Frequently Asked Questions

Michael Noonan, PhD, director of the ABEC program, answers common questions. 

Could you tell me more about Canisius College? 
Canisius College, located in Buffalo, is Western New York's premier private comprehensive university consisting of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Wehle School of Business, and the School of Education and Human Services. Founded by members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1870, our 36-acre campus houses 50 buildings which contain the modern resources needed to give you a quality education. Click here to learn more. 

What animal-focused programs does Canisius offer? 
Canisius College offers one major and three academic minors that focus on animals: 
The Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation Major (ABEC)
The Animal Behavior Minor (for non-ABEC majors)
The Zoo Biology Minor (for any major)
The Anthrozoology Minor (for any major)

What is the “best” major to choose? 
The choice ultimately depends on the student's interests in the other requirements that each major entails. A biology major can concentrate in animal studies, and will also be required to study topics like cell biology, chemistry and physics. A psychology major can likewise concentrate on animals, but will also be required to learn about counseling, social psychology, etc. The ABEC major concentrates most heavily on animals, but does not include the benefits that come from including cell biology, counseling psychology, etc. There are pros and cons with each option, and it is not uncommon for a student who is interested in this area to be unsure of which major to pursue. If this includes you, give me a call or stop by. I will be happy to brainstorm the pros and cons with you. 

I notice that the requirements for the ABEC major and for the three minors overlap somewhat. Is it possible to complete the ABEC major AND one or more minors? 
Yes. Quite a few students do exactly that. 

What degree do you earn at Canisius? 
The ABEC major provides a bachelor of science degree. The biology major also earns a bachelor of science. The psychology major earns a bachelor of arts. 

How many years does it take to complete a degree program? 
Most students complete a bachelor's degree in four years. 

Do you have to be a full-time student to take the courses? 
No. (However, keep reading for more information related to this issue.) 

Is it possible to come to Canisius solely for the animal programs and not for the full four-year degree? 
Yes. Some students only want to complete an animal-focused minor, and that is possible. However, it may or may not be advisable. Consider the following: 

Some students ask this question because they have already completed an undergraduate degree elsewhere. Such students sometimes attend Canisius part time only to complete the animal-focused courses. That takes two years since the various animal courses come around only every other year (with one or two relevant courses per semester on a staggered schedule). If you are such a student, arrange to talk to me before you go too far down this road. As an alternative, I may advise you to consider pursuing a graduate degree elsewhere. It will depend on how much background you already have and what your precise goals are. 

Other students ask this question because they want to move as rapidly as possible into animal-related employment. They are seeking job-related training and credentials, and they want to complete them in the least amount of time possible. Here, I need to point out some important factors to consider. In the first place, most employment with animals (in zoos, for example) now requires a four-year degree. (If you ultimately decide that is what you want, come to Canisius; that's what we do!) Just recognize that the environment at Canisius College is one of liberal-arts and academics. Of course, we pay attention to career planning and preparation, but that is not our only focus. When you come here, you will receive excellent training vis-à-vis animals, but you will also acquire a foundation in English, history, philosophy, etc. If you are a prospective student who wants to work with animals, but you are sure you do not want a four-year degree, you might be better off going to school elsewhere. (For example, here in Western New York the Niagara County Community College has a very good two-year program in animal management.) 

I am already a college student studying elsewhere. Is it possible to transfer to Canisius? 
Yes. This is a fairly common practice. If you are contemplating a transfer to Canisius (or you would like to learn about the possibility), let me know and I will have the appropriate information sent to you. My e-mail address is

Do you offer graduate studies in animal-related disciplines? 
Yes.  We offer a Master’s Degree in Anthrozoology, the study of human-animal relations.  To learn about that program, click here.  

Since you don't have graduate programs in animal-related fields, could you tell me how to find graduate programs elsewhere? 
I suggest you contact the Animal Behavior Society. Their ABS Graduate School booklet is available electronically on the web at

Can you provide me with information about career paths and employment prospects in the area of animal behavior? 
In animal behavior specifically, the main direction is a career in academics. This means graduate school to get a PhD, leading to a job in a university or college. The career usually involves teaching combined with research. 

Other animal-behavior focused careers include:

  • marine-mammal trainer 
  • seeing-eye dog trainer 
  • shelter-animal evaluation 
  • animal-welfare compliance officer 
  • zoo-based employment (zookeeper, curator, public education). 
  • companion animal solutions for problem animals 
  • national wildlife refuge public relations officers 
  • ecotourism wildlife interpreters

I hope that you found some useful information in the answers presented above. Don't hesitate to contact me again with any other questions you may have. 
Dr. Noonan