Animal Behavior, PHD

At a Glance: program details

Are you fascinated by interactions between animals, people and the changing environment? Are you interested in discovering and developing new ideas in research? Join a nurturing community of world-renowned faculty and exceptional peers, and tackle emerging questions in the dynamic field of animal behavior.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: PHD Animal Behavior

The PhD program in animal behavior is a transdisciplinary graduate degree program that provides doctoral-level training in mechanistic and functional approaches to understanding behavior in a variety of animal taxa.

The study of behavior is at the interface of several scientific disciplines, including anatomy, ecology, evolution, neuroscience and physiology. This program offers the diverse but specialized array of skills and knowledge needed to produce excellent research in animal behavior.

Students gain expertise with applied scientific value in areas such as veterinary science and mental and behavioral health in humans. The ecological focus of the program feeds into local, state and global priorities in biological conservation and ecosystem sustainability.


In this degree program, you will receive training in both classic and cutting-edge concepts and techniques in the field, and develop research competence in animal behavior that integrates approaches from many areas, including:

  • anthropology, applied science (e.g. domestication, conservation)
  • ecology, evolution, kinesiology
  • mathematics, neuroscience, physiology, psychology

Your core coursework includes field- and lab-based research, as well as student-driven seminars that cover emerging themes in the literature.

Training spans both theoretical and empirical approaches, ultimate and proximate levels of explanation, and a wide taxonomic breadth of study species.

As an animal behavior student, you'll benefit from internal ASU research centers such as the Global Biosocial Complexity Initiative, and numerous seminar series including the Social Insect Research Group and the Colloquium on Evolution of Social Complexity.

Finally, you'll have access to external research opportunities through ASU partnerships with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Santa Fe Institute.


  • ANB 792 Research
  • BIO 514 Statistical Models for Biology
  • BIO 522 Populations: Evolutionary Ecology
  • BIO 507 Advanced Evolutionary Medicine
  • BIO 521 Landscape Ecology
  • BIO 530 Scientific Teaching (required in first semester for students that will TA at any point in degree)
  • BIO 533 K-12 STEM Education & Outreach
  • BIO 539 Computing for Research
  • BIO 541 SOLS Seminar Series
  • BIO 542 SOLS Current Topics in the Life Sciences
  • BIO 591 Society and Natural Resource Management
  • BIO 591 Social-Ecological Systems & Adaptation
  • BIO 591 Drylands in a Changing Earth
  • BIO 591 Population Genetic Reading Group
  • BIO 591 Communication for Scientists
  • BIO 591 Genetics and Genomics of Behavior
  • BIO 620 Research Prospectus Writing
  • EVO 501 Current Topics in Evolutionary Biology
  • EVO 601 Principles of Evolution
  • EVO 610 Research Areas of Evolution

Application and admission information

Applications open September 1 for admission in Fall of the following year. The application deadline is December 1. We accept applications for Fall semesters only. We cannot guarantee that applications received after the December 1 deadline will be considered for admission.

All applicants must apply by filling out ASU's Graduate Admissions application. All application materials must be submitted through the application or to Graduate Admissions directly. Please do not mail or email any documents to the School of Life Sciences. 

Required materials and information include the following:

  • 1-2 page personal statement
  • An up to date CV or resume
  • The names of relevant SOLS faculty you have been in touch with who you might be interested in being supervised by
  • Unofficial transcripts and English proficiency test scores (if applicable)
  • The names and emails of at least 3 recommenders to write you letters of recommendation

Following the December 1 deadline, faculty will begin reviewing applications. Applicants should monitor their My ASU priority tasks to ensure there are no missing materials in their application.

Faculty will decide which applicants they would like to invite to our Graduate Recruitment Weekends (GRWs), typically held in February. Applicants will hear from the School of Life Sciences in January if they are invited to participate in the GRWs.

Admission decisions will begin after the GRWs, and applicants typically receive final decisions by April 1.

Minimum requirements for admission include the following:

  • Cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • International applicants must satisfy university minimum requirements for English proficiency (TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo, PTE)
    • There are other ways to demonstrate English proficiency beyond the tests, so please refer to ASU's English proficiency webpage to review how you might satisfy requirements

Desired qualifications typically seen in competitive candidates:

Please note that the GRE is not required.

Students offered admission to a PhD program in the School of Life Sciences will typically receive a funding offer as well. While individual funding offers may differ to some degree, they typically include teaching assistant and/or research assistant positions each semester (summer optional) for 5 years. These positions provide financial coverage through the following:

  • A standard salary stipend paid biweekly
  • Tuition remission covering enrollment in 6-18 credit hours for fall and spring semesters and 1-14 credit hours for summer semesters
  • Health insurance coverage

To discover more, check out the ASU Graduate College's funding opportunities!

Degree Requirements

Curriculum Plan Options

  • 84 credit hours, an oral and written exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

Required Core (8 credit hours)
ANB 601 Research Strategies in Animal Behavior (4)
ANB 602 Current Issues in Animal Behavior (1)

Electives or Research (64 credit hours)

Culminating Experience (12 credit hours)
ANB 799 Dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information
Core course ANB 602 is a one credit hour course taken four times.

The department and the student's advisor determine a plan for elective and research courses in conjunction with the student.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree in a related discipline from a regionally accredited institution.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

Applicants must submit the following:

  1. graduate admissions application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. academic record form
  4. personal statement
  5. curriculum vitae or resume
  6. three letters of recommendation
  7. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

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Learning Outcomes

  • Communicate the rationale and results of their research, both orally and in writing.
  • Execute a research plan of their own design that addresses a significant scientific question about animal behavior.
  • Review the literature relevant to the research question in animal behavior that they address in their dissertation.

Career Opportunities

A doctorate in animal behavior provides strong preparation for academic careers at every level, including community colleges and research universities. The skills and knowledge obtained in this program are also valuable for government careers in federal and state agencies responsible for wildlife management and conservation, and for conservation-related careers in nongovernmental organizations.

Career examples include:

  • animal scientist
  • biology professor
  • conservation biologist
  • postsecondary biology teacher
  • wildlife biologist

Program Contact Information

If you have questions related to admission, please click here to request information and an admission specialist will reach out to you directly. For questions regarding faculty or courses, please use the contact information below.