- Our MSc Animal Behaviour, based in the Psychology department, provides a strong background in a broad cross-section of research methods used by researchers studying human and animal behaviour and a multidisciplinary study environment
- The course offers a strong training in statistical methods and research methodologies
- Learn how to formulate and test relevant research questions and critically evaluate the research carried out by others in the field
- Gain the necessary skills to pursue a PhD, work as a researcher or pursue a career working in zoos, research centres, nature reserves, wildlife and other animal-related offices, education, scientific media and journalism, or the expanding field of eco-tourism
Top 100 in the world for Psychology
QS World University Rankings 2021
85% of research classified as world-leading or internationally excellent
Research Excellence Framework 2014 based on the percentage of research categorised as 4* or 3*
Top 15 for Psychology
The Complete University Guide 2022
A major centre for cognitive, clinical and neuroscience research
Normally a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in Biological Sciences, Psychology, Ecology or a related discipline. If you apply with a different background, e.g. natural and social sciences, or humanities, you should provide evidence for a strong interest in Animal Behaviour, preferably study and/or work experience, and experience with statistical analysis.
The programme will give you insights into the varied means of performing animal behaviour research in a wide array of locations with wild and (semi-)captive animals – in field, laboratory, zoo or other human managed settings.
As part of the taught component you will be exposed to lectures and research talks followed by discussions with speakers. You will boost and consolidate your knowledge and skills in statistical data analysis; engage in research skill training sessions; and develop skills in communicating research findings to the public. You will also participate in a one-week residential field course during the Easter break. Overall, you will continuously develop your abilities in critical analysis of the literature and of scientific evidence, experimental design, technical communication and scientific writing.
You will be part of the lively, internationally-recognised Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour (CRAB) and will have the opportunity to work alongside our experienced researchers on a research apprenticeship which is a central component of the course. The apprenticeship is a research project that enables you to develop your research skills further and write up the research in the form of a journal article for potential publication. Apprenticeships can also be undertaken under the supervision of researchers at various institutions with whom we have developed long-term relationships.
Studying Animal Behaviour has prepared me for further study as I have had the opportunity to gain a lot of hands-on experience. I did a professional development internship and helped Professor Darren Croft study whale aggression. I have enjoyed the variety of nationalities of students on the course, which means we have internationally and culturally diverse discussions.
During my programme of study I carried out data collection for my dissertation in north Devon. I helped to raise pheasant chicks and conducted psychometric tests. I have found learning about Advances in Methods and Animal Behaviour the most interesting.
I am involved in the post graduate society and the volleyball society. I have enjoyed getting back into volleyball as I used to play back home in the USA. These societies give you a chance to meet like-minded people and volleyball is a great form of stress relief!
Being a student in Exeter is great. I love being close to the beach and within walking distance to town. I like Exeter, the city is small enough to walk around but there is lots to see and do. The quay is lovely, and I have also really enjoyed going to the food festivals in Exeter and at Powderham Castle.
I would say to fellow students considering Exeter to just go for it! It’s not as scary as you think, everyone here is really welcoming.
MSc Animal Behaviour
A distinctive feature of all our taught Masters programmes is the Research Apprenticeship. About half of the MSc is spent on the apprenticeship, during which you will develop your research skills by working alongside experienced researchers or practitioners and writing up your research in the form of a dissertation.
Many students undertake their apprenticeship with researchers in the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour, both in the laboratories and outdoors around the campus, Devon and abroad. Every year choices vary depending on the interests of the researchers, the students and practicalities. Students have previously worked with external research partners, in the UK or abroad.
Examples of previous research projects
Topics include: Social behaviour, animal welfare and enrichment, zoo research, animal cognition, navigation, sensory ecology, behavioural and evolutionary ecology, ecotoxicology.
Animals include: Fish (guppies, sticklebacks, killifish), mammals (primates, squirrels, whales, donkeys, dogs, meerkats, coyotes), birds (pigeons, chickens, pheasants, magpies, flamingoes, woodland and sea birds), invertebrates (crabs, honeybees, bumblebees, desert ants, wood ants).
Locations include: Streatham Campus (Exeter), Knysna Elephant Park (South Africa), Bristol Zoo, Budongo Forest (Uganda), Torquay Zoo & Aquarium, National Wildlife Research Center (Utah, USA), Dartmoor (Devon), Phana (Thailand), Trinidad, Newquay & Paignton Zoos, Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Kerala (India), Algarve (Portugal), Veracruz (Mexico), Cayo Santiago (Puerto Rico).
External research partners include: African Elephant Research Unit (South Africa), Bristol Zoo, Budongo Conservation Field Station (Uganda), Living Coasts (Torquay, Devon), National Wildlife Research Center (Utah, USA), Natural England, Phana Macaque Sanctuary (Thailand), University of West Indies, Whitley Wildlife Trust, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.
UK fees per year:
£11,300 full-time; £5,650 part-time
International fees per year:
We invest heavily in scholarships for talented prospective Masters students. For information on how you can fund your postgraduate degree at the University of Exeter, please visit our dedicated funding page.
Teaching and research
How will I learn?
- Research seminars
- Discussion sessions with researchers
- A residential
We encourage students to be proactive in their learning and we foster individual interactions between students and staff throughout the programme. We make full use of a wide range of innovative teaching facilities, such as an online learning platform, various 24/7 computer pools and an audio-visual suite, in order to support our students’ diverse learning preferences and needs.
Learning from experts
Our staff are recognised internationally for their academic excellence, high quality research and applied output. They actively research the areas of psychology they teach, so their expertise feeds directly into our research-led programmes.
Taught classes take place in the first two terms of the year. We work hard to restrict class times to only four days a week, leaving you a fifth day for preparatory work on your research placement. This arrangement will be different for part-time students, and exact scheduling will depend on the selection of taught modules taken in each of the two years.
Each student is allocated a personal tutor who is available for advice and support throughout your studies. There is also a postgraduate tutor available to help with further guidance and advice.
Given the diversity of students on our course, the diverse range of assessments is comprised mainly of written coursework and in-class presentations with broad remits allowing students to focus on selective topics of their choice within the taught subject area. The Advanced Statistics module is assessed by coursework and a written examination. The other taught modules are assessed by group presentations, quizzes, and written coursework. There is a wide range of written coursework including: group project report, essay, press release, lay summary, magazine article, and thought paper. The Research Apprenticeship requires a research project to be written up either as a dissertation or as a research paper, which are often published in scientific journals.
Throughout your study you will use a range of innovative teaching facilities, such as an online learning platform, various 24/7 computer pools and audio-visual suite, 24/7 library, study spaces, animal labs and specialised equipment. There are also extensive research facilities including eye tracking, EEG/ERP and TMS laboratories, audio-visual recording suite and an MRI scanner.
I study the behavioural and cognitive adaptations shaped by selective pressures specific to an animal’s ecology. My research is divided into two main areas; 1) determining how decision-making and behaviour are influenced by risk, and 2) mapping cognitive abilities onto behavioural outcomes in wild animals.
I conduct my research in the field using a combination of experimental and observational techniques, focusing primarily on grey squirrels.
Employer-valued skills this course develops
On successful completion of the MSc, you will have the necessary scientific skills to enable progression into research posts or pursue additional postgraduate degrees; communication skills required for roles in the education, media, animal administration, and natural environment sector; and practical skills needed for working as research or animal technicians or animal keepers.
Our careers teams at the Career Zone can help guide you through a wealth of information to match your skills and interests to a career that will suit you. Our staff work with regional, national and international employers to develop new work placement, project and graduate opportunities.
Below are a few examples of initial jobs undertaken by graduates of our Psychology Masters programmes. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2016/17. Please note that, due to data protection concerns, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.
Recent graduates are now working as:
- Canine Training and Behaviour Assistant
- Lemur Trust Wildlife and Technology Trainee
- Rehoming and Welfare Assistant
- Research Assistant
- Trainee Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner
Recent graduates are now working for:
- Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre
- CIRCLE/Flamingo Land
- Devon Autism and ADHE Service
- Shanghai Foreign Service Co. Ltd.
- The Wellcome Trust
Further study is a popular choice for a number of students following graduation from our Masters programmes. Below are a few examples of further study undertaken by recent graduates of our Psychology Masters programmes. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2016/17. Please note that, due to data protection, the subjects of study and institutions are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.
- PhD Psychology
- Master of Applied Psychology
- MPH Psychology
- PhD Medical Studies
- PhD in Psychology