What Is the Job Description of a Conservation Biologist?

Explore what it takes to become a conservation biologist. Learn about education requirements, job opportunities, salary and potential job growth to see if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Conservation Biologist?

Conservation biologists help restore and protect ecosystems and natural wildlife habitats, and to conserve endangered species of plants and animals. This typically involves working closely with landowners and the government at the local, state and federal levels. Through research and observation, conservation biologists help establish plans for maintaining habitats and animal populations at sustainable levels. They monitor environmental conditions, population sizes and other important environmental health indicators. Many conservation biologists work on teams with other scientists and technicians. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Biology, resource management, environmental science, forestry
Key Skills Scientific research and exploration, development of conservation plans, conservation policy analysis
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% (all conservation scientists)*
Median Salary (2015) $61,110 (all conservation scientists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Conservation Biologist Job Description

Conservation biologists strive to protect life on the planet. Through their research, conservation biologists hope to stop the accelerated extinction process and facilitate the recovery of endangered life forms. Conservation biologists also manage entire ecosystems in an effort to preserve natural habitats. By controlling conditions within the environment, these scientists help to sustain endangered species.

Educational Requirements

If you'd like to become a conservation biologist, you should plan to take high school courses in physics, chemistry, English and mathematics. You need to obtain a minimum of a 4-year bachelor's degree in a conservation-related discipline. For example, you could major in natural resources management or environmental science. Ideally, you should also acquire a master's or a doctoral degree. This is especially important if you'd like to work on a research team or in academia.

A bachelor's degree program in natural resources management might include classes such as physical geology, microeconomics, social and behavioral science, ecology principles and soil science. Master's degree natural resources management curricula cover topics such as population biology, biochemistry, thesis research, plant breeding and vascular plant evolution.

Undergraduate environmental science programs might offer courses in soil classification, hazardous waste management, pollution control and prevention, environmental health issues, and environmental and occupational laws. When pursuing your master's degree, you'll study subjects such as innovation management, database management systems, research ethics, and finance and accounting for scientists.

Career Opportunities

As a conservation biologist, you could work with captive wild animal species in animal parks or zoos, and reintroduce them back into their natural wild habitat environments. Other opportunities exist in non-profit organizations, or in state and federal government agencies whose goal it is to protect natural resources. Increasing numbers of conservation biologists work for environmental consulting companies that are in the business of helping others perform environmental analyses, design conservation approaches, or help them adhere to government policies.

Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for conservation scientists in 2015 was $61,110. Those who worked in scientific research earned an average of $84,970, while conservation scientists who were employed by the federal government were paid an average of $76,130 per year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Zoologist and wildlife biologist are closely related careers that also require at least a bachelor's degree. These professionals study animal species in depth for a variety of reasons. In addition to being involved in conservation efforts they examine how animals interact with their environments and what impact humans have had on them. Agricultural and food scientists also require a bachelor's degree. These scientists improve agricultural products by researching ways to make crops more sustainable and productive or improve the efficiency of meat processing.

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