Top 25 Undergraduate Programs in Animal-Assisted Therapy for 2021

There is a rising demand for therapists who use the human-animal connection to help their patients. They use goal-directed interventions as part of the treatment process. Undergraduate programs in animal-assisted therapy (AAT) lay the foundation for a career in the field of human-animal science. They are ideal for students who wish to combine their love for animals and helping others in counseling settings.

Undergraduate programs in AAT come in the form of bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, and certificate programs. While the nature and format of these programs differ, their end goals are the same. They seek to:

  • Teach students to use AAT for physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing  
  • Prepare students for specialization and unique career pathways 
  • Prepare students for advanced and master’s level studies in the field

The programs explore the unique characteristics of human-pet relationships. The unconditional love of an animal can act as the biggest healer. Therapists ease faster healing and progress with the help of animal presence. Research has proven that spending time with animals has enormous positive effects on human beings. Animal therapy also helps develop social skills and improve self-esteem.

AAT practitioners work in various clinical settings. Each therapist may have his or her choice of a favorite animal in their work. Dogs and horses are by far the most popular choices, but other animals are important too. They design their own sessions where animals go with them in clinical settings or at patients’ residents.

In this ranking, we have listed the schools that offer AAT as a bachelor program. We have taken into account the affordability, accreditations, faculty, and curriculum. Programs have been ranked per their yearly resident tuition rates. We have also listed colleges and institutions that offer AAT as Associate degree and Certificate programs. These programs have been ranked by their overall affordability as well. 

For easier navigation, jump to:

Methodology for Bachelor’s Degree programs:

Tuition

  • Net Price Below $10,000: 4 points
  • Net Price Below $15,000: 3 points
  • Net Price Below $20,000: 2 points
  • Net Price Below $25,000: 1 point

Student to Faculty Ratio

  • Less than 20:1: 1 point
  • Less than 15: 1: 2 points
  • Less than 10: 1: 3 points

Return on Investment (ROI) According to Payscale.com

  • Top 500: 1 point
  • Top 300: 2 points
  • Top 150: 3 points

Student Support Network (faculty mentors/advisors, writing/technology support, etc.)— 1 point per item

Concentrations/Specializations – 1 point per item

Accreditation (School-Wide and Program-Specific) – 1 point per item

“Wow” Factor – 1 point (anything that would mark a program as unique. Special qualities that make a program “stand out from the crowd”)

Bachelor’s Degrees 

#16 Texas Christian University

Fort Worth, TX

Social Work, BSW

Visit Website 
Points: 5

Texas Christian University offers a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. It integrates liberal arts courses with preparation for professional practice. Students can choose Human-Animal Relationships as their Minor. Sample courses include: 

  • Animal Assisted Therapy
  • Animals, Religion, and Culture
  • Making Animal Imagery
  • Animal Assisted Therapy
  • Animal Cognition
  • Animals, Culture and Society
  • Junior Honors Seminar in Human-Animal Relationships
  • Senior Honors Research Paper in Human-Animal Relationships

Students get into entry-level careers in human service. They train to help individuals and communities with varied life problems. They are also prepared for graduate studies. 

Fast facts:

  • 124 semester hours
  • Offered by: Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition per year: $51,570 

 #15 Averett University

Danville, VA

BS in Equestrian Studies

Visit Website 
Points: 6

Averett University offers a Bachelor of Science in Equestrian Studies. Students have the following concentration options:

  • Dressage Instruction
  • Equine Management
  • Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy
  • Equine Science

The Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy concentration is a unique offering by the school. It is based on the centuries-old relationship between humans and horses. Students gain an understanding of the human-horse relationship and psychology. They learn to apply the knowledge in their work by developing professional skills for a variety of roles. Students also learn to plan, guide, and test equine therapy experiences for their human patients.

Fast facts:

  • 83 semester hours
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition per year: $36,520

#14 Carroll College

Helena, MT

Anthrozoology, B.A.

Visit Website 
Points: 6

Carroll College offers a Bachelor of Arts in Anthrozoology. It provides students with a broad knowledge of human-animal relations. It explores how animal lives intersect with human cultures. Key features:

  • The program blends psychology, sociology, anthropology, and geography
  • Students explore human-animal interactions 
  • They develop the knowledge and skills to improve the lives of both animals and people 
  • They learn animal-assisted therapy, veterinary medicine, humane education, and other service occupations

The program blends classroom theory with extensive hands-on training. Students can choose from three minors: Canine, Equine, and Animals and Society. 

