If you want to study animal physiology and behavior, you've a lot of choices.
Each of the ten options here claim to be the best place for you to learn about zoology. But they can’t all be right. So what is the best online zoology course?
I’ve spent time researching all of the zoology courses out there to help you find the right zoology course for your specific needs. I’ve considered content, length, costs, teacher qualifications, credentials and much more.
For me the best online zoology course is Animal behavior and welfare offered by Coursera, because it offers the most comprehensive and scientific introduction to zoology.
But that might not mean it's the right course for you. Each course on this list has something unique to offer and I’m sure you’ll find the best fit for you on this list.
I’ll also go over the benefits of a zoology course, a buyer’s guide on what to look out for and the typical cost and length of zoology classes.
So, let’s get started.
What is the best online zoology course?
Here are my top zoology course recommendations:
- Animal behavior and welfare (Coursera)
- Bipedalism: The science of upright walking Specialization (Coursera)
- So you want to study life science? (Future Learn)
- Zoology course [Executive Diploma] (International Career Institute)
- The truth about cats and dogs (Coursera)
- Zoologia (edX)
- Animals and society specialization (Coursera)
- Introduction to zoology (Alison)
- Dog emotion and cognition (Coursera)
- Dr Jane Goodall teaches conservation (MasterClass)
My top pick is Animal behavior and welfare, founded by the University of Edinburgh and available on Coursera.
With over 140,000 students enrolled and a 4.8-star rating, this is Coursera’s most popular zoology course. The classes appeal to any animal lover, with scientific details on how we can understand and protect animals.
It can be accessed for free (without certification). This is true for most Coursera courses but not their Specializations.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth course that will provide you with professional accreditation to work with animals, check out the Zoology course [Executive Diploma] (International Career Institute), probably the most comprehensive course on this list.
Finally, if you’re more interested in a whistle-stop tour of the animal kingdom and how zoologists study it, I’d recommend either So you want to study life science? (Future Learn) or Introduction to zoology (Alison), both of which are also free!
Best zoology course reviews
1. Animal behavior and welfare (Coursera)
Platform: Coursera | Teachers: Dr Heather Bacon and others | Course length: 9 hours)
Animal behavior and welfare (taught by the University of Edinburgh on Coursera) is an incredibly comprehensive course taught by a world-leading university on zoology.
Not only will you learn the essentials of animal behavior, but these lessons also offer something practical and world-changing with a focus on animal welfare. To top it all off, you can access the content of the classes for free.
You will learn to:
- Appreciate what animal welfare actually is and why it matters
- Measure animal behavior and what this teaches us
- Research the behavior of cats and dogs
- About the life of farmed and wild animals
- Understand welfare conundrums
- Taught by lecturers from a world-leading university
- Digestible and accessible
- Breaks down lessons on behavior into different types of animal, making it easier to understand
- Includes a LinkedIn-shareable certificate upon completion
- Part of a broader zoology specialization, so you have directions on where to continue your learning
- Includes quizzes and readings
- Content can be accessed for free
- This is Coursera’s best course on animal behavior, but some may be less interested in the welfare aspect of the classes
Best for: Anybody with an interest in a wide range of animals, who also wants to learn more about how they can be looked after
Overall: Combines everything you need from a zoology class. Not only does it feature in-depth lessons on the lifestyle and behavior of a wide variety of animals, but also provides some guidance for animal lovers by giving details on welfare. This guidance comes from not just anybody, but lecturers teaching at the prestigious University of Edinburgh. And to top it all, can be accessed for free.
2. Bipedalism: The science of upright walking (Coursera)
Platform: Coursera | Teachers: Jeremy DeSilva | Course length: 1 month, with 10 hours a week
The second spot on this list goes to a Specialization provided by Coursera.
Bipedalism: The science of upright walking has been created by Dartmouth University, one of the US’ leading research institutes. It's a lot more specialized than my number one pick, taking you on a million-year-old journey to discover why humans and other animals walk on two legs. In doing so, you’ll wrestle with some of the most essential and fascinating topics in zoology.
It's taught in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History and National Zoological Park.
