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Animal Behaviour

Subject description

Over the last few years the desire to understand the animal world has increased dramatically. Animal behaviour is now a rapidly growing field and many prior understandings of the behaviour, characteristics and communication of animals are being rewritten. The big question, how and why do animals behave the way they do, is far from being comprehensively answered, but the emergence of a new generation of animal behaviourists is helping to begin the answering of this and other questions.

The study and interpretation of the natural behaviour of animals is a fascinating subject and those who choose to study animal behaviour are concerned with understanding the causes, functions and evolution of behaviour. There is an increasing need for humans to take an element of responsibility towards animals and their welfare. Not just for domestic pets but for wild animals, who are having to adapt to new environments as a result of climate change and the effects that this is having on the natural habitats of some wild animals.

On a more domestic level, there is a greater awareness among the general public of issues involved with the welfare of companion, performance and farm animals. Animals that are bred for food, animals that we keep as pets and those that are kept in zoos and aquariums, horses that are used in horseracing and animals that are used in films are all looked after by people with a good scientific knowledge of animal behaviour.

Example areas of study

The study of animal behaviour is multidisciplinary and the subjects and modules vary from course to course and institution to institution. The list below will give you an idea of the kind of subjects you may study on an animal behaviour course, but it is worth checking with the institutions themselves before submitting an application.

  • Animal psychology
  • Zoology
  • Evolution
  • Behavioural ecology
  • Animal handling and care
  • Management of exotic species
  • Genetic
  • Environmental adaptation
  • Field ecology
  • Ethics and animal welfare
  • Conservation
  • Environmental management
  • Cognitive neuropsychology
  • Primate social systems
  • Parasitology
  • Animal anatomy and physiology
  • Ecosystems
  • Equine science
  • Microbiology
  • Livestock technology
  • Wildlife ecology
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Natural history
  • Vertebrate biology
  • Animal management
  • Behavioural physiology
  • Animal husbandry
  • Diversity and evolution
  • Captive breeding and re-introduction
  • Animal training
  • Animal breeding
  • Animal rehabilitation
  • Data analysis and research

Some career possibilities

Animal behaviour graduates may go on to postgraduate study and research in a specialised area or move into lecturing or research posts in an academic setting. Other employment opportunities may be available in conservation charities and policy groups, museums, zoos and aquariums, animal control and welfare such as the RSPCA, companion animal charities such as the Guide Dogs for the Blind or Hearing Dogs charity, or within government or private research institutions. There may also be opportunities to work as a behavioural trainer for dogs, horses or other animals that may be used in therapy or indeed films or television.

What do I need to get on a course?

The study of animal behaviour is a branch of biology and therefore a science qualification will usually be required as part of the entry requirements. Below you will find a guide to the kind of grades, qualifications and subjects that may be required to study animal behaviour. However, it is worth checking with the institutions themselves before submitting you application.

  • UCAS Tariff: 160-240 points preferably including biology and psychology
  • A-level: BCC-BBB including relevant science subjects
  • SQA Highers: BBC-BBBB including biology and psychology
  • SQA Advanced Highers: BBB-ABB including relevant science subjects
  • Irish Leaving Certificates: BBBBB including biology and psychology
  • HNC/D: relevant subject
  • BTEC National Diploma: DMM in animal-related subject
  • International Baccalaureate: 24-30 points including relevant science subjects
  • European Baccalaureate: 68-70% including relevant science subjects

For your application or interview the following may be useful:

To find out more about the typical subjects you will study, potential career paths and further information useful for your application log-on to Course Discover at www.coursediscoveronline.co.uk*

*NB: Your school or college will need a subscription to Course Discover in order for you to gain access, for further information go to: www.coursediscover.co.uk

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