How Do I Become a Conservationist?

Research what it takes to become a conservationist. Learn about the education options and requirements, job duties and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Natural Resources & Conservation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Conservationist?

Conservationists manage environmental protection efforts in order to balance the needs of human users with environmental health. To do so, they manage projects that maintain ecosystem health and protect natural resources from a variety of threats. They are also involved in land-use negotiations to meet the needs of users like farmers and other landowners. Some conservationists specialize in a particular area of the field, such as range management, land management or soil and water conservation.

The following table provides some basic information for this career:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Environmental sciences, biology, natural resources, rangeland management, conservation ecology OR agricultural science
Key Responsibilities Manage natural resources, conduct fieldwork such as measurements and geographic data
Job Growth (2014-24) 7%*
Average Salary (2015) $63,800*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Job Duties As a Conservationist?

Your primary duty as a conservationist is to protect and manage natural resources. You might find a job working for the federal government, or you might work for independent scientific or non-profit organizations. You might dedicate yourself to water, soil or forest conservation. In such specializations, it's your responsibility to assess the potential dangers inherent in an area and work to protect natural resources from those threats.

As a conservationist, or range manager, you'll also determine how to best harness farmland, forests and water resources for human use without causing environmental degradation. You'll perform a great deal of your work in the field, such as measuring tree growth, collecting geographic information systems (GIS) data and visiting areas with erosion problems.

What Educational Programs Are Available To Me?

Bachelor's degree programs in environmental sciences, biology, natural resources, rangeland management or agricultural science can help prepare you for a career as a conservationist. You might enroll in a 4-year degree program that provides you with a solid overview of physical science and earth science, while also training you to work in both lab and field settings.

You might also consider earning a Bachelor of Science in Conservation Ecology. Such degree programs are designed to provide you with the specific knowledge and skills necessary to protect and restore the environment. They might include courses, such as ecology, GIS, scientific methods, conservation biology and environmental chemistry.

What's My Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for conservation scientists were predicted to increase by about 7% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS expected new job openings to emerge as experienced conservationists retired, and additional government spending was allocated to natural resource management and conservation.

What Salary Can I Expect to Make?

Conservation scientists held 20,200 jobs in the United States in 2015, according to the BLS. The same report indicated that the mean annual salary at that time was $63,800. The federal government employed the most conservationists in 2015, but the top-paying industry for the field was the scientific research and development services industry, with an average salary of $84,970, reported the BLS.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A closely related career option is a job as a forester. These professionals focus their work on the protection and use of forests. For instance, they may organize forest fire prevention campaigns, organize vegetation regeneration projects or negotiate timber procurement. To become a forester, you need at least a bachelor's degree. Alternatively, you might be interested in getting a job as an environmental engineer. These professionals design and implement solutions to environmental problems based on fundamental scientific principles and practical considerations. A bachelor's degree is required for an entry-level engineering job.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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