Main image courtesy of Modern Farmer.
It’s not always easy to decide what to study in college-- between college essays, scholarship applications, and finishing high school, picking your specific field of interest might seem like a “later” problem.
Sometimes, that’s perfectly fine-- you’re already busy, and by no means do you have to know exactly what you want to do with your life before you even enter college. But it is sometimes useful to know what kinds of programs you might be interested in, and where those programs are located. If you have a general area of interest and don’t make sure that the colleges you apply to offer relevant programs, you might find yourself constrained when it comes time to declare your major.
Of course, a general area of interest is just that-- general. There are likely plenty of majors and courses of study that are related to something you find interesting.
Animal lovers, for example, have lots of majors open to them at any school with a veterinary program. If you’re interested in working with animals long-term, here are some of the best colleges to attend for animal science!
What is Animal Science?
Animal science is certainly not for everyone, but it is crucial for the food industry. This field involves learning about the biology, reproduction, behavior, and management of livestock animals such as cows, sheep, pigs, and poultry.
Most of the time, the goal of the major is to prepare students to be able to manage farms efficiently-- taking care of animals, ensuring the right conditions for them to reproduce, and responsibly overseeing meat production. Meat, as a great source of protein, is a critical part of most people’s diets in one way or another, so it’s easy to see why animal science is such an important field of study.
In recent years, the field has grown-- some schools now class the care and well-being of other animal species, including domesticated species like cats and dogs, under animal science, as well. This is good news for students who are interested in working with animals in some capacity but don’t want to deal with the food industry or the management of large-scale farms.
Animal science majors can also pursue a variety of careers with their degree-- from zoology, to nature conservation, to conducting research on animal behavior, there are lots of opportunities out there. If you’re interested in any of these careers-- or just want to learn the ins and outs of animal science itself-- try looking into the animal science programs at the colleges on this list!
The Best Colleges for Animal Science
University of Florida
The University of Florida is first on our list of colleges to look into if you’re interested in studying animal science. This college offers a four-year Bachelor of the Sciences in animal science, and students can choose to specialize in Animal Biology, Equine sciences, Food Animal Science, or Integrative Animal Sciences. There are also several clubs and organizations associated with the animal science program at the University of Florida, including the Dairy Science Club, Block and Bridle Club, and Equestrian Club-- so there are plenty of opportunities for students here to get involved and make friends who share their interests.
Cornell University boasts a great animal science program that focuses on food, laboratory, and companion animal species-- so students studying here have several options to choose from in their studies. The animal sciences program makes efforts to do outreach in Cornell’s immediate community and beyond, and its students are provided with great opportunities both during and after their education.
The program guides students through courses on animal biology, anatomy, ethics, and the specifics of managing a variety of different types of livestock animals. About 70% of students in Cornell’s animal science program participate in research during their undergrad years, and a solid 85% of students either go on to grad school or are employed upon graduating-- so this program is a very reliable one if you’re interested in pursuing animal science.
North Carolina State University
North Carolina State University is one of the best colleges in the country for animal science majors-- so if you’re interested in this field, make a point of looking into this school. NCSU offers three tracks within the animal science program-- students can choose to focus on veterinary, science, or industry-based animal science. With excellent professors providing students with hands-on experience in their chosen area of expertise, students leave NCSU fully prepared to pursue a career in the animal sciences.
University of California-- Davis
The animal science program at the University of California in Davis offers three different majors for students to choose from-- Agricultural and Environmental Education, general Animal Science, or Animal Science and Management. These majors aim to provide students with the freedom to pursue their individual, specific interests, whether that lie in business, animal behavior, or how the social sciences influence the animal industry.
UC Davis is also dedicated to making the animal industry more sustainable-- faculty in the animal science program are engaged with projects like trying to decrease methane emissions from cows, studying the effects of oils on marine life, and improving animal welfare within the industry. So if you’re an animal lover, this is definitely a great place to keep in mind-- you’ll be surrounded by people who aim to help animals and the environment, just like you do.
Iowa State University
If you want hands-on experience in animal science during your undergraduate years, then Iowa State University might be the place for you. Students can choose between a major in Animal Science or Dairy Science, and the department also offers minors in Animal Science and Meat Science. Besides that, students are bound to get plenty of experience working with animals and learning how to manage farms-- Iowa State University is affiliated with over a dozen teaching farms to help students develop a solid understanding of animal welfare and management.
University of Illinois-- Urbana-Champaign
Another excellent school to attend if you want hands-on experience working with animals, the University of Illinois between Urbana and Champaign boasts an excellent animal science program with several affiliated teaching farms. Students have the opportunity to take coursework in a variety of disciplines, including genetics, animal behavior, meat science, reproductive biology, and nutrition, and can study livestock, companion animals, or exotic animals-- whatever you find the most interesting.
All students have the opportunity to pursue internships or other work opportunities before graduating. And even after graduating, University of Illinois students are at an advantage-- the school reports that their alumni have 21% higher earnings than their counterparts from most other colleges.
University of Wisconsin-- Madison
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is an excellent school to look into if you’re dedicated to an education in animal science. UW-Madison’s Animal and Dairy Science department offers majors in Animal Science, Dairy Science, or Animal and Veterinary Bioscience. The department’s goals include improving animal welfare, improving the animal industry’s stewardship of land, water, and other resources, and promoting high standards of food safety-- the faculty certainly have both animal and public welfare in mind.
UW-Madison is also a great college to look into if you’re in need of scholarships. The Animal and Dairy Science department alone offers $262,000 in departmental scholarships every single year-- with only 187 students currently in the department, that gives you good odds of receiving financial aid in one form or another.
Kansas State University
Kansas State University boasts an Animal Science and Industry program as well as a Food Science program for undergraduate students, giving you the opportunity to develop a strong understanding of food and meat science, animal behavior, genetics, reproduction, and nutrition. The school offers plenty of hands-on learning opportunities, either through their labs or research facilities. Even more promising for prospective students, KSU alumni have great hiring rates-- the school reports a 97% placement rate for animal science students after graduation.
Those Were the Best Colleges for Animal Science!
Animal science is an incredibly important field of study in today’s world-- animal scientists are part of the reason food supply chains can run smoothly, and they are always working to improve the sustainability and ethicality of the animal industry. If you’re an animal lover, or just interested in managing a farm to make things run smoothly, this might be a great major for you-- and all of the schools on this list have excellent animal science programs.
However, if you’re not quite sure what you want to major in yet, don’t worry! It’s difficult to make the transition to college, between figuring out how to finance your education and making sense of your new responsibilities as a young adult. Although it’s always helpful to have a general idea of what interests you when you enter college, it’s certainly not the end of the world if you’re still figuring things out-- just keep moving forward and searching for something that speaks to you.