Wildlife Biology

Are you interested in the study of wildlife populations and their habitats? If so, a career in wildlife biology might appeal to you. Read on to learn about formal educational training at all degree levels that can qualify you for various positions in the public and private sectors.

Is Wildlife Biology Right for Me?

Career Details

Wildlife biology is the study of wild animals and how they interact with their natural surroundings. This multidisciplinary field draws on related fields like zoology, ecology and botany to examine animal behaviors, diseases and biological systems. Wildlife biologists use various data to monitor endangered species, study the genetics and dietary needs of various species and address environmental impacts on animal populations. They might also implement management and conservation strategies to minimize the adverse effects of land-use changes and pollution on various types of wildlife.

Career Options

Wildlife biologists can work for a variety of organizations engaged in wildlife and resource management, as well as any organization concerned with how human activities influence wildlife populations. For instance, you could work for federal agencies like the U.S. National Park Service or for state-level departments of fish and wildlife. Wildlife biologists may also work for private and nonprofit organizations, including consulting firms, land trusts, zoos and nature preserves. You could pursue a career in the areas of education and outreach, wildlife law enforcement or conservation policy under a variety of job titles, such as wildlife manager, conservationist, park ranger or endangered species specialist. With an advanced degree, you could become a wildlife researcher or teach related courses at a college or university.

Employment Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth for zoologists and wildlife biologists at 5% for the 2012-2022 period, which is slower than the national average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). As of May 2012, the median annual salary for wildlife biologists and zoologists was $57,710, with the top ten percent earning about $95,430.

How Can I Become a Wildlife Biologist?

Undergraduate Education

Wildlife biology programs are available at all degree levels, from the associate to doctoral levels. A bachelor's degree is typically the minimum degree required for entry-level jobs in the field, although many employers prefer candidates with graduate degrees. In a wildlife biology program, you'll likely take courses in chemistry, molecular biology, ornithology, plant ecology, mammalogy and conservation. Applied methods courses in statistics, ecological modeling and geographic information systems are also part of most programs. In addition to standard courses, you often spend time performing lab work and field research.

Graduate Education

Graduate programs in wildlife studies allow for greater flexibility to develop individual interests. Specializations can include wildlife ecology management, aquaculture, conservation biology, endangered species biology and marine fisheries, to name a few. Professional development opportunities are available beyond academic training.

Certification

The Wildlife Society offers several professional certifications, such as the Certified Wildlife Biologist and the Associate Wildlife Biologist. Certification involves obtaining a certain level of education and years of experience, as well as renewal every five years through continuing education (www.wildlife.org).

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