Wildlife Biologist: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for wildlife biologists. Get the facts about job duties, salary prospects, education requirements and optional certification to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Wildlife Biologist?

Wildlife biologists study animals in their natural habitats or in a captive setting to understand their environments, biology and behaviors. The information wildlife biologists gather can be used to help manage wild animal populations and to expand scientific knowledge. They may conduct experiments or collect data and specimens to investigate a variety of topics. They may explore things like how certain animals interact with animals of another species, how humans have impacted a species' habitat or population relationships, like how members of the same group interact with one another. They may monitor different animal populations within a given area and contribute to the management or conservation of the populations. Their findings are presented in public presentations, scientific reports and research papers. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; master's or PhD for advanced research work
Education Field of Study Wildlife biology, zoology, botany, ecology
Training Required Voluntary certification may require several years of work experience
Key Skills Field research, data analysis, research writing, public speaking
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%*
Average Salary (2015) $64,230*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Career as a Wildlife Biologist Be Like?

Wildlife biologists often study animals in their natural habitat, making this career appealing for those who enjoy working outdoors in rural areas such as forests and parks. You might study the feeding, mating and social habits of animals; fieldwork may involve collecting samples of an animal's food or water sources for later analysis. Some wildlife biologists are also professors who write research papers, deliver lectures, teach students and educate the public on animals they're studying.

You're likely to spend significant time in a laboratory or office setting. In the lab, you may study field samples for pollutants, dissect dead animals to understand their anatomy or analyze microorganisms that may be affecting certain wildlife populations. Your hours may follow a traditional 40-hour workweek while you're not in the field. Note that fieldwork may require long or unusual hours, as dictated by the type of research you're conducting.

What Can I Expect to Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), wildlife biologists and zoologists earned an average annual salary of $64,230 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). During this month, the highest paid wildlife biologists worked in Maryland, for an average yearly wage of $93,070. Some other states with annual wages above the national average were Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Hawaii; each of these states reported average yearly wages above $74,000 for wildlife biologists and zoologists.

What Type of Training Will I Need?

With a bachelor's degree in wildlife biology, you might become a game warden or conservation educator. Game wardens enforce licensure requirements for hunters and fishers in a specific area; conservation educators may host public classes or programs that highlight the importance of wildlife conservation efforts. You might work for government organizations like the National Park Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Related degree fields include zoology, botany and ecology.

Advanced research positions may require completion of a master's or doctoral program in wildlife biology. Through these programs, you might gain experience conducting independent research, writing papers on your findings and working within the scientific community. A doctoral program may prepare you for a career in post-secondary education.

What Certification Can I Earn?

You can earn designation as a Certified Wildlife Biologist (CWB) through the Wildlife Society. This certification process is designed to ensure high standards within the field and adherence among wildlife biologists to a code of ethics. To qualify for certification, you'll need to complete a bachelor's program with coursework in wildlife biology, zoology, botany and communications. You'll also need at least five years of work experience in the field.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Microbiologists and conservation scientists and foresters are some related jobs that require a bachelor's degree. Microbiologists specialize in studying microorganisms, such as bacteria, to learn about their life cycles and how they interact with their environment. Conservation scientists and foresters work to protect and manage natural resources and outdoor spaces. A veterinarian is another similar job but requires a doctoral or professional degree. These professionals diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries in a variety of animals, such as dogs, cats, horses and livestock.

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