 Fast facts:

  • 76 credits
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition per year: $36,182

#13 Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

St Mary-Of-The-Woods, IN

BS in Psychology-Equine Assisted Therapy Minor

Visit Website 
Points: 7

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College offers a Bachelor of Science. Students have the option to choose Equine Assisted Therapy as their Minor. The courses complement areas like education, counseling, and leadership development programs. Students learn to help people with a wide range of needs. They include: 

  • At-risk youth
  • Returning veterans
  • Children with academic issues or behavioral problems
  • Special needs kids 
  • Individuals suffering from family violence and abusive backgrounds 
  • People with substance abuse or addiction issues
  • People suffering from anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder

Students learn to use equines to promote growth, learning, and psychological well-being. 

Fast facts:

  • 64 credits
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission.
  • Tuition per year: $29,950 

#12 Bethany College

Bethany, WV 

BA in Social Work

Visit Website 
Points: 7

Bethany College offers a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work. Among its courses, students also take the Equine Assisted Interventions course. Highlights of the course:

  • It emphasizes the therapeutic use of horses
  • Students focus on ways to determine and meet the needs of their future patients
  • They learn to deal with their physical, psychological, or cognitive limitations or issues
  • Students take part in therapeutic riding classes
  • They also attend EAGALA (Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning) sessions
  • The course may be repeated for credit

The program prepares students for entry-level, generalist social work jobs.

Fast facts:

  • 128 credits
  • Offered through: Dept. of Social Work
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Council on Social Work Education [CSWE]; Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition per year: $28,950

#11 Aurora University

Aurora, IL

Human-Animal Studies (BS)

Visit Website 
Points: 8

Aurora University offers a Bachelor of Science in Human-Animal Studies. The unique program prepares students for a career working with animals. They have the option to specialize in one of two tracks: therapy or welfare and bonding. It trains them to help people through animal therapy.

They also learn about: 

  • Animal disease prevention
  • Animal science
  • Animal welfare

The program focuses on experiential learning. During internships, students get to have direct experiences with animals and clients. Graduates become successful Animal-assisted therapists, Humane investigators, and Shelter managers. 

The flexible curriculum allows students to double major and be career-ready. 

Fast facts:

  • 40 semester hours
  • Offered through: Columbian College of Arts & Sciences
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition per semester: $12,800 

#10 Wilson College 

Chambersburg, PA

BS in Animal Studies 

Visit Website 
Points: 8

Wilson College offers a Bachelor of Science Animal Studies. The program prepares graduates for jobs in animal-related fields. The animal studies courses emphasize areas like: 

  • Animal behavior/Animals in service 
  • Animal-human bond
  • Animal-human interactions 
  • Ethical standards of practice/ Ethical treatment
  • Environmental impact

Students choose a concentration that helps them develop better job skills. These include biology/psychology, English/communications, or environmental science. Students learn through experiential learning, observation, internships, and research. They gain an understanding of how animals and humans interact with each other. Many graduates go on to create animal-assisted therapy programs for their patients. 

 Fast facts:

  • 52 credits
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) 
  • Tuition per year: $25,200

#9 Utah State University 

Logan, UT

Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences: Equine Science and Management Emphasis – BS

Visit Website 
Points: 9

Utah State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences: Equine Science and Management Emphasis. Students can choose Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies as a Minor. Required Courses include:

  • Principles of Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies 
  • Techniques in Therapeutic Riding
  • Equine Specialist in Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy 
  • Training and Conditioning of the Therapy Equine 
  • Supervised Teaching in Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies 

Students focus on equine experiential learning, therapies, and recreation. The course provides them with a strong professional education. They are trained to use animal therapy to help people with various issues. 

Fast facts:

  • 120 credits
  • Offered through: College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition per credit: $601.21

#8 University of Massachusetts Amherst

Amherst, MA

BDIC-Animal Assisted Therapy

Visit Website 
Points: 10

The University of Massachusetts Amherst offers a Bachelor’s Degree with Individualized Concentration. The unique program allows students to design their own major. Students can choose a major and concentration tailored to their career goals. Among these options, students can choose the Animal Assisted Therapy concentration.  It focuses on the therapeutic value of human-animal interactions. The program is based on these theories:

  • Pets can also make us happier and healthier
  • Pets can help us heal faster and live longer
  • Animals facilitate therapy, whether they are horses, dogs, or cats

Many BDIC students do double majors. They graduate with a BA or BS degree.

