Animal Behavior B.S.

The Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior (CISAB) administers the internationally-recognized academic program in animal behavior for both undergraduate and graduate students. The Animal Behavior B.S. degree is offered within the College of Arts and Sciences.

Animal Behavior is the interdisciplinary study of human and non-human behavior and its relation to other living things and the environment: evolution, ecology, and physiology.

Students pursuing the degree receive specific training in the study of the why and how of animal behavior. They consider the evolutionary and ecological functions of animal behavior, as well as the physiological mechanisms underlying species behaviors. 

The curriculum includes traditional lecture and laboratory coursework. In addition, workshop courses allow Animal Behavior majors to interact with experts in basic and applied animal behavior research. The helps you focus your interests and develop the skills needed for pursuing careers in the field.

Students pursuing the degree are encouraged to meet with advisors through the Department of Biology as well as the director of the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior.

The Animal Behavior program also offers a minor and an area certificate. Students take foundational courses in biology, psychology, and/or anthropology, and advanced courses in two of three core approaches to studying animal behavior: evolution, learning and development, and/or mechanisms of behavior. You also have opportunities to gain hands-on experience through the Animal Behavior internship program.

Coursework

Getting started

Your starting point with the Animal Behavior major is with introductory science courses: BIOL-L 111, BIOL-L 112, and PSY-P 101 (or PSY-P 155). BIOL-L 111 and BIOL-L 112 can be taken in either order. You may also take the required ethics course in your first year, if you wish. REL-R 170 or PHIL-P 140 are popular choices to fulfill the Animal Behavior ethics requirement, although there are other options as well.

As an Animal Behavior major, you have the freedom to take upper-level courses from several disciplines. The Animal Behavior B.S. degree does not have official areas of concentration, but students must take at least two upper-level courses in each of the three perspectives:

  • Evolutionary/Ecological Perspectives
  • Environmental/Developmental/Cognitive Perspectives
  • Mechanisms of Behavior Perspectives

Students take two additional lecture or laboratory courses in any of these three areas. Approved courses are offered through several departments and programs in addition to Animal Behavior, including: Anthropology, Biology, Cognitive Science, Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychological and Brain Sciences, and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA).

Tracks and concentrations

The Animal Behavior B.S. does not have official areas of concentration. Instead, students choose upper-level courses in each of three perspectives areas, as mentioned above. Some students take a wide variety of approved courses, while others choose to focus mostly on biology, anthropology, or psychology courses within each perspectives area.

Upper level coursework

All Animal Behavior majors receive advanced training in experimental approaches to the study of animal behavior, through advanced laboratory and field courses offered through multiple departments.

Upper-level courses allow students the chance to study with faculty in multiple departments. This allows them to study animal behavior from various perspectives: cognitive, conservationist, developmental, ecological, evolutionary, physiological, and psychological.

Students pursuing the degree are required to complete a minimum of 3 credit hours in supervised research or an internship. Students consider this experiential component to be a highlight of the Animal Behavior degree. If you are unable to do an internship or supervised research experience, you may take an additional formal laboratory course instead. Research may be conducted in Animal Behavior, Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, Cognitive Science, Physics, or Psychological and Brain Sciences.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

Your major represents about half of your degree requirements. With the help of your academic advisor, you may be able to combine several areas of interest with additional majors, minors, or certificates.

For example, you might pursue a second degree in Anthropology, Biology, Human Biology, Neuroscience, or Psychology.

Suggested minors include Anthropology, Biology, Psychology, and Spanish (or another foreign language).

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing a degree in Animal Behavior, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in many fields. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work towards your goals.

Many exciting research opportunities are available, involving research in animal behavior, anthropology, biology, and psychological and brain sciences.

Students and faculty are part of an interdepartmental network of resources, including the IU Research and Teaching Preserve, the Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics, and the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior (CISAB).

CISAB maintains a common-use Animal Behavior Laboratory within the Biology department where students doing supervised research in faculty laboratories have access to state-of-the-art training in molecular, genetic, and endocrine techniques.

Students may also choose to pursue research positions in faculty labs. Through working in a lab, you have the opportunity to participate in cutting edge research, explore your own research interests, build relationships with faculty members, and gain valuable work and research experience. CISAB faculty members have primary appointments in Anthropology, Biology, Psychological and Brain Sciences, and other departments. They may be contacted directly about research opportunities in their labs.

Students can receive academic credit for their involvement in research. Contact Anthropology, Biology, or Psychological and Brain Sciences for more information about the ways that you can earn independent study credit.

