Are you interested in a career in Animal Behavior?
People often ask us how we got our start. We’ve put together
answers to this and other common questions
about how to become an animal behaviorist. After you’ve read
the information, if you need more personal help, schedule
a career counseling appointment with us.
How did you get into this profession?
Dr. Hetts' Story
Dr. Hetts received a B.S. degree in Medical Technology and Microbiology
and worked in the clinical pathology laboratory at St. Anthony Hospital
in Denver for several years. If you were ever a patient there, she
might have drawn your blood or conducted any number of laboratory
tests on it.
Suzanne decided she wanted a career change, and entered graduate
school to obtain a Master’s Degree in Wildlife Biology. There
were no jobs available in the field at the time that appealed to
her, so she took another job as a medical technologist – this
time at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University.
It was there that she took her first course in applied animal behavior
– an elective available to veterinary students - and she was
hooked. The instructor of that class, Dr. Phil Lehner, became her
major professor when she again went back to graduate school for
the final time. Dr. Hetts earned her Ph.D. in Zoology at Colorado
State University with a specialization in animal behavior.
She created her own course of study (none existed at the time)
to prepare her for working with pets and their people. Her course
work included courses in animal behavior, animal learning, statistics,
research methods, physiological psychology, and marriage and family
Together with Dr. Phil Lehner, Suzanne founded Animal Behavior
Associates, Inc. in 1984. Initially, Suzanne apprenticed under Dr.
Lehner, and after finishing her graduate work bought out the practice,
which she co-owns today with her husband Dr. Dan Estep.
Dr. Hetts continues to study animal behavior by reading about research
and new developments in the scientific literature, attending conferences
and seminars, and regularly interacting with professional colleagues.
Dr. Estep's Story
Dr. Estep received his B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin
majoring in Psychology and minoring in Zoology. He started working
in animal behavior research laboratories on campus during his junior
He attended the University of Florida earning M.A. and Ph.D. degrees
in Psychology with a specialization in animal behavior. He took
numerous graduate courses in animal behavior, neurobiology, animal
learning and ecology and evolution.
After finishing his Ph.D., he became an assistant professor at
the University of Georgia for 16 years. While there he taught both
undergraduate and graduate courses in the Biopsychology Department,
and conducted various research studies in animal behavior.
While at Georgia, he began doing applied research in animal behavior
and in 1991 moved to Denver to join Dr. Hetts as co-owner of ABA,
Inc. This coincided with their marriage! He apprenticed with her
for two years before doing behavior consulting full-time. He also
continues to keep current in the field by reading, attending conferences
and seminars and talking to colleagues.