Clinical and counseling psychology may be the most popular branches for psychology graduates to find work, but there are several types of careers in comparative psychology that may interest you. Comparative psychology is a unique subspecialty that strives to distinguish differences between human and animal behavior to better understand evolutionary processes. At the crossroads of biology and social science, comparative psychology is often a great fit for animal lovers looking to closely examine the behavioral and mental processes of creatures other than human beings. It’s likely you’ve learned plenty about famous comparative psychologists like Charles Darwin, Ivan Pavlov, and Edward Thorndike in your studies. Below are some careers available in comparative psychology to follow in their pioneering footsteps.
Of course, the most obvious career choice in this psychology sub-sector is comparative psychologist. Comparative psychologists are researchers who are devoted to increasing our understanding of human psychology by studying the similarities and differences with animals. Comparative psychologists will delve deep into research uncovering truths about the evolutionary aspects of certain animal species. Their job usually will entail designing research, conducting experiments, publishing journal articles, applying for grant funding, and presenting their findings at conferences. Extensive research experience with a Ph.D. in comparative psychology is typically required.
For an applied career in comparative psychology, individuals may consider becoming an animal behaviorist. This job involves determining the way animals behave and prompting positive behavioral changes through training. Animal behaviorists use their expertise in identifying the causes of behaviors to suggest changes that could improve the animal’s well-being. Most will specialize in working with certain species, such as dogs, horses, fish, birds, or felines. Becoming certified as an animal behaviorist will require at least a master’s degree related to animal behavior, psychology, or biology, according to the Animal Behavior Society.
Having a background in comparative psychology could also help obtain the science-oriented career of ethologist. From livestock to wildlife, ethologists are trained researchers who focus their studies on analyzing innate and instinctual animal behaviors in a natural habit. Ethologists usually work in the field to examine certain animal processes, such as aggression, mating, communication, and feeding. Many will use a comparative psychology approach to study how genetics caused certain behaviors to evolve too. A bachelor’s degree can unlock entry-level ethology jobs, but a M.S. or Ph.D. is required for advancement into independent fieldwork.
Those seeking a comparative psychology career in academia will be well-suited for becoming undergraduate or graduate professors. Psychology professors are responsible for carrying out instruction, mediating class discussions, grading assignments, drafting lesson plans, and overseeing students’ research. Post-secondary professors often can select to teach only courses within their chosen specialty area, including comparative psychology, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s possible for professors to teach a full course load and conduct research studies in their downtime. Psychology professors are required to have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. with teaching practicum experience.
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Overall, comparative psychology is an interesting field that demonstrates how certain mechanisms of animal behavior affect the lives of mankind. Research in comparative psychology plays a vital role in broadening our understanding of our globe’s non-human inhabitants as well as ourselves. Comparative psychology studies every species from the littlest insects to the largest whales. When you choose one of the types of careers in comparative psychology, you’ll find jobs in research institutes, laboratories, universities, zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, animal training centers, animal welfare organizations, and more.