Undergraduate Research Programs such as the Integrative Freshman Learning Experience (IFLE) or Science Technology and Research Scholars (STARS) give those who are especially interested in research the opportunity to start working in a lab as early as their freshman year. Students in IFLE begin research the summer before their first semester at IU.

Animal Behavior majors have the unique opportunity to gain teaching experience by becoming an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UTA). For instance, introductory courses in the Biology department, especially BIOL L-111 and BIOL-L112, are large classes with discussion groups. UTAs in the Psychological and Brain Sciences department assist faculty in a variety of courses, with responsibilities ranging from review and discussion sessions to grading. Students may earn either academic credit or be paid for their UTA experience.

Honors

Outstanding students may earn Honors in Animal Behavior by writing and defending an honors thesis involving their own original research. Students work with a faculty mentor to develop the research project, write their thesis, and assemble a thesis committee.

High-achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

Animal Behavior students may seek funding for summer research. See the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior (CISAB) website for more information about summer research opportunities.

Anthropology, Biology, and Psychological and Brain Sciences also offer scholarships and awards. Contact these departments for additional information.

Internships

Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas studies with internships, as early as their first year.

The Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior (CISAB) internship in Animal Behavior allows students to receive academic credit for experiences at partner organizations such as:

Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior (CISAB) and through The Walter Center for Career Achievement.

Foreign language study

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 70 languages. Learn more about the foreign language requirement for a College of Arts and Sciences degree.

Here is a partial list of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:

Overseas study

Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in an increasingly globalized world. Animal Behavior students often pursue coursework and language study through the following IU sponsored and co-sponsored semester programs:

  • Adelaide, Australia
  • Canberra, Australia
  • Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Costa Rica (winter break)
  • Grand Cayman (spring/summer)
  • Wollongong, Australia

Some students choose an overseas program where they can find science courses that can be used to fulfill the requirements of the Animal Behavior major. Others study abroad as a way to earn credit toward an additional language major or minor, or choose courses that fulfill General Education or College of Arts and Sciences requirements.

Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with faculty, your academic advisor, and the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one. Student organizations include:

Residential Programs and Services at IU offers a variety of learning communities that allow students to select to live among peers with a common interest. Some of the following learning communities may be of interest to Animal Behavior students:

For a complete list of Living-Learning Centers and Thematic Communities, visit the Residential Programs and Services at IU website.

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

Professional organizations you may want to investigate include:

Use the Indiana University Library system to search Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, nonprofit organizations, and much more.

Build your skills

Through the major

The Animal Behavior B.S. degree provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Knowledge of foundational biological concepts
  • Experience in modern lab techniques, with individualized training and consultation
  • Training in specific lab techniques, including sample preparation, hormone extraction, enzyme immunoassays, EIA/ELISA, DNA/RNA extraction, PCR, gel electrophoresis, and cDNA preparation
  • Opportunities to design experiments, collect data, and use quantitative reasoning to analyze, interpret, and present data
  • Participation in collaborative interactions to analyze data and solve problems

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following abilities as identified by the 11 Goals of the College of Arts and Sciences:

  • Achieve the genuine literacy required to read, listen, speak and write clearly and persuasively
  • Learn to think critically and creatively
  • Develop intellectual flexibility and breadth of mind
  • Discover ethical perspectives
  • Cultivate a critically informed appreciation of literature and the arts
  • Practice and apply scientific methods
  • Learn to reason quantitatively
  • Develop historical consciousness
  • Investigate and study the international community
  • Develop and practice communication skills in public settings and in the study of at least one foreign language
  • Pursue in-depth knowledge of at least one subject

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following abilities are sought in the job market across many employment sectors:

  • Communicate effectively with persons both inside and outside the organization
  • Work in a team structure
  • Make decisions and solve problems
  • Plan, organize, and prioritize work
  • Obtain and process relevant information
  • Analyze quantitative data
  • Obtain technical knowledge related to the job
  • Proficiency with computer software programs
  • Create and edit written reports
  • Ability to persuade or influence others

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic and career advisors about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career advisor can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with your career advisor.

The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.

Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.

Use the IU Career Guides to determine if the path you are considering aligns with your short- and long-term goals. These guides were created by career advisors in the Career Development Center. You can search by career cluster or use the “Search by Major” field to look at specific fields related to each major. The various tabs here allow you to browse job titles, ways to get experience, and employers that have hired in the field. There is information about each field's preferred educational preparation, employment opportunities, insider tips, industry-related interview questions, and more.

