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Degree Overview: Graduate Degree Program in Animal Science

Majors Overview April 22, 2015

Get information about graduate degree programs in animal science and their education requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Information on Animal Science Program

Animal science graduate program students learn about ways of developing more economical and sustainable ways of producing and processing eggs, milk, meat, and poultry.

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Master of Science (M.S.), and Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) are the three primary degrees in Animal Science. Management skills are the focus of M.P.S. programs; these skills include the production of dairy products. The focus of the M.S. and Ph.D. programs is on scientific research in areas such as improved animal nutrition or animal genetics.

Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) Programs in Animal Science

Those who seek management or specialist positions with county extension offices, government, or industry would benefit from enrolling in M.P.S. in Animal Science programs. A thesis is not required in this degree program, although a paper that must be approved by the committee is a requirement in some programs.

Education Requirements

Acceptance to an M.P.S. program is primarily dependent on the holding of a bachelor’s degree. Some schools require an undergraduate degree in an area such as animal science, dairy or poultry science, or a related biological science. Some schools accept students that hold unrelated degrees, but that have taken courses in these areas.


Students enrolled in many M.P.S. programs are allowed to have a broad focus; therefore, various animal science courses may be taken by them. Alternately, students may be allowed or even required to select a specialization; thus, they may take courses with a single focus. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Animal nutrition
•Animal immunology
•Management and production of dairy herds
•Management and production of beef cattle
•Management and production of poultry
•Animal husbandry
•Animal genetics
•Animal diseases
•Animal breeding
•Animal science careers

Career Choices

Graduates of an M.P.S. program may choose from various career options, including:

•Peace Corps volunteer
•Farmer or rancher
•Livestock publication writer or editor
•County cooperative extension agent
•Livestock or livestock supplies salesperson

Continuing Education Choices

Businesses, animal science organizations, and universities and colleges offer online and in-person continuing education seminars and classes in animal science. Coursework may include topic areas such as pasture management, artificial insemination for cattle, and dairy nutrition.

Master of Science (M.S.) Programs in Animal Science

There is more emphasis on research in Master of Science (M.S.) in Animal Science programs than in M.P.S. programs; students will be prepared to advance to doctoral programs, if they want to. Special focuses are offered in many M.P.S. programs; these include meat science, animal nutrition, gut microbiology, and developmental biology. Schools offer both non-thesis and thesis programs.

Education Requirements

The prerequisites in M.S. programs in Animal Science are the same as in professional studies programs. Prospective students in some schools are required to show an interest in or have a background in agriculture. Undergraduate work in animal science or a related field is preferred by most. Students are usually required to hold GPAs of at least 3.0.


An M.S. degree program in Animal Science offers many courses that are also in an M.P.S. degree program. Some unique core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Monogastric nutrition
•Methods of nutritional experimentation
•Experimental design and data analysis
•Agricultural emergency response
•Statistical bioinformatics and genetics
•Nitrogen metabolism

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2010 – 2020 decade, 13% job growth rate have been predicted for animal scientists (BLS). In 2013, animal scientists brought in an annual average wage of $72,590 (BLS).

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Programs in Animal Science

Schools offer doctoral degrees in animal science as research degrees. Students enrolled in these programs are trained to seek occupations wherein they would need to perform research or teach at a university and college, offer private consultation services, or perform research for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Graduates may also seek occupations in animal science quality control and compliance, technical service and procedures, or research and development. Students enrolled in some Ph.D. programs are required to teach classes within the department.

Education Requirements

Prerequisite requirements in most doctoral programs are the same as in master’s level programs. A master’s degree is usually earned during the course of a doctoral program by students that don’t have one.


Coursework beyond the master’s level does not find emphasis in the majority of Ph.D. programs in Animal Science. Rather, their focus is on a dissertation and research. Schools may require students to be proficient in a foreign language or research specialty, such as science philosophy, computer science, or statistics. Core coursework in a Ph.D. program might include subject areas such as:

•Genetic research
•Research in physiology
•Advanced individual research
•Research in nutrition

Continuing Education Choices

Schools offer various post-doctoral fellowships in animal sciences in areas such as reproductive physiology, animal genetics, sustainable agriculture, and grassland and animal production.

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