If you like research, wild animals, and working outdoors, careers in wildlife biology are worth consideration.
About Wildlife Biology
Working as a wildlife biologist is very similar to working as a zoologist. You'll be observing and analyzing live wild animals in their natural habitat. In some cases, wildlife biologists will study dead animals to better understand their structure. Careers in wildlife biology include the study of wild animals' origins, how they behave (and why they behave that way), diseases, and life processes. Wildlife biologists also collect data from the animals' environment to analyze the effects of the land and water. One of the primary concerns for wildlife biologists is how humans are influencing the animals' existence. As a wildlife biologist, you are free to specialize.
Potential careers with a wildlife biology degree:
- Wildlife manager: Determine and maintain appropriate wildlife species populations. Preserve and improve habitats. Management can be manipulative (directly or indirectly changing numbers by removing animals, altering the supply of food, and so forth) or custodial (protect the wildlife from external factors).
- Conservation officer or game warden: Patrol the area where the wildlife exists to make sure that people follow the laws when it comes to fishing, trapping animals, hunting, and more. They may also make sure all licensing guidelines are met as well. Make arrests for traffic violations, operating a vehicle or boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and more. They sometimes get involved in solving crimes that were committed in the wilderness including hunting homicides.
- Wildlife biologist: Study, classify, and analyze wild animals in their environment. Judge the effects the environment has on the animals. Research diseases, life histories, relationships, development, and genetics of the animals and write reports on the findings. Design programs that prevent the spread of disease among wildlife.
- Wildlife biologist assistant: Assist the wildlife biologist in collecting data and other duties as assigned.
Potential Employers and Job Outlook
You could find employment with:
- Private or non-profit agencies or organizations, such as resorts, camps, forest preserves, parks, and tourism boards
- USDA Forest Service
- National Park Service
- Bureau of Land Management
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Schools and universities
Competition for the wildlife biology jobs is fierce and the field is only growing about as quickly as average (about nine percent from 2006-2016 according to BLS.gov. However, the money available for research grants is not likely to grow at the same rate.
Also according to BLS.gov, the median earnings for a wildlife biologist in 2006 were $53,300. The lowest 10 percent earned $32,800; the middle 50 percent earned $41,400-67,200; the top 10 percent earned over $84,580.
Careers in Wildlife Biology: Requirements
In some fields, you will need a Ph. D to do the job at hand and the positions will be very difficult to obtain. However, for those who hold bachelor's and master's degrees, there will be less competition because they are more likely to pursue non-scientist jobs within biology. With the minimum being a four-year degree, you will need to have earned a bachelor's in biological sciences. Some jobs require specific courses or focuses, such as mammalogy, wildlife management or research, genetics, or animal ecology.
For some jobs, you may only need a mix of the educational requirements and experience that equates to the bachelor's degree. Some positions, such as conservation officer or game warden, require that you attend police academy in addition to getting your degree. Requirements vary by state and employer.
If you are interested in careers in wildlife biology, you will probably need at least some college education to get your foot in the door. However, the jobs within the field are varied and include everything from desk jobs to field work. Job competition will be highest with higher levels of education and the hopes of securing scientist jobs. The market is expected to grow overall at an average rate at least through the year 2016.