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What Degree Is Required to Work in Wildlife Conservation?

If you're passionate about the environment and the animals that inhabit our earth, you may find a wildlife conservationist career to be very rewarding. With a wide array of career opportunities available in the field, educational requirements vary based on position. Find out how you can study wildlife conservation to gain employment in some of the industry's most common professions.

Wildlife Conservationist Career

A variety of job opportunities exist within the field of wildlife conservation. Your wildlife conservationist degree options also vary depending on the specific profession you wish to pursue. You may choose to study animals in their natural habitats as a conservation scientist or wildlife biologist. If you wish to educate others about conservation issues, you might find a rewarding career as a speaker at a zoo or an instructor at a junior college. Additionally, a number of nonprofit wildlife conservation agencies employ writers, graphic artists, communications specialists, web designers and managers to help further raise awareness about current conservation issues.

While an exclusive wildlife conservation college is hard to come by, there are plenty of accredited institutions that offer graduate and undergraduate programs related to the field.

Below is an overview on how to become a wildlife or animal conservationist in some common sub-specialties:

Important Facts About Wildlife Conservationist Careers

Wildlife Biologists Wildlife Policy Analysts Wildlife Educators
Median Salary (2018) $63,420 (zoologists and wildlife biologists)** $56,735 (policy analysts; 2019)* $82,550 (postsecondary biological science teachers)**
Key Skills Technical writing, environmental compliance Data analysis, project management, research analysis Speaking, writing, critical thinking
Work Environment Laboratory, office or outdoor setting Office setting Zoos, outdoor wildlife facilities, schools
Similar Occupations Biologist, environmental science Environmental policy Environmental education

Sources: *Payscale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Degrees for Wildlife Biologists

Wildlife biologists study wildlife behaviors, habitats, genetics and population dynamics to learn more about the environmental effects of current or future land use. To begin a career as a wildlife biologist, you'll need a bachelor's degree in a biological science field, such as wildlife science, ecology or environmental science. These will include typical wildlife conservation courses such as environmental law, wildlife management, and environmental ethics. With a bachelor's degree and the appropriate amount of experience, you can pursue voluntary certification credentials through The Wildlife Society. While an undergraduate degree is sufficient for entry-level careers, some positions may require a master's degree. A Ph.D. is often required for independent research positions and advanced administrative roles.

Degrees for Wildlife Policy Analysts

If you're interested in working with wildlife professionals to seek change in policies and regulations to further conservation efforts, including the protection of endangered species, you might consider pursuing employment as a wildlife policy analyst. The majority of policy analysts work for government, legislative and nonprofit agencies. Most positions require you to have a master's degree in wildlife or conservation biology. Advanced degrees in conservation biology, natural resource management and other related fields are also often accepted.

Degrees for Wildlife Educators

According to the BLS, most wildlife educators who teach wildlife conservation at the collegiate level hold a minimum of a doctoral degree in the field, with a master's degree being the second most common. However, an undergraduate degree related to wildlife management, zoology, animal science, and related fields may be enough to find a job educating others about wildlife conservation at national parks and zoos. While practical experience in the industry may sometimes substitute academic requirements among these organizations, the minimum of a four-year college degree is overall preferred.