Animal Careers: Behaviorist or Specialist

Olivia wrote, “I want to be an animal behaviorist or specialist. Can you please tell me the difference between the two? Also I would like to know if there are any jobs out there that hire this kind of career to travel around the world and meet these animals up in person.”

An animal behaviorist (just a note–the term is not behavioralist)  is someone who works with (or studies) animal behavior.

Most people think of the familiar situation where the person helps people solve problems with pets but there are those that work with wild animals, too. You can read a short summary about animal behavior careers in my Unusual Animal Career series.

In most cases, a specialist is someone who has an area of specialty. Usually this means their work is focused on a specific species or perhaps an area of behavior such as psychopharmacology.

In other situations, it could be an area of specialty interest and expertise but not the main focus of the individual’s career.

As far as traveling around the world and meeting animals–I am not sure what you mean. I’d need to have a clearer sense of what your second question concerns.

Usually animal behavior field work does not include animal interactions as it interferes with the outcome of the study.

When you see human-animal interactions it usually found in conjunction with other types of efforts such as animal rescue, relocation, data collection, or similar activities.

You can always travel and get involved with studies or programs after you are in your career. Some zoos will send their specialists on educational safaris or exchanges that allows them to get up close and personal with specific species and allows them to work with experts in other countries.

Travel may be included if you are working for a specific agency or group but isn’t all that common. In many cases the researchers or specialists have to come up with grants or other sources of funding to pay for the trip.

I found it entertaining to find researchers longing for a career like mine when I attended a primatology conference–they shared that they were always searching for funding and never knew if they projects would continue due to the instability.

Meanwhile, I was thinking how interesting it would be invigorating to go out into the field and participate in ground breaking studies.

It seemed funny that we were thinking the same things about our different career paths.

Anyway, I hope this has answered your question Olivia. Thanks for writing in.

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