Animal Behavior

Have you ever wondered what makes positive reinforcement such an effective tool for training anything from betta fish to dogs to killer whales? Or why African lions are the only members of the cat family to live in strong social groups? Or how a canary’s brain can increase in size every spring when it begins singing to attract a mate? Carroll University’s Animal Behavior Program is one of the few undergraduate programs of its kind in the nation. You’ll explore how animals think, learn, perceive their surroundings and process information, and how they adapt their behaviors to the environment in which they live.

“I chose to major in animal behavior because of my passion for animals.”
— Monica Heath-Brost '19

Read Monica's story

About the Animal Behavior major

Why study animal behavior? Put your compassion to work.

Earning your degree in animal behavior prepares you for a variety of careers, such as a wildlife biologist, researcher, zookeeper, animal trainer, wildlife rehabilitator or laboratory manager. It can also be a launching point for your master’s or doctoral degree or a professional program such as veterinary sciences. You may dream of enriching the lives of animals in a zoo setting, helping people with disabilities through animal-assisted therapy, protecting endangered species or ensuring the health and welfare of companion animals surrendered to shelters and rescue organizations. This degree can help those dreams come true.

A foundation in science—a focus on real world experience.

Carroll University’s animal behavior major introduces you to the scientific methods with which people study the behavior of animals–from how the brain and nervous system influence behavior, to how animals learn new behaviors and solve problems, to why particular types of behavior evolve in the wild.

All animal behavior students are required to develop valuable hands-on skills by completing an internship at locations such as the Racine Zoo, the Wildlife in Need Center, or the behavior services department of the Humane Society. Students also participate in research both within and outside of class. Some of our students design their own research projects and even publish their work in professional journals. These experiences give students a real advantage in choosing a career or applying to graduate school.

Your studies are not restricted to Carroll’s classrooms. You’ll have opportunities to study at our 75-acre outdoor classroom and laboratory, the Greene Field Station and Prairie Springs Environmental Education Center. Classes sometimes meet at the Humane Animal Welfare Society to give students hands-on experience in animal training. Carroll’s long-standing partnership with the Milwaukee County Zoo sets our program apart by giving you access to a nationally-recognized research training site just minutes from campus. Our senior-level classes design and carry out research projects there, selecting from more than 2,000 mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles to observe.


In addition to the major, Carroll offers a minor in animal behavior that complements many areas of study:


Recent internship placements for Animal Behavior majors include:

  • Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
  • Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha
  • Racine Zoo
  • Brookfield Zoo, Chicago
  • Oceans of Fun Sea Lion Program at the Milwaukee County Zoo
  • PAWS Adoption Center, Chicago
  • Wildlife Science Center, Columbus, Minn. 
  • Wildlife in Need Center


College is a big investment in a bright future. Learn more about the industries and careers our majors pursue, and the workplaces and experiences of the alumni from our program. See where yours may take you.

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“Animal behavior will help me conduct research to better animals' lives...”
— John Wilcox '17

Read John's Story

Meet the Faculty

Dr. Susan Lewis

Dr. Susan Lewis

Professor of Biology and Marine Biology
Dr. Matthew Scheel

Dr. Matthew Scheel

Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Department of Life Sciences
Panoramic View of campus