You might want to take a career course to help you maximize your time at IU. College of Arts and Sciences Students should consider taking ASCS-Q 299 College to Career III: Market Yourself for the Job and Internship Search. This course teaches the strategies and tools necessary to successfully market the qualifications gained from your Arts and Sciences education, help you achieve career-related goals, and plan for lifelong career development.

The job market

A Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior provides you with a diverse set of skills and depth of knowledge, preparing you for work in a variety of industries and work environments. Students with the Animal Behavior B.S. degree take their education in many directions. They are well prepared to work in research, education, business, industry, parks, museums, veterinary medicine, and government.

With increased focus on job growth in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, job opportunities are vast for students with analytical, critical thinking, and research skills.

Graduates with the Animal Behavior B.S. may become research assistants, teachers, lab managers, wildlife and conservation officers, veterinary assistants, and veterinarians, among other careers.

Talk with faculty, an Animal Behavior advisor, a Psychology advisor, and other students to gain insights into career paths taken by graduates.

Career Analytics Platform, also known as 12Twenty, provides major-specific dashboards with real-time information
about internship and full-time job locations of our students.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook compiles information from the Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics. The “Occupation Groups” and “Occupation Finder” sections can provide insight into entry-level education requirements and the job outlook for specific fields.

O*Net Online is a site that includes detailed descriptions of the world of work. You can conduct an “Occupation Quick Search” in the top right corner of the homepage, or use the “Career Cluster” search under Find Occupations to look at snapshots of different career paths. The Wages and Employment Trends section under each specific career title has information like projected growth and projected job openings that can be useful. 

What Can I Do With This Major? is a site that compiles lists of majors and outlines various careers and strategies for finding employment in numerous fields. The industries featured under each major can be beneficial for brainstorming career options in each major.

Vocational Biographies features over 1,000 career stories of individuals in a variety of fields. The “Career Pathway” and “Career Cluster” sections let you search through common interests for specific career stories. Each story has a box of information on the last page with job outlook, education and training, salary range, and more data that can be useful. Use the following username/password to access this site: username: Indiana Univ password: zSQhK

Walter Center for Career Achievement Outcomes Report has top-level data about College of Arts + Sciences students. It shows success rates by major, as well as the graduate schools, internships, and job offers students have reported through our survey methods.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with your career advisor, and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:

Teaching positions give you a chance to hone language and communication skills. Find international English teaching jobs through organizations such as the Center for International Education Exchange, the Institute of International Education, and LanguageCorps.

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund graduate school. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit, and government organizations.

Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

Some jobs in animal behavior require only a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. However, many careers in animal behavior require advanced degrees, such as a Master of Arts or Science (M.A., M.S.), a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), or a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.). Earning an advanced degree requires a strong undergraduate background: good grades, high motivation, hard work, and intelligence.

Students considering graduate school should plan ahead during their undergraduate experience. An Animal Behavior B.S. degree will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as research, education, veterinary medicine, and wildlife management.

Students who pursue graduate studies in Animal Behavior have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, government and private research institutions, zoos, conservation groups, museums, and veterinary medicine.

Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:

Alumni connections

The Biology Alumni Development Office publishes an alumni newsletter to help you stay connected.

The IU College of Arts and Sciences organizes Alumni events. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni. 

Join and use the IU Alumni Association to remain in touch, network directly, and let others know where your path takes you.


Is it for you?

If you are interested in ecology, zoology, or evolution; wildlife management, conservation or rehabilitation; animal training; veterinary medicine; or careers in zoos, aquariums, or natural history museums, this degree might be a good choice for you.

The Animal Behavior B.S. attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. Most share some of the following qualities:

  • A desire to work with animals, approaching the study of their behavior from a scientific perspective
  • Interest in interdisciplinary studies, particularly among anthropology, biology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and psychology
  • A fascination with comparative studies of the behavior of human and non-human animals
  • Curiosity regarding how genes, physiology, and the environment influence behavior
  • Passion for conservation and environmental issues

There are numerous career paths to explore if you earn an Animal Behavior B.S. degree. Many students plan to attend graduate school to continue their research or obtain advanced degrees in fields such as wildlife conservation. Others wish to work in a setting with animals or pursue a program in veterinary medicine. Students who plan to attend veterinary school must complete additional prerequisite courses to fulfill their requirements.

Learn more

Contact one of the Animal Behavior academic advisors and schedule an appointment to explore your options.

Complete information about the requirements of the Animal Behavior degree can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address
bioadv@indiana.edu