural wildlife habitats, wildlife conservation projects, animal welfare groups, research institutions, pharmaceutical companies or laboratories, colleges, universities, farms and zoos.


How To Become an Ethologist

To become an ethologist, you must possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in relevant fields like animal science, wildlife management, biology, ecology, veterinary science, animal behaviour, etc. Coursework for such programs may include working with animal specimens in labs under a microscope. The best part about enrolling in courses is the chance to work directly with animals for an internship alongside classwork.

While completing a bachelor’s program is a good place to start in this field, you must go on to also complete your master’s degree to join senior level teams and projects. To succeed in this area, you must cultivate solid skills in mathematics and biology. You should also be comfortable working one on one with various animals and respect them completely.

Other skills that will prove helpful to stand out as an ethologist includes clear written and verbal communication abilities and a willingness to travel wherever the work takes you. This is especially relevant since you will have to simplify your language and give clarity to professionals outside your field of expertise. Since some of the work as ethologist requires collaboration with other scientists or researchers, you should also have a foundational grasp of the linkages between the sciences and communicate clearly such issues.


Ethologist Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range

$46,180

Average

$71,830

High Range

$120,500

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$22/hr

Average

$35/hr

High Range

$58/hr

How do Ethologist salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Ethologist's can make an average annual salary of $71,830, or $35 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $46,180 or $22 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #185 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally


Highest Education Among Ethologists

  • 14.2%   Doctorate
  • 21%   Masters
  • 45.8%   Bachelors
  • 8%   Associates
  • 10.9%   College
  • 0.2%   High School
  • 0%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

2,900

2024 Est. Jobs

3,200

Job Growth Rate

10.3%

Est. New Jobs

300

How does Ethologist job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 300 jobs for a total of 3,200 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 10.3% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #179 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally


What Companies Employ The Most Ethologists

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state 900 100 ---
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 500 --- ---
Support activities for agriculture and forestry 400 100 0%

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