What is a Poultry Science Degree?

The focus of poultry science programs is the management of poultry farms, where poultry farmers raise chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese for their eggs, meat, and feathers.

Courses in poultry genetics, physiology, nutrition, and meat science form the foundation of the curriculum. With knowledge in these areas, students go on to learn about poultry life-cycle, care, welfare, and diseases; breeder flock and hatchery management; production of fresh and processed food; production technology; and food safety.

Graduates with a poultry science degree work as poultry scientists in industry, research, and education careers in the field.

Program Options

Associate Degree in Poultry Science – Two Year Duration
Poultry science associate degree programs normally combine lecture classes in the major with hands-on labs and an internship experience, as well as some core courses in mathematics, English composition, communications, and the social sciences. Associate programs prepare students for entry-level and mid-level roles.

Bachelor’s Degree in Poultry Science – Four Year Duration
The poultry science bachelor’s degree is the most common credential in the field. Bachelor’s programs typically incorporate macroeconomics and microeconomics courses, as well as more extensive lab and practicum/internship components. Some schools offer a combined curriculum in food science and poultry science. Graduates with a Bachelor’s Degree in Poultry Science qualify for positions ranging from entry-level to supervisory.

Despite the differences described above, undergraduate poultry science programs are built around the following courses in the major:

  • Introduction to Poultry Science – overview of the biological sciences associated with poultry
  • Small Animal Farming – small scale animal production, farm planning, economic and environmental concerns, biosecurity, prevention of disease, farm safety
  • Animal Welfare – animal welfare, environmental issues and sustainability
  • Poultry Production – practices used to produce broilers (chickens bred and raised specifically for meat production) and turkeys; hatchery function and management; embryo development and hatching; chick/poultry transportation; facilities preparation and maintenance; bird environment, nutrition, and health
  • Poultry Breeder Management – practices used in production of young and adult chickens, turkeys, and other poultry; broiler, breeder, and market egg production
  • Exotic Companion Birds – care, health, breeding, bird evolution, anatomy, and nutritional management of exotic companion birds, including, parrots, cockatoos, macaws, finches, and canaries; housing for individual pet birds; large scale breeding and production
  • Animal Physiology – central nervous, musculoskeletal, reproductive, digestive, immune, cardiovascular, respiratory, and renal systems
  • Fundamentals of Genetics – basics of heredity, improvement of farm animals
  • Poultry Diseases – overview of diseases that commonly affect commercially reared poultry; diagnosis, therapy and prevention, immunity, sanitation, and chemoprophylaxis (the use of drugs to prevent disease)
  • Poultry Judging and Selection – production judging and flock selection
  • Agricultural Laboratory Research – introduction to the lab research techniques currently used in agricultural and life sciences; cellular and molecular research techniques, record keeping, data analysis and interpretation, and presentation of results
  • Avian Anatomy – the external and internal anatomy of poultry, formation and development of the egg and embryo
  • Legal Issues in Animal Agriculture – examination of the legal issues associated with poultry production; federal, state, and local regulations and policies concerning animal confinement, antibiotic use, humane slaughter, and veterinary medicine
  • Poultry Management Systems – managerial systems in commercial poultry industry, decision making processes
  • Value Added Muscle Foods – muscle structure and how it relates to the development of further processed meat products; hands-on experience producing processed meat products
  • Egg and Meat Technology – processing meat and egg products; factors affecting the efficiency of production, consumer acceptance, and marketing of poultry products
  • Poultry Nutrition – formulation of chicken and turkey rations
  • Processing Regulations – processing plant procedures, regulations, and problem solving
  • Brain and Behavior – major brain regions of mammals and birds, control by the brain of functions and behaviors

Master’s Degree in Poultry Science – Two Year Duration
Master’s degree programs in poultry science typically allow students to focus on a research area of their choice. Research areas may include nutrition, physiology, genetics, and management and behavior of poultry animals. Many also provide opportunities to gain teaching experience in the field. Depending on the school, students may have options to complete a thesis or non-thesis curriculum.

Doctoral Degree in Poultry Science – Four Year Duration
The master’s program involves a lot of taught courses. It emphasizes the transition from pure subject learning to independent research. On the other hand, the doctoral degree is like a very long dissertation project. Ph.D. students have a great deal of independence. They have the benefit of supervision from a faculty advisor and may complete some taught classes, but their focus is on their independent research, on contributing original – new – knowledge to the field of poultry science. Doctoral graduates in poultry science commonly work as teachers or researchers in the field.