You will learn:
- The kinematics of human (and other biped) locomotion
- How muscles and bones work together to move joints and levers
- Abductor mechanism and avoiding side-to-side wobbling
- How paleontologists are able to tell how something in the past moved
- Fossil insights
- How we learnt to walk
- How the shape of bones reflects adaptations
- Hones in on a fascinating topic in zoology
- Helps you learn about other key concepts in life science
- Multi-disciplinary, giving students insight into related topics
- Factually detailed, focusing on the mechanics of bipedalism
- 3D renditions of human and animal fossils
- Taught in collaboration with a top university and the US’ largest federation of museums
- Applied learning project to help you reflect on your learning journey
- Focuses on quite a specific topic, so may not be for everyone
Best for: Of course, anyone interested in the history of why humans and other animals walk on two legs. But also a great course if you're interested in how multiple disciplines (zoology, anthropology, biology and others) can come together to help us find out about the world.
Overall: Challenges you to investigate some of the most fundamental aspects of human and animal biology and delves deep into a question that has puzzled researchers for generations. And, by using a multidisciplinary approach, you also get broader insight into how it is that we can learn so much about the world through research.
3. So you want to study life science? (Future Learn)
Platform: Future Learn | Teachers: Leah Marks, Mariah Jackson and Kathleen Murphy | Course length: 2 weeks with 2 hours per week
If Bipedalism: The science of upright walking is perfect for students who prefer to focus on a specific concept in zoology, our number three choice is the option for those who are more interested in the broader questions about animal life.
So you want to study life science? promises a whistle-stop tour of the key concepts behind life science, including a heavy focus on zoology and life in the animal kingdom.
This course is provided by Future Learn which, like Coursera, offers online courses in collaboration with top universities. They’ve collaborated with the University of Glasgow, another ancient British university, to teach these lessons to 6,000+ students so far.
You will learn:
- What life science actually is
- Careers in life science
- Marine biology
- Applying to university as a life science student
- What a day in the life of a zoologist is like
- Accessible; offers very introductory level insight into a vast topic
- Unique focus on career pathways in the life science and zoology world
- Specific guidance on what studying life science is like at university
- Special insight into what the life of a zoologist is actually like
- Does not require much commitment as the course is quite short
- Could be a little longer and more in-depth
- Not focused purely on zoology
Best for: Anybody looking for insight into zoology as a career or pursuing it at an undergraduate degree level
Overall: Online courses can often be the first stepping stone into a whole new career path or interest. It’s just two weeks long, but by the end, you will have a solid grasp not only on the fundamentals of zoology and life science but also the career and education opportunities available. Few things can better prepare you for entering the world of zoology.
4. Zoology course [Executive Diploma] (International Career Institute)
Platform: International Career Institute | Teachers: International Career Institute | Course length: 31 weeks
Our number four pick is the most expensive course on the list. But it's also the longest, the most detailed and the one that will prepare you best for a career with animals.
The International Career Institute claims this course will fast-track students’ careers in animal care and save time and money by you not having to attend the course in person.
If you're looking for your next professional move to be working with animals, it is worth paying attention to this one.
You will learn:
- Cross-breeding and pure breeding
- Disease testing
- Types of diseases and how they are diagnosed
- Animal classification
- Animal characteristics
- Animal behavior and psychology
- Training and handling
- Animal health care
- Zoo keeping
- Well-rounded, combining both the science of animals and the practicalities of working with them
- In-depth, but with the option to work at your own pace
- Focuses on preparing you for a career with animals
- Offers an accredited diploma upon completion
- Experience personal tutors who can give direct advice
- Additional study materials and assignments with the opportunity for tutor feedback
- A significant financial investment
- More geared towards working as a zoo keeper than an animal researcher
Best for: Those looking for a professional accreditation to kickstart their career in animal care
Overall: The longest, most expensive and most in-depth course on the list and one of the only classes offering personal tuition. This makes sense because what it offers in return is a diploma that will allow students to find work in the world of animal care. If you’re serious about working with animals, you should look into this one.
5. The truth about cats and dogs (Coursera)
Platform: Coursera | Teachers: Hayley Waters and others | Course length: 16 hours (approx.)
Cats and dogs are the most popular domestic animals in the world, and if, like me, you’ve been lucky enough to have both in your life I bet you’ve also wondered if they behave in the way that they do.
These lessons are here to answer all of your questions about our furry friends. You will receive in-depth insight into how dogs and cats interact with the world with some of the world’s leading animal researchers.
