Careers in animal breeding and genetics

There are many different careers awaiting a graduate with expertise in animal breeding and genetics.

Education

Typically such graduates have completed curricula in both animal breeding and quantitative genetics. Students usually have strengths in math, statistics and animal genomics.

Jobs

Depending upon the animal industry of interest, animal scientists can work in jobs such as a cattle breed association representative, dairy industry breeding consultant and/or company representative for Artificial Insemination (AI) companies, or working for a private breeding company in the case of the swine, poultry and aquaculture industries. In fact, some scientists with experience in animal breeding and genetics go on to work for plant breeding companies.

Candidates with expertise in traditional quantitative breeding skills are in very high demand in both the plant and animal industries. Larger livestock operations may also employ animal breeders to manage their breeding programs. This might include some less conventional “livestock” industries including the breeding management of laboratory animals or zoo animals. Some other emerging career areas include working for companies that are selling genomic tests for livestock producers to use in DNA-based marker assisted management and or selection. These scientists help producers breed better animals and produce more food for human consumption.

It is likely that new career opportunities will emerge as the cost of genotyping and sequencing continues to decline. It is also likely that this trend will open up careers in veterinary medicine, especially for job seekers who have skills in both molecular genetics and bioinformatics and an interest in using these talents to address animal health-related problems.  

There are a variety of academic, government and industry career opportunities at the graduate level. There are considerable resources being invested in sequencing genomes of domestic livestock and many research questions that remain unanswered regarding how to best apply genomic selection and the availability of whole genome sequence on individual animals to animal breeding and conservation programs.

There are also interesting questions about how to optimize livestock breeding schemes to improve the sustainability of animal agriculture. This includes the maintenance of genetic diversity and approaches to preserve and manage the breeding of rare and endangered breeds and genetic resources. Many companies employ geneticists to manage their research programs and national genetic evaluations, and there are geneticist positions within the federal government in both research and public policy.

Finally, there are opportunities in the educational arena. Animal scientists are needed to translate information about a variety of topics related to animal breeding and genetics to students, livestock producers and the general public. Such positions may be in association with universities and Extension. Increasingly, industry and private companies seek to provide information about their breeding programs and objectives to the general public. Animal agriculture is under increasing public scrutiny and there is an increasing demand for communicators who are skilled at conveying how and why animal producers use specific production practices.