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Ethologist Job Description and Salary

Ethologist Job Description and Salary
An ethologist observes animals, analyzes their behavior, and documents the findings. The job description and salary of an ethologist is outlined in the CareerStint write-up below.
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"Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans have been living for hundreds of thousands of years in their forest, living fantastic lives, never overpopulating, never destroying the forest. I would say that they have been in a way more successful than us as far as being in harmony with the environment."Jane Goodall, English ethologist and anthropologist

Ethology is a branch of zoology that deals with the study of animals and their behavior. But then, you must have heard of the term 'behaviorists' as well, they decode animal behavior and suggest remedies. What does an ethologist do, then? What does he study? Well, to begin with, even though behaviorists and ethologists share the same theory regarding animal behavior, the way of approach is different for both.
As of today, behaviorists have a different educational background, and depend on scientific findings to change animal behavior. On the contrary, ethologists conduct field studies to find out the different ways an animal behaves under different circumstances. In the paragraphs below, you will learn what an ethologist does, how to become an ethologist, and how much he earns.
Job Description

  • As mentioned earlier, ethologists study animal behavior.
  • They use laboratory information and combine the same with extensive field trips to observe and analyze the way animals behave.
  • Many ethologists opt for teaching jobs at universities as well.
  • Those with a doctorate can go in for advanced research on special animals, make detailed notes, and publish papers.
  • Many begin as educators at zoos; having studied animal behavior, they can guide visitors and create effective displays.
  • They also qualify to become research assistants and work in laboratories.
  • When ethologists undertake a particular assignment outdoors, they closely observe animals, take notes, photographs, conduct experiments to document findings, study the influence of their behavior on reproduction, etc.
  • They even work in pharmaceutical companies, in health-related projects, to understand and interpret animal (rats, rabbits, etc.) behavior after a particular drug is tested on them. These observations help scientists link the progression of the disease.
  • They are hired by many private research institutions to assist in wildlife programs.
  • They study reproductive patterns habitat effects for private environmental consulting firms.
  • The help improve and maintain the health of animals in zoos, aquariums, museums, animal sanctuaries, and wildlife parks.
  • They help understand why and how animals behave in a particular manner, how they react to feeding, sleeping, and other habits.
  • They also help understand animals' possessive nature towards their young ones, their adaptive value, changes in gene patterns, etc.


  • Ethologists require sound knowledge in subjects, like biology, genetics, ecology, evolution, etc.
  • After completing his/her post-secondary education, an aspiring ethologist can go in for a bachelor's degree in ethology or any of the above related disciplines.
  • A specialization in a chosen area along with a doctorate will help if he wants to carry out individual research.
  • Meanwhile, he can begin to work at zoos and laboratories.
  • A fact about ethologists is that most of them go in for further studies, instead of beginning at an entry-level after their bachelor's. The reason being that an advanced degree opens further avenues of work and employment.
  • During the course, an aspirant will study subjects, like animal behavior, cognitive ethology (which is a branch of ethology related to how animal behavior is influenced by conscious awareness), comparative psychology (another sub-discipline of ethology), neurobiology, neuroscience, ecology, genetics, evolution, etc.
  • He will also learn about the tools used by an ethologist, i.e., regular stationary, graphic calculator, deer blind, binoculars, stopwatch, etc.


  • The average annual salary of an ethologist (experienced) is more than USD 55,000.
  • Beginners are paid in excess of USD 30,000, while experienced ethologists can earn more than USD 100,000.
  • Ethologists mostly work onsite, studying animal behavior, while many work in zoos and labs. This is a contributing factor to their paycheck.
  • The following table gives the approximate state-wise salaries for those working in the field of ethology.
Alabama USD 56,000
Alaska USD 40,000
Arizona USD 45,000
Arkansas USD 56,000
California USD 59,000
Colorado USD 49,000
Connecticut USD 64,000
Delaware USD 48,000
Florida USD 51,000
Georgia USD 63,000
Hawaii USD 34,000
Idaho USD 36,000
Illinois USD 63,000
Indiana USD 53,000
Iowa USD 54,000
Kansas USD 50,000
Kentucky USD 48,000
Louisiana USD 49,000
Maine USD 49,000
Maryland USD 57,000
Massachusetts USD 66,000
Michigan USD 56,000
Minnesota USD 48,000
Mississippi USD 58,000
Missouri USD 54,000
Montana USD 46,000
Nebraska USD 40,000
Nevada USD 42,000
New Hampshire USD 54,000
New Jersey USD 60,000
New Mexico USD 48,000
New York USD 67,000
North Carolina USD 53,000
North Dakota USD 49,000
Ohio USD 53,000
Oklahoma USD 51,000
Oregon USD 53,000
Pennsylvania USD 53,000
Rhode Island USD 50,000
South Carolina USD 54,000
South Dakota USD 42,000
Tennessee USD 51,000
Texas USD 53,000
Utah USD 43,000
Vermont USD 49,000
Virginia USD 56,000
Washington USD 57,000
West Virginia USD 52,000
Wisconsin USD 49,000
Wyoming USD 45,000

Source: as of December 22, 2014. Figures are in US Dollars.
Work Environment

  • Ethologist jobs can be found in areas where animal research is prevalent.
  • An ethologist who regularly goes for field work mostly works onsite, others may work in zoos, laboratories, universities, etc.
  • Unfortunately, due to deforestation and related factors, the predicted job growth in this sector, according the BLS, amounts to just 5% over the next decade.
  • As an ethologist, you will mostly be in the company of animals.
  • Your job is to make them comfortable, study their habitat, their nature, their behavior in different circumstances, etc.
  • You may also need to conduct certain experiments to determine their behavioral patterns.

Famous Ethologists

  • Charles Darwin
  • Jane Goodall
  • B. F. Skinner
  • Dian Fossey
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Ivan Pavlov
  • E. O. Wilson
  • Patricia McConnell

An educational background is most certainly essential to make a foray into this field; however, your keen sense of observation and love for animals is what will take you to greater heights. Your job will be centered around plenty of field visits where you have to actually bond with animals. Therefore, work on developing an affinity towards animals, before venturing along this path.