You will learn:
- All about the different cats and dogs in the world
- The issues that arise from different breeds
- Cat and dog sensory abilities and how they interact with the world
- How cat’s and dog’s senses are used to solve problems
- How cats and dogs interact with humans
- How to recognise signs of distress or anxiety
- How we can make life better for cats and dogs
- Taught in collaboration with an ancient, leading research university
- Focuses on animals many of us can relate to and invests students to draw on personal experience
- Practical implications; allows you to provide your pet with a better quality of life by showing how you can understand them
- Applies scientific research to a popular topic (puppies and kittens!)
- Has a social purpose by asking the question of how we can make life better for these animals
- Some may be looking for a more physiological course on cats and dogs, whereas this focuses more on their interaction with the human world
Best for: Anybody who wants to understand their favorite cat or dog even better
Overall: I’ve always wanted to know exactly what's going on in my dog's head and whilst the research isn’t quite there at the moment, these classes are probably the closest I’ll be able to come to that dream. By combining scientific research with a sense of compassion for these animals,The truth about cats and dogs is perfect for anyone who wants to feel even closer to understanding their cat or dog.
6. Zoologia (edX)
Platform: edX | Teachers: Domenico Fulgione | Course length: 5 weeks with 4-6 hours per week
At number 6 we have a rare example of a course where English is not the first language used. It is also one of the only examples of a course that is dedicated totally to zoology.
You will cover all the key concepts in the animal kingdom over the course of 5 weeks, including insights into animal behavior, reproductive systems and evolution.
This class is offered by FredericaX, the online version of the University of Naples Federico II, one of the top ten oldest universities in the world!
If you’re learning Italian, this could also be a great way to test your knowledge and what you’ve learnt so far (check out our review of an Italian language app)
You will learn:
- Animal reproductive strategies
- Physiological functions
- The habitual and evolutionary context of the above
- Classification methods
- The place of animals in the ecosystem
- Comprehensive overview of the zoology subject
- Includes lots of examples of fieldwork
- Covers the core topics of the discipline
- Taught by one the world’s oldest and most regarded universities
- There might be a language barrier
- Only available until the end of this year.
Best for: Italian speakers and anyone interested in zoology as its own discipline
Overall: Zoology is one of the more niche topics out there, and, as a result, there are not too many courses dedicated to zoology on its own. This is one of the few, packed with everything you need to know about the topic with plenty of real examples. If you're an Italian speaker, or you're learning and want to put your skills to the test, check this one out.
7. Animals and society specialization (Coursera)
Platform: Coursera | Teachers: Leslie Irvine | Course length: 1 month with 10 hours a week
This class is special because, not only does it provide insight into animal behavior, but the focus is on how animals interact with humans.
We are at the top of the food chain and human activity has incredible repercussions on the animal kingdom. Understanding how humans and animals interact is essential for any aspiring zoologist.
This class was put together by the University of Colorado-Boulder and is taught by a Professor of Sociology, who has had a whole research career dedicated to understanding how animals interact with human society.
You will learn:
- How animals can act as symbols and metaphors in the media
- The practices and interactions that allow for human/animal relationships
- Major factors that lead to animal abuse and human-wildlife conflict
- How animals are used in research
- The role of zoos in society
- The difficulties of working in an animal shelter
- How research on animal emotions challenges our own emotions
- The difference between animal welfare and animal rights
- The influence of animals on human health
- The exciting opportunity to study under someone who has dedicated their career to the topic of animals and society
- A very unique perspective that combines elements of zoology and sociology, allowing you to have a special insight into questions of animal welfare and behavior
- Has implications for the real world and how the student interacts with animals in their own lives
- Draws on cutting-edge research
- Sometimes has heavy subject matter
- Quite human-focused (this won’t be of interest to some of you)
Best for: Anyone who wants to understand the relationship between our world and the animal world
Overall: You probably interact with animals all the time, but this course will force you to think of those interactions in a different way. This is a rare example where an online class will help change your perspective on the world and specifically how human beings treat animals, thanks in no small part to the insights of a leading lecturer and researcher in the field.
8. Introduction to zoology (Alison)
Platform: Alison | Teachers: Edukators London Ltd. | Course length: 1.5 to 3 hours
Coming towards the end of the list, we find another option that will offer a broad introduction to zoology.
