According to the website Schools in the USA, an animal nutritionist is to an animal's daily diet what a veterinarian is to an animal's body. An animal nutritionist consults with farmers, agriculturalists and animal food companies to develop better food for animals that increases both health and vitality. The education requirements for an animal nutritionist vary depending on the level of specialization desired.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
An animal nutritionist is required to successfully complete a four-year bachelor's degree in animal science or a related field such as biology, agriculture or general nutrition. These programs teach a student the basic properties of food and how different elements are broken down in the bodies of both humans and animals. A student wishing to become an animal nutritionist may also choose a double major in animal science and a related field like agriculture to gain a more thorough understanding of how food intended for animals is processed. Completion of a dual degree may take longer than the standard four years to complete.
Master's Degree Specialization
Specialization in the dietary needs of a particular species is accomplished through a master's degree in animal science or nutrition. At this level of education, an animal nutritionist is working directly with animals of a particular species, such as horses, studying the eating habits of the species and measuring in a laboratory setting how they perform when fed diets of different vitamin and mineral compositions. Completion of a master's degree program can take anywhere from two to five years.
Doctoral Level Work
Doctoral-level work in the field of animal nutrition may involve clinical trials in producing new compounds for animal feed. Studies may include animal metabolic rates, carbohydrate research and elements of biochemistry in how minerals, proteins and vitamins are absorbed by animals and which compounds allow for the most efficient form of digestion. A doctoral degree in animal nutrition may take up to five years to complete, though the degree may require more time if the research being conducted takes longer to show usable results.
An animal nutritionist who elects not to go through all that schooling is still required to attend classes to continue his education and remain knowledgeable about all the latest techniques and findings in the field. Continuing education courses are administered by such organizations as the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. These courses may take place over a few days or a few weeks, and are taught in different locations all over the world.