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What is Wildlife Biology?
A degree in wildlife biology prepares students with the skills and knowledge necessary to understand and observe the behavior of wildlife in their natural habitats. A student wishing to study wildlife biology will learn about ecosystems and study how animals act and react in that system. Many programs will incorporate classroom education with field experience and laboratory work. The study of wildlife biology requires an understanding of a cross section of disciplines, including biology, ecology and psychology. Degrees are available at the bachelor, master and doctoral level, with entry level positions available to bachelor degree holders. Master degree holders will have more options, and a master's degree is typically necessary for research positions. A doctoral degree will allow an individual to obtain supervisory positions as well as teaching opportunities.
A curriculum in wildlife biology may include:
- Behavioral Psychology
- Wildlife management
How to Become a Wildlife Biologist
To become a wildlife biologist, you will need to earn a college degree. Many entry-level positions in the field require at least a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology or related degree program such as zoology, ecology, biology, forestry, fishery science, wildlife management, or wildlands science. Wildlife biologists are required to intimately understand environmental systems, anatomy, biological processes, and ecology.
Earning a master’s degree or PhD in wildlife biology will help you secure a job beyond an entry-level position. An online master’s degree in wildlife biology will typically last 1-2 years and PhD programs an additional 2-4 years depending on the number of classes taken at a given time and area of concentration selected. A graduate degree in wildlife biology can lead graduates into a number of exciting career professions that include: research for government agencies, college professor, non-government agencies, environmental consultants, extension specialist, research biologist, wildlife manager, wildlife services administration, and conservationist.
There are multiple careers available to wildlife biology majors. These careers typically involve the care and maintenance of animals and their natural environment, typically through conservation programs. Local, state and federal governments are the primary employers, utilizing wildlife biologists to ensure the safety and cleanliness of parks and wildlife reserves.
Private firms, typically involved in land development may also hire wildlife biologists to reduce the impact of such development on the environment. Research programs, both publically and privately funded, may also employ wildlife biologists to conduct analyses and observation on various animals and their behaviors. Conservationist groups through non-governmental organizations may also provide employment opportunities internationally.
Individuals entering the field of wildlife biology should expect to work through various internships in order to garner practical experience prior to finding permanent work. Job opportunities are expected to grow over the next decade as the interest to preserve and maintain wildlife and ecosystems increases. Job availability on the government level is subject to change yearly based on available budgets.
Common Job Titles of a Wildlife Biologist
When looking for jobs within the wildlife biology sector, you will need to get familiar with common titles used to describe similar jobs. Below we have detailed a cross-section of the most common job titles of a wildlife biologist to help you with your quest towards a gratifying career in wildlife biology.
- Aquatic Biologist
- Wildlife Manager
- Assistant Research Scientist
- Fishery Biologist
- Environmental Consultant
- Fish and Wildlife Biologist
- Research Biologist
- Conservation Resources Management Biologist
- Environmental Specialist
- Fisheries Biologist
- Wildlife Biologist
Top Job Duties of a Wildlife Biologist
In a recent survey by the U.S. Department of Labor, a number of wildlife biologists provided insight into their jobs. One of the most important pieces of information to come from the survey included insight into what practitioners do on a daily basis. As such, we have listed the top duties of a wildlife biologist to help you further understand the job from location to location.
- Studying a variety of animals in their natural habitats through assessments and data collection to determine the effects of environment and humans on animals & solutions to remediate problems
- Collecting data on wildlife populations and animal inventories
- Organizing experimental studies with specific animals in controlled or natural surroundings
- Consulting stakeholders and making policy recommendations on management systems for wildlife populations and wildlife habitat
- Publishing reports, while papers, and articles
- Providing presentations to trade organizations, interest groups, schools, clubs, and park programs
- Utilization of computer software such as statistical software, cartography, and geographic information systems (GIS).
Job Outlook and Salary Information
The average salary of a wildlife biologist will vary based on degree, employer, and field:
- Federal Employee - $71,000 per