This is by far the shortest course on the list, and it is ideal for anyone who has no experience or previous knowledge about zoology but does have an interest in the animal kingdom.
This is another class that can be accessed for free and over 5,000 learners are already enrolled.
You will learn:
- The definition of zoology
- The difference between vertebrates and invertebrates
- Classifying living animals and organisms
- The difference between warm and cold-blooded animals
- The breeding process
- Linnaues’s system
- The transfer of energy in the ecosystem
- Subdivisions of phylum chordata
- Common diseases in animals
- Completely introductory and very accessible
- Goes over all the absolute fundamentals in a clear and concise way
- Barely any time commitment yet you will gain a lot of knowledge about zoology
- Includes an assessment and certificate of completion
- Pretty basic
Best for: Anybody who has always been interested in the animal world but has never had the time to learn the fundamentals of zoology
Overall: Here is an option that does exactly what it says on the tin. If you have never learnt about animals before but have always been interested, or if you encountered some of the basics of biology and zoology in high school but want a refresher, these lessons are ideal. Introduction to Zoology is super brief, packed with knowledge and available for free.
9. Dog emotion and cognition (Coursera)
Platform: Coursera | Teachers: Brian Hare | Course length: Approx. 22 hours
Considered ‘man’s best friend’, anyone who owns a dog knows that they often seem to read your emotions and respond to your mood. But is it possible to know what our dogs are feeling?
Brian Hare has been studying dog cognition and intelligence for years and is Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University. So he’s the right person to ask.
Join Brian and the other 205,000+ students already in the world to find out more about what your dog is thinking.
You will learn:
- An introduction to cognitive psychology and how it applies to dogs
- How the mind is studied through experience
- The ecological approach to cognition
- What makes dogs' brains special
- ‘Survival of the friendliest’ and why dogs evolved as they did
- What a dog’s brain is capable of
- Common myths about breed differences
- A fun concept to explore, especially if you have a dog!
- Engaging tutor who is at the forefront of this research
- Interactive, with exams, recommended readings and the Dognition game
- Provides extensive background, including wider information about evolution and cognitive science
- Gets to the point by answering fundamental questions about how dogs’ brains work
- Some learners may find the number of quizzes and exams offputting
Best for: Dog lovers who want to learn more about how their pet's brain works
Overall: Dogs have been a big part of human society and culture for many years, but we are only at the very beginning of discovering how their brains work. Brian Hare uses his leading insight to show you just what dogs are capable of and why their brains have evolved to be the way they are.
See also our Brandon McMillan MasterClass review
10. Dr Jane Goodall teaches conservation (MasterClass)
Platform: MasterClass | Teachers: Dr Jane Goodall | Course length: Approx. 5 hours
This masterclass is an intimate look at the life and career of Dr Jane Goodall, one of the most renowned conservationists and primatologists in the world. She’ll share with you the wisdom she’s learnt from 60 years of studying the animal kingdom.
This course is offered by MasterClass. If you subscribe to this site, you’ll receive access to 180+ classes in different disciplines all led by celebrity instructors who are leaders in their field.
You will learn:
- Chimpanzee behavior
- Chimpanzee learning and development
- Animal intelligence
- The relationship between chimps and humans
- Humans and the environment
- Threats to animals and animal cruelty
- Climate change
- Industrial agriculture
- Advocacy strategies
- Taught by a world-renowned expert on animal behavior
- Lessons are constructed around Jane Goodall’s 60 years of experience working with animals
- High production quality, with super engaging lessons and helpful visuals
- More practical, showing why animals are threatened and how they might be protected
- A subscription to MastercClass grants you access to courses from a range of celebrity instructors
- A less academic course than some other examples on this list
- Not strictly a zoology course
Best for: Anybody interested in the insights from a leading primatologist and someone at the forefront of both scientific research and activism for animal protection
Overall: If you have a background in zoology already or you’re just generally interested in the topic, Dr Jane Goodall’s Masterclass is a high-quality, entertaining insight into the effect science and research can have on animals from one of the loudest voices when it comes to learning from the animal kingdom.
Read our full Jane Goodall MasterClass review
What are the advantages of taking an online zoology course?
