Conservation Science Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Read about the different career options for conservation science majors. Find information on career advancement opportunities and optional certifications, and check the employment outlook and potential earnings in this field. Schools offering Natural Resources & Conservation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Conservation Scientist?

Many conservation scientists work for government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service. Your career path will likely be based on your interests and area of focus. For instance, you may concentrate on soil or range conservation and work as a range manager or conservation officer for the U.S. Forest Service or a state park. You could also work in habitat and wildlife conservation for a non-governmental organization.

Alternatively, you may choose to work independently as a consultant to private organizations, businesses, farm owners and government agencies. A bachelor's degree may also qualify you for work in conservation education, policy formation, wildlife biology, forestry or ecology. These jobs may be found at zoos, national and state parks, university laboratories, schools and private organizations. Below, learn some important possible career details for individuals with this degree:

Conservation ScientistsForestersEnvironmental Scientists & Specialists
Degree Required Bachelor's Bachelor's Bachelor's
Key Responsibilities Oversee conservation activities, help create plans for land management, work with government workers and private landownersOversee forest regeneration, determine how to conduct various forestry activities with minimum environmental damageCollect samples of soil, water, and other environmental materials, conduct tests on samples, share results with environmental and governmental agencies
Licensure Requirements Not requiredNot requiredLicensure available for specific fields
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7%8%11%
Median Salary (2015)* $61,110$58,230$67,460

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Advancement Opportunities Will I Have?

Although certification is not generally required for conservation science jobs, it may help you advance within your profession. There are many different types of professional certifications depending on your specialty and occupation. For instance, the Society of American Foresters certifies professional foresters, and The Wildlife Society offers certifying credentials for wildlife biologists and related professionals. The Society of Range Management has two certifications for professionals in rangeland management and consultancy.

Most certification programs require a bachelor's degree in a field like conservation science and related work experience. Requirements can vary, so be sure to check with the organization that offers the credential that applies to you. In addition to certification, you may also consider pursuing a graduate-level degree to qualify for managerial or supervisory positions, as well as teaching and research positions at colleges and universities.

What Is the Job Outlook like?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of conservation scientists and foresters is expected to grow at an average rate (7%) between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Most jobs will be found in federal, state and local governments, especially in forest and rangeland management. Concerns over the safety and sustainability of food supplies will drive demand for soil and water conservationists. In addition, more investments in conservation programs made by government agencies and businesses will also contribute to job growth.

How Much Can I Expect to Earn?

The salary of conservation scientists varies according to level of education, experience and responsibility. Professionals working for the government generally earn a salary commensurate with their level of education. Government employees also typically receive generous benefits in addition to their base salaries. According to the BLS, the median annual wages of conservation scientists were $61,110, as of May 2015(www.bls.gov). Foresters earned median annual wages of $58,230 and those for environmental scientists and specialists were $67,460, also as of May 2015(www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A handful of alternative careers that require at least a bachelor's degree include agricultural and food scientists, zoologists and wildlife biologists. Agricultural and food scientists study the relationship between soil and plants, and work to improve crops and agricultural processes. Zoologists and wildlife biologists study different kinds of animals, their interactions with ecosystems and how humans have impacted them.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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