Fast facts:

  • 36 credits
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Tuition per year: $16,439

#7 Houghton College

Houghton, NY

Equestrian Studies, BS

Visit Website 
Points: 11

Houghton College offers a Bachelor of Science in Equestrian Studies. Students have the option to choose Equine-assisted therapy as their minor. They learn to use horses to help individuals with disabilities in various settings. They learn to do so using a variety of facilitation techniques covered in the program. Courses include: 

  • Equine Science
  • Equine Facility Management 
  • Equestrian Pedagogy Methods
  • Foundations of Equine-Assisted Therapies
  • Methods and Materials of Equine-Assisted Therapies
  • Equestrian electives

Students can pursue certification from the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. They can opt for an internship field placement to prepare for the certification. 

Fast facts:

  • 124 semester hours
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition per year: $15,900

#6 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Slippery Rock, PA

BS in Recreational Therapy

Visit Website 
Points: 12

Slippery Rock University offers a Bachelor of Science in Recreational Therapy. It prepares students for entry-level recreational therapist roles. Students can choose Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAT) as their minor. The program helps students: 

  • Understand how the human-animal bond promotes human health and well-being
  • Learn how animal intervention benefits individuals with disabilities 
  • Develop the skills for using AAT in their professional practice
  • Develop a human-animal team and apply this therapy in their work

Animal-Assisted Interventions are used for various professions like Social Work or Psychology. It is also useful for students in counseling and veterinary science.

Fast facts:

  • 120 credits
  • Offered by: College of Health, Engineering, and Science
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: CAAHEP; CARTE; Higher Learning Commission.
  • Tuition per credit: $322

#5 University of Toledo 

Toledo, OH

BS in Recreation Therapy

Visit Website 
Points: 12

The University of Toledo offers a Bachelor of Science in Recreation Therapy. It is the only accredited recreation therapy program in Ohio. Among the many elective choices, students can also opt for Animal Assisted Therapy. They develop various therapy skills using a variety of animal-assisted methods. Students learn to: 

  • Work with people who are mentally and physically disabled
  • Design and put in place treatment programs and effective recreation services
  • Help people with illnesses or disabling conditions live healthier and more independent lives
  • Explore the value of recreation and leisure activities like sports, arts and crafts for therapy

Students complete 810 hours of professional experience, which makes them job-ready.

Fast facts:

  • 125 hours
  • Offered through: College of Health and Human Services
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Park, Recreation, Tourism, and Related Professions
  • Tuition per year: $9,196

#4 North Dakota State University 

Fargo, ND 

BS in Equine Science

Visit Website 
Points: 13

North Dakota State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Equine Science. Students have the option to choose Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies as their minor. Courses include: 

  • Introduction to Therapeutic Horsemanship
  • Equine Care and Management Practicum
  • Introduction to Equine Studies
  • Basic Equitation & Horsemanship
  • Intermediate Horsemanship
  • Principles of Therapeutic Horsemanship Instruction
  • Therapeutic Horsemanship Teaching Practicum
  • Electives         

These courses help students understand how equine science, human development, and psychology work together. They apply this knowledge to help individuals in need. The program blends classroom education with experiential learning opportunities. 

Fast facts:

  • 120 credits
  • Offered by: College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission.
  • Tuition per year: $8,606

#3 Goddard College 

Plainfield, VT

BA in Psychology

Visit Website 
Points: 13

Goddard College offers a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a fast track to MA programs. Students can choose to specialize in Human-Animal Interaction Concentration. The program allows students to:

  • Learn about the relational power between humans and animals and healing 
  • Learn various therapeutic interventions involving humans and animals
  • Learn animal-assisted practices while learning how to be an effective human helper
  • Specialize in AAT while working toward their degree 
  • Get into a specific niche for their future work or practice

Graduates work as animal-assisted therapists in a variety of settings. 

Fast facts:

  • 120 semester-hour credits
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Tuition per year: $8,542

#2 SUNY Cobleskill 

Cobleskill, NY

Therapeutic Horsemanship (B.T.)

