Wildlife Researcher: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a wildlife researcher. Learn about education requirements, job duties and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Wildlife Researcher?

Wildlife researchers use their knowledge of marine and/or terrestrial biology to learn about wild animal populations using ecologically sound practices. They may explore subjects like animal behavior, how humans have affected their habitats or various characteristics of an animal, such as reproduction, interactions with other species and more. This research is often conducted through experimental studies that may include collecting specimens or other data to analyze. Wildlife researchers use their work to monitor populations, develop conservation or breeding programs and provide valuable information to wildlife managers. Their findings are typically presented via presentations or scientific reports that are available to the public, other scientists and conservation or wildlife groups. The following chart gives an overview of what you need to know about working in this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; Graduate degree may be needed for independent research positions
Education Field of Study Animal science, biology, wildlife biology, conservation
Key Responsibilities Conduct lab research, write research papers, develop conservation or wildlife management plans
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%*
Average Salary (2015) $64,230*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Would I Do as a Wildlife Researcher?

As a wildlife researcher, you could be responsible for assessing the populations of your chosen species. You could write management plans, conduct laboratory research after an animal's death or perform public outreach. Facilities maintenance may be another one of your tasks.

What Degrees Could I Earn to Get This Job?

To begin a wildlife research career, you usually need formal education. Bachelor's degree programs in animal science, biology or wildlife biology provide the appropriate training needed for this field. Some bachelor's degree programs allow you to focus your courses on aquatic mammals or terrestrial animals.

In an aquatic mammal sequence, you can expect to complete classes in ecology, management of fishes and watershed hydrology as well as several chemistry and biology courses. You may also be required to take a course on wildlife and natural resource policy administration. A terrestrial animal sequence could include courses in ornithology, mammalogy and plant systems. You can expect to learn about wildlife management techniques and laws related to public lands.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that you could gain the required experience through volunteering or an internship as a research technician. To conduct independent research, you'll need an advanced degree. Master's degree majors may include wildlife biology and conservation or wildlife ecology. These programs may be thesis or non-thesis and may address topics like fire ecology, wildlife diseases and the impact of interaction between humans and wildlife.

How Much Could I Earn?

Salary information for the specific title of wildlife researcher isn't commonly available. Most sources associate wildlife researchers with wildlife biologists or zoologists. As of May 2015, there were 17,910 wildlife biologists and zoologists employed in the United States, per the BLS. These individuals earned an average annual salary of $64,230, with the highest number of workers employed by state governments, federal governments and scientific research and development services. For the 2014-2024 decade, job growth is expected to be about 4%, which is slower than the national average.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several closely related careers that require a bachelor's degree, including environmental scientists and specialists, conservation scientists and foresters and biological technicians. Environmental scientists and specialists strive to protect the environment and human health by cleaning up pollution and working to reduce waste, among other things. Conservation scientists and foresters manage outdoor areas, like forests, to ensure the protection of natural resources and improve land quality. Biological technicians typically work in lab settings with a biologist or medical scientist to perform various tests and experiments.

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