Below are some examples of graduate level courses in poultry science. The courses taken by individual master’s degree and Ph.D. candidates will vary, depending on the focus of their thesis or dissertation.

  • Graduate Seminar – preparation, organization, and presentation of research materials; reporting current literature in the field
  • Research Laboratory – technical lab problems related to poultry
  • Statistical Process Control in the Food Industry – analysis of processing data associated with regulatory limits, quality, safety, and customer specifications
  • Food Toxicology and Contaminants – fundamental concepts of food toxicology, the physiological processes involved in food borne intoxications, potential health problems associated with exposure to these compounds
  • Advanced Animal Genetics – specialized study of animal genetics
  • Biochemical Nutrition – interrelationship of nutrition and physiological chemistry; structure and metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins
  • Protein and Amino Acid Nutrition – the processes of protein digestion, amino acid absorption, transport, metabolism, and utilization
  • Immunology in the Laboratory – immune-diagnostic lab techniques and uses of antibodies as a research tool
  • Advanced Poultry Diseases – understanding the pathogenesis (causes and development), diagnostic techniques, and prevention of poultry diseases
  • Advanced Analytical Methods in Animal Science Laboratory – advanced techniques used in animal research

Degrees Similar to Poultry Science

Degree programs in this discipline teach students about one or more aspects of general agriculture. Coursework may cover topics like farm management, crop science, animal husbandry, agriculture technology, soil science, and food distribution.

Animal Sciences
Degree programs in animal sciences teach students about the breeding and nutrition of food animals. Coursework includes animal biology and physiology, dairy and poultry science, livestock production, and fish production.

Dairy Science
The curriculum of a dairy science program prepares students to work in many different aspects of the field. Subject areas covered include dairy cow genetics, physiology, nutrition, breeding and reproduction, and housing; as well as dairy production, management, evaluation and selection, dairy products, and animal health and welfare.

Equine Science
Degree programs in equine science teach students about horse anatomy, physiology, health, nutrition, breeding, and behavior. Many programs also cover the business aspects of the field.

Food Science
The subject matter of food science degree programs spans the areas of biology, biochemistry, and chemical engineering. Students learn how to apply these foundations to examine food properties and develop foods that are sustainable.

Zoology students learn about animals, their evolution, anatomy, physiology, and natural habitats. Graduates may be employed by zoos, veterinary clinics, or labs. Their work may involve monitoring and writing reports on animal behavior, analyzing specimens to test for diseases, and/or working in the areas of ecology and conservation.

Skills You’ll Learn

Poultry science graduates come away from their studies with this set of transferable skills:

  • Analytical and problem-solving skills – evaluating the health and production strength of chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese
  • Data entry and administration – like every business, poultry farming and production involve record keeping and management and familiarity with applicable software
  • Interpersonal skills – supervising laborers and working with poultry veterinarians and animal nutritionists calls for the ability to communicate and collaborate
  • Mechanical skills – equipment preventative maintenance and operation
  • Physical strength – many jobs in poultry science involve significant lifting and bending

What Can You Do with a Poultry Science Degree?

Depending on the level of education they complete, poultry science grads can work in a wide variety of roles, as evidenced by these possible titles:

  • Agricultural Teacher
  • Animal Biotechnologist
  • Animal Welfare Specialist
  • Artificial Insemination Technician
  • Avian Physiologist
  • Breeding Supervisor / Manager
  • Broiler Manager
  • Compliance Officer
  • Farm Manager
  • Feed Inspector
  • Feed Mill Manager
  • Feed Sales Agent
  • Flock Service Technician
  • Flock Supervisor / Manager
  • Food Processing Manager
  • Food Safety Inspector
  • Geneticist
  • Hatchery Manager
  • Laboratory Technical Consultant
  • Poultry Extension Agent
  • Poultry Farm Worker / Laborer
  • Poultry Geneticist
  • Poultry Nutritionist
  • Poultry Producer
  • Poultry Product Engineer
  • Poultry Professor
  • Poultry Research Center Farm Supervisor
  • Processing Plant Manager
  • Production Manager
  • Quality Assurance Manager
  • Quality Control Manager
  • Research Technician
  • Turkey Grower


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