Visit Website 
Points: 14

SUNY Cobleskill offers a Bachelor of Technology Degree in Therapeutic Horsemanship. Students gain foundational knowledge of equine-assisted activities and therapies. The curriculum:

  • Includes subjects like equine science, education, psychology, recreation, and sport
  • Prepares students for the field of therapeutic horsemanship
  • Prepares students to pursue graduate studies
  • Teaches them to use integrated skills to help children and adults 
  • Teaches them to work with college students, community volunteers, parents, and teachers

As therapists, they learn to help people in an enriching environment. They can also apply for instructor certification. 

Fast facts:

  • 122 credits
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) 
  • Tuition per year: $7,070

#1 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

New Brunswick, NJ 

BS in Animal Sciences

Visit Website 
Points: 15

Rutgers offers a Bachelor of Science in Animal Sciences. Students can choose Animal Assisted Therapy from the list of electives. The course focuses on small companion animals and horses. It is designed for students who have a strong interest in Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). Key features of the elective:

  • Provides an overview of Animal Assisted Therapy 
  • Explores the history and evolution of AAT in counseling
  • Explores the use of therapy animals with special populations
  • Explores its relevance as an alternative treatment modality for common psychological disorders
  • Explores common therapeutic animals and techniques
  • Explores ethical concerns when using animals in therapy

It is available in the Fall and Spring semesters. 

Fast facts:

  • 128 credits
  • Offered by: School of Environmental and Biological Sciences 
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition per year: $6873

Associates Degrees

#2 Hocking College

Nelsonville, OH 

A.A.S.  in Animal Assisted Therapy

Visit Website 

Hocking College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Animal Assisted Therapy. Students can choose from two tracks – majors in Equine and Canine. There are also short-term certificate options in Canine Training Specialist and Pet Grooming. Key features of the program: 

  • Helps students get jobs in Animal Assisted Therapy sector
  • The curriculum includes topics needed for student success in the field of Animal Assisted Therapies
  • The choice of concentration in canine or equine therapies prepares students for specific careers
  • Students also gain essential skills like communications, critical thinking, problem-solving, and human relations. 

Fast facts:

  • 60-62 credits
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Nelsonville, OH
  • Tuition per semester: $300

#1 Tri-County Community College

Murphy, NC

A.A.S. Human Services Technology/Animal Assisted Interactions

Visit Website 
Points: 

Tri-County Community College offers an Associate degree in Human Services Technology. It offers a concentration in Animal-Assisted Interactions. It prepares students for entry-level positions in service organizations providing animal interactions. The curriculum prepares students to: 

  • Learn the history of the field of animal interventions 
  • Learn to use animals and improve human physical, social, emotional functioning
  • Gain skills in animal handling and management
  • Learn about the application of animal interventions and current trends

Students can work in mental health and rehabilitation centers, community settings, and social services. 

Fast facts:

  • 74 credits
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition per semester hour: $76.00

Certificate Programs

 #7 Animal Behavior Institute, Inc.

Durham, NC 

Certificate in Animal Assisted Therapy

Visit Website 
Points: 10

The Animal Behavior Institute offers a Certificate in Animal Assisted Therapy. It provides students with the skills to participate in programs that use the unique benefits of human-animal interactions. The courses span the breadth of animal-assisted therapy, education, and activities. Courses include: 

  1. Practical Psychology
  2. Animal Assisted Therapy
  3. The Human-Animal Bond
  4. Animal Training 
  5. Training Your Therapy Dog
  6. Equine Assisted Activities & Therapies
  7. Animal Behavior

Graduates work in a variety of professional settings. They may work as therapists, counselors, teachers, social workers, special education instructors, and nurses. Many start their own programs as well. 

Fast facts:

  • 15 credits
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation:  International Association for Continuing Education and Training
  • Cost: $5925 

 #6 University of Denver 

Denver, CO

Animals and Human Health Certificate

Visit Website 
Points: 11

 The University of Denver offers an Animals and Human Health Certificate. Students can choose two animal species to focus on, the client population and the setting they want to serve. The curriculum is designed to meet various needs and interests. Students learn about:

  • Professional animal-assisted interventions 
  • Animal-assisted therapy, activities, and learning found in many settings
  • Benefits and opportunities of the human-animal bond
  • How the bond creates lasting social, emotional, cognitive, physical, spiritual, and psychological changes

With the certificate, students can improve their career prospects in this emerging field. They can apply this in their work as counselors, teachers, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, police officers, and veterinarians. 

