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Conservation Biology

Conservation biology professionals explore dangers to living organisms and create ways to manage and safeguard the environment. Read on to explore careers in this field, as well as education requirements and employment prospects.

Is Conservation Biology for Me?

Career Overview

Conservation biology involves studying the deterioration of biological systems while striving to develop new ways to sustain biodiversity. The conservation biologist works with landowners and governments to develop ways of safeguarding ecosystems while utilizing and enhancing the land.

Employment Options

Range management and forestry are two popular careers related to the conservation biology field. You may also work as a soil conservationist, conservation planner, wildlife conservationist or ecologist. Further options include working in research or education. As a conservationist, your work contributes to restoring degraded ecosystems or developing plans to save endangered species.

Salaries and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the majority of conservation scientists are employed by the government, and over half of all foresters work for national and local governments (www.bls.gov). Other areas of employment include nonprofit organizations and consulting firms. Employment for both conservation scientists and foresters was predicted to grow 3% in the 2012-2022 decade, which is slower than the national average of 11%. The BLS reported in May 2013 that conservation scientists earned an annual median wage of $61,220, and foresters earned $57,110.

How Can I Work in Conservation Biology?

Education Information

Most conservation biology programs feature a curriculum that includes courses in the biological sciences, soil science, environmental sciences, botany and ecology. Conservation science bachelor's degree programs concentrate on the effects of human behavior on the environment and how to conserve biological diversity.

Graduate Studies

Conservation science master's degree programs offer more advanced and targeted coursework to prepare you for the job of your choice. In addition, you acquire the research skills that are vital to many jobs in the field that require a master's degree. In graduate school, you're likely to develop a specialization in a subject, like fungi, plants, insects or another taxonomic group. If you wish to teach at the university level or do independent research, a doctoral degree is typically expected. Administrators and policy-makers generally have a master's degree or Ph.D.

Licensing and Certification

If you're a forester, you may need a license, depending on which state you're working in. Some states have mandatory registration. Range managers and foresters also have the option of becoming certified. The Society of American Foresters offers certification for those with a minimum of a bachelor's degree from an accredited program, as well as work experience. Passing their certification exam is required. Range managers with a minimum of a bachelor's degree may also obtain certification through the Society for Range Management (www.rangelands.org).

Necessary Skills

In addition to valuing sustainability, strong skills in research, computers and management are important for these jobs. Physical stamina is sometimes required, since some positions can involve working long hours in harsh outdoor environments.