What is Animal Science?

Imagine. It is Wednesday night and you go with your friends to the nations for a drink. Upon arrival you realise there’s a new face in the group so you introduce yourself. This itself can be already quite challenging, especially if the group is international – you may hear a name you’ve never heard before and seems impossible to pronounce. When I say my name is Rosan the reply will either be “Roxanne?” or “Rose?”, after which I try to explain it’s like ‘Rosa’ but with an additional ‘n’ in the end. Sometimes you also ask each other where you are from but it won’t be long before the topic changes to studies.

“So you are studying to become a vet?”

I guess for some people this is a very easy question to answer. Imagine studying mathematics, history or English language… However, for people studying at SLU it is usually not that straight forward. I guess my programme is not as hard to explain as for example ‘Rural development and natural resource management‘, still sometimes I secretly wish I could just say I studied biology. After mentioning you are studying animal sciences, nine out of ten people will reply: “So you are studying to become a vet?”. No, I am not. I am hoping to graduate as an animal scientist!

“Animal science focusses on animals kept in a human environment – mainly farm animals but occasionally also pets, horses and zoo animals.”

As most people are well aware of what a veterinarian does, I try to use this when explaining animal science. A vet will look at a sick animal and needs to recognise the disease and will try to cure the animal. As an animal scientist you look at an animal kept by people and try to find the best way to do it – how to prevent it from getting sick in the first place. What is the best way to house this animal, what is the optimal feed for it and how do we breed the next generation? Of course the fields of veterinary and animal science have some overlap, but I think this is a fundamental difference. There is also a lot in common with biology, though animal science focusses on animals kept in a human environment – mainly farm animals but occasionally also pets, horses and zoo animals.

Within animal science there are several subdisciplines. Right now the master’s programme at SLU is going through a transition, but by choosing certain courses you can give a kind of ‘profile’ to your degree. At SLU these tracks are divided into the following three main categories:

  • Ethology / Animal Welfare / Animal Environment
  • Nutrition / Production Biology
  • Genetics / Breeding

Back to the storyline of the nation pub. Because sometimes it happens that people are quite interested in what you explained about your studies. They they might ask this most difficult question: “What will you be when you graduate?”. Or in other words; what will you do for a living after you finished studying? The easy answer is saying studying animal science will lead to graduating as an animal scientist. This is not really clarifying though. Animal scientists kind of end up everywhere – you’ll find them working at universities, companies, governments and ngo’s. I absolutely appreciate animal science being such a broad programme with aspects of economics and social science, but when it comes to future jobs it is not very specific. Which is not necessarily a bad thing – you have a lot of opportunities.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love my studies. Though there are days when I stand in the pub wishing I was studying to become a vet and my name was Roxanne. How easy life would be!



  1. Thanks Rosan you are a real ambassador for our line of study….its interesting…meeting people from all over the world, different areas of study, langauge and the like…well i wish to be in Upssala very soon….Animal breeding and Genetics.
    And please dont struggle pronounce my name…its simple with three syllables.

    1. Hello Tapiwa! (what a beautiful name 🙂 ) Thank you for your kind words. Will you come and study at SLU anytime soon?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *