MSc Animal Behaviour 2018/19 entry

Duration Full time 1 year
Part time 2 years
  • Psychology
LocationExeter (Streatham)
Start date September


MSc Animal Behaviour video

Find out more from staff and students about the MSc Animal Behaviour programme. View full size.

Our MSc Animal Behaviour is unusual in that it is offered within a Psychology department. This benefits you by providing a strong background in a broad cross-section of research methods used by researchers studying human and animal behaviour, a strong training in statistical methods and a multidisciplinary study environment. You will learn how to formulate and test relevant research questions and critically evaluate the research carried out by others in the field.

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 seminar discussions, research talks and discussions with speakers; boost and consolidate your knowledge and skills in statistical data analysis; participate in a one-week residential field course (during the Easter break); and engage in research skill training sessions. During the course you will continuously develop your abilities in critical analysis of the literature and of scientific evidence, project development, 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.

On successful completion of the MSc you will have the 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 or the expanding field of eco tourism.

I’m interested in the nature of the cost/benefit trade-offs made by animals during foraging and food storing in relation to things such as cues of predation risk, presence of competitors and food value. I’m currently investigating social influences on foraging and food caching decisions made by eastern grey squirrels both in the laboratory and in the field. In the lab I conduct cognitive and spatial memory experiments and in the field look at natural social, foraging and caching behaviour of marked individuals.

Dr Lisa Leaver, Behavioural Ecologist.

I chose to study at Exeter because it has a good Animal Behaviour course with opportunities for practical research experience. I also liked the social and friendly feel of the campus, and the city. I wanted to study Animal Behaviour to help me to get a job in my chosen field, which is working with animals in a zoo setting. I also wanted to learn more about the ways we research and view the behaviour of animals and get some practical experience in zoo and field research. The course itself was very interesting and the staff very helpful. I was able to network with other researchers and people working within local zoos and rescue centres, for example. The student life was also a lot of fun, there was always lots going on.

Emma Godsell, MSc Animal Behaviour graduate Senior Zoo Keeper, Noah's Ark Zoo Farm.

Programme structure 2018/19

My primary research interest lies in understanding the structure, function and implications (ecological and evolutionary) of social interactions in animals.

I take inspiration from the social sciences and physics literature, and have applied social network theory to investigate social interactions in wild animal populations.

Dr Darren Croft, Animal Behaviour Senior Lecturer.

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Research Apprenticeship

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 write 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 the menu of choices varies depending on the interests of the researchers, the students and practicalities. In some cases students have worked with external research partners, in the UK or abroad. For example, previous students have carried out a wide range of research projects involving the following:

Topics: Social behaviour, animal welfare and enrichment, zoo research, animal cognition, navigation, sensory ecology, behavioural and evolutionary ecology, ecotoxicology.

Animals: 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: 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: 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.

Read the full module specification for the Research Apprenticeship.

Learning and teaching

Our modules consist of a mixture of lectures, seminars, research talks, discussion sessions with researchers, practicals and field trips (short trips and residential). We emphasise an active learning style and 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 audio-visual suite, 24/7 library, study spaces, animal labs and specialised equipment, in order to support our students’ diverse learning preferences and needs.

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.


External examiners have praised our imaginative variety of assessments. Advanced Statistics is assessed by coursework and a written examination; the other taught modules are assessed by coursework. There is a wide range of coursework from essays and reports to seminar diaries and written quizzes. The Research Apprenticeship requires a research project to be written up either as a dissertation or as a research paper.


The programme will give you an insight into the varied means of performing animal behaviour research on a number of species in a wide array of locations and settings.

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.

Find out more about our career support schemes for postgraduate students.

Graduate destinations

Below are a few examples of initial jobs undertaken by graduates of our MSc Animal Behaviour. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey (2011-2016). Please note that, due to data protection concerns, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Job titleOrganisation
Natural History Researcher
Research Assistant
Advancement Assistant
Animal Behaviour Researcher
Editorial Assistant
Trainee Assistant Warden
Research Technician
Trainee Dog Behaviour
Extension Officer (Knowledge Transfer)
Project Manager
Wessex Water
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Wildlife Aid
Bridgewater College
St Andrews University
Springer Publish
Cardiff Council
University of Exeter
Wildlife Reserves Singapore
Alpha Dog Training
Barnewood Boarding Kennels
Kalahari Meerkat Project
Staffordshire County Council
Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board

Further study

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 MSc Animal Behaviour. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey (2011-2016). Please note that, due to data protection, the subjects of study and institutions are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Subject areaInstitution
PhD Animal Behaviour
PhD Psychology
University of Exeter
University of Nottingham
University of Aberdeen

I work at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, near Bristol, as a senior zoo keeper on the Big Cat and South American sections. The way I look after the animals almost always links back to their natural behaviours. Everything from the enclosure layout and design, how and what we feed them, how we administer medicines and the enrichment we give them all comes back to what motivates the animals and how they respond to different stimuli. Completing an MSc in Animal Behaviour gave me a better understanding and insight on how to provide animals with an optimal level of welfare.

Emma Godsell, MSc Animal Behaviour graduate Senior Zoo Keeper, Noah's Ark Zoo Farm

Entry requirements 2018/19

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 preferably experience with statistical methods.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.


Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Fees and funding 2018/19

Tuition fees per year 2018/19

  • UK/EU: £9,400 full-time; £4,700 part-time
  • International: £19,800 full-time

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. You will also be required to pay a tuition fee deposit to secure your offer of a place, unless you qualify for exemption. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

UK government postgraduate loan scheme

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,000 are now available for Masters degrees. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.


Find out about funding opportunities available to students on our Psychology taught Masters programmes

University funding

The Scholarships, Bursaries and Studentships website has information on all available options for funding open to prospective students of taught Masters programmes. You can also use the searchable database of all Scholarships and Bursaries to find funding for which you are eligible.

Global Excellence Scholarship

We are delighted to offer Global Excellence Scholarships for students of outstanding academic quality applying to postgraduate Taught programmes starting in autumn 2018.

Contact us

If you have any queries about this programme, please contact:

Tel: +44 (0) 1392 724611

The Programme Director is Dr Lisa Leaver.

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Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour

Dr Natalie Hempel de Ibarra chats about the research within the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour (CRAB).