Natural Resource Conservation and Research
Natural resource conservationists and researchers study the depletion and renewal of Earth's natural resources. Read this article to learn more about education requirements, job prospects and potential salaries in this field.
Is Natural Resource Conservation and Research for Me?
Natural resource conservation is the study of the relationship between humans, wildlife and the environment. Natural resource conservationists work to ensure the wise use of Earth's resources and protect its capacity for self-renewal. Those involved in natural resource conservation research often study the environmental impacts of human activities, such as logging, development of land and commercial fishing. Research focused on natural resources often relates to sustainability, land use, water resources, wildlife management, climate change or environmental policy. A genuine interest in protecting and preserving environmental biodiversity, combined with strong quantitative research skills, are essential in this field.
Natural resource careers can be found within the public and private sectors. Natural resource conservationists often work with nonprofit conservation organizations, environmental consulting firms and federal government agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Opportunities with companies that have an impact on environmental management and regulatory functions also exist. With a degree in this field, you may also qualify to work as a forester, watershed scientist, park ranger or environmental consultant. An advanced degree can qualify you for a research position at a government or academic research institution.
Job Outlook and Salary Statistics
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 1% increase in jobs for conservation scientists between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2012, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for conservation scientists was $61,100, with the top-paid ten percent earning nearly $90,870, so those interested in this field could expect to see good salaries.
How Can I Work in Natural Resource Conservation and Research?
Natural resource conservation degree programs are available at the associate to doctoral degree levels. To qualify for most entry-level positions, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in natural resources, natural resource conservation or a closely related field. Many bachelor's degree programs allow further specialization in a particular area, like fish and wildlife conservation, natural resource law enforcement, natural resource policy, water resources or forest ecosystems. Core courses typically include mathematics, economics, biology, ecology and physical sciences, and major coursework covers topics in wildlife habitats, hydrology, natural resource policy, geographic information systems and resource management. You'll also likely have the opportunity to complete field training and an internship for further career preparation.
While a bachelor's degree is sufficient for some jobs, an advanced degree is typically needed to qualify for more high-level positions or to move into research. Master's-level degree options include a Master of Natural Resources and Master of Science in Natural Resources and Environment. Doctoral degrees are often preferred for advanced research and teaching positions. You could earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Natural Resources, Doctor of Philosophy in Natural Resources Management or Ph.D. in Forestry and Environmental Resources, for example. Most doctoral programs are research-oriented and require further specialization that culminates in a dissertation project.