Zoology is one of the more niche disciplines within the sciences, but there are so many benefits to taking a zoology course:
- A stronger understanding of the animal life around you
- A good way to grasp other science topics, like biology
- Often will allow you to understand more about humans and what makes us difference
- A strong social purpose, as you will understand how humans and animals interact and how this can be improved
- Practical guidance on developing a career working with animals
There are also many benefits to taking a zoology course online:
- Access to leading animal researchers from all around the world
- Learn when and where you like and fit everything around your schedule
- Free courses mean you can combine learning different platforms (e.g. Coursera and Alison) without any cost
- Access to endless additional materials, such as textbooks on animal classifications, assignments and interactive models of animal anatomy
- Skills that stay with you for life; you can impress friends next time you visit the zoo
- Your general knowledge of science will improve
- Learning a new skill is great for engaging the brain and finishing each course will leave you hungry with curiosity and a need to develop your zoological knowledge
Buyer’s guide: what to look out for
With so many choices, it can be hard to know what to look out for when selecting the best zoology course for you.
So here’s a helpful buyer’s guide to look out for:
- Positive reviews and feedback from both users and sites like Learnopoly
- The credentials of the instructor; many on this list are professors in zoology or have had careers working with animals
- How long the course is and what each lesson will teach you e.g. is it more scientific or practical
- Any additional materials like assignments and worksheets
- Are the classes broadly about zoology or about specific topics like cognition of dogs
- How many people are enrolled
- Is there any free trial or refund available?
How much does it cost?
The prices on this list range from free to $1,372.00.
However, you shouldn’t take these prices at face value as there are a few things to keep in mind.
For the more expensive courses, you’ll need to consider what you’re getting in return. For example, the Zoology course [Executive Diploma] from the International Career Institute is the most expensive option on the list.
However, this class focuses on providing you with the knowledge that’s essential for a career working with animals and is accredited by the International Association of Private Career Colleges (IAPCC), so it's better to think of your purchase as an investment into your future.
Also, when it comes to free courses on this list, it's important to know that if you want access to a certificate or additional resources (e.g. assessments, workbooks) from sites like edX and Coursera, you will need to pay. However, the content itself you can access for free.
Being able to access information from top lecturers and universities on a complex subject like zoology is a remarkable opportunity that shouldn’t be understated!
How long does it take to learn zoology?
The courses on the list range from 3 hours to 31 weeks.
However, having a grasp of zoology will depend on a lot of other factors. For example, many of these courses will contain additional materials including worksheets, assignments and textbooks that will supplement what you learn about animal life in the video lessons.
Everybody reads and works at their own pace, so the time it takes to complete this extra work will depend on you and how much you’re willing to put in. This is also true for video lessons as you’ll be able to watch these within your own time.
It’s also important to recognise that zoology is a very complex and multifaceted topic. For centuries humans have been trying to research and understand animals, and yet these courses prove that there is still so much to be learned.
So even though these courses will illuminate many aspects of the animal kingdom for you, there will always be more to learn.
So, what is the best online zoology course?
Well, for me, all of these picks have their merits, but the one that combines what I would be looking for in a zoology course has to be Animal behavior and welfare.
This class appeals to all animal lovers, providing scientific insight not only into a wide range of animals but also showing how we know what we know and offering practical insight into maintaining the welfare of these animals. Plus it's taught by lecturers from the prestigious University of Edinburgh, and you can access the content for free!
Coursera makes up for half of the options on this list, and that’s because all of their courses (not the specializations) can all be audited for free and are taught in collaboration with a leading university or research institution.
If you’re interested in a professional accreditation that will let you work with animals, it’s worth considering the International Career Institute’s Zoology course [Executive Diploma].
This is the most expensive course on the list, but it is also the most in-depth option and sets you up well for a career in animal care. Alternatively, Do you want to study life science? (Future Learn) or Introduction to zoology (Alison) offer free, introductory classes.
As you can see, there is a lot of choice out there, so ultimately the best zoology course really depends on what you’re looking for and what part of the animal world you’re interested in!
Frequently asked questions
Animal behavior and welfare from the University of Edinburgh on Coursera
The prices on this list range from free (without certification) to $1,372.00.
The courses on the list range from 3 hours to 31 weeks.
Charlie is a student reading politics at King’s College London. He is also a passionate musician with over 14 years of experience. In his free time, he also enjoys cinema, long-distance running and learning new things.