Fast facts:

  • 35 units
  • Offered via: Institute for Human-Animal Connection
  • Format: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Cost: $3500

 #5 Texas State University

San Marcos, TX

Certification in Animal-Assisted Counseling

Visit Website 
Points: 11

Texas State University offers a Certification in Animal-Assisted Counseling. It explores the study and practice of animal-assisted counseling and play therapy. Key features of the program: 

  • Explores positive human-animal interactions
  • Promotes the human-animal bond in therapy 
  • Provides quality training in animal-assisted counseling 
  • Provides introductory and advanced training in animal-assisted counseling and play therapy
  • Seeks to use therapy to improve the well-being of children and families 
  • Offers a series of intensive workshops for graduate students and professionals 

Graduates become active researchers and move forward in evidence-based practice. The professional training program prepares students for varied professions that need this skill. 

Fast facts:

  • 40 CEs
  • Offered by: College of Education
  • Format: Campus-based/Online
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools 
  • Cost: $3200

 #4 Oakland University 

Rochester, MI

Certificate in Equine Assisted Therapy

Visit Website 
Points: 12

Oakland University offers an Animal Assisted Therapy Certificate program, which is 100% online. Taught by multidisciplinary professionals, it addresses varied health and social issues. Students learn about:

  • The increasing need for alternative, innovative and holistic practices
  • How to identify what animals/pets would make safe, reliable therapy animals
  • The differences between Animal Assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Therapy 
  • Educational, therapeutic, and health benefits for at-risk children and adolescents
  • Benefits for the elderly and other special-needs populations
  • Students can help patients in nursing homes, counseling centers, and hospitals

The program is ideal for people who want to add AAT to their skill set. 

Fast facts:

  • The program includes five consecutive 5-week modules
  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition per course: $499

 #3 Casper College

Casper, WY

Certificate in Equine Assisted Therapy

Visit Website 
Points: 13

Casper College offers a Certificate program in Equine Assisted Therapy. It prepares students to provide treatment through an environment with horses. Key features of the program:

  • Students become eligible to assist personnel who use equine-assisted therapy
  • They train to promote physical, occupational, and emotional growth in patients
  • It prepares students for employment in working with various age groups and disabilities 
  • They learn about safety and ethics in working with people with disabilities using this approach

A certificate in equine-assisted therapy leads to work in a variety of fields and settings. Students can work in rehabilitation to wellness promotion sectors.

Fast facts:

  • The program can be completed in 16 weeks
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition per credit: $137

 #2 Harcum College

Bryn Mawr, PA

Certificate in AAT/AAA

Visit Website 
Points: 14

Harcum College offers a Certificate program titled ‘Introduction to Animal-Assisted Therapy & Animal-Assisted Activities (AAT/AAA). It explores the human-animal bond and its therapeutic applications. Coursework includes:

  • Introduction to the Human-Animal Bond and its therapeutic applications
  • History of AAT/AAA and multi-cultural implications
  • Key concepts in the Human-Animal Bond
  • Institutional and clinical AAT/AAA
  • How to become an AAT/AAA practitioner, Career opportunities
  • How to organize an AAT/AAA program
  • Selecting animals for AAT/AAA; Protecting the welfare of animals
  • How to conduct an animal-assisted visit
  • AAT/AAA with children, youth, and other populations
  • New frontiers in AAT/AAA

The program is for those wishing to explore career opportunities in this emerging field.

Fast facts:

  • 40 credits
  • Format: Campus-based
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Cost: $1140

#1 PESI Inc.

Eau Claire, WI 

Certification in Animal-Assisted Therapy

Visit Website 
Points: 15

PESI Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides continuing education to professionals. The Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) certification follows a 2-day comprehensive course. Students learn through a practical framework. They learn to incorporate evidence-based AAT into their current treatment methods. Courses include:

  • A Framework to Harness the Power of the Human-Animal Bond in Treatment
  • Mindfulness of Animals – Help Humans Thrive Not Just Survive
  • The Incredible Range of Therapeutic Benefits in Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)
  • Practical Examples/Case Studies of AAT for Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders
  • Start Your Own Animal-Assisted Program

Students learn practical ways to use AAT and improve treatment outcomes for patients. 

Fast facts:

  • 2-day comprehensive course
  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education
  • Cost: $439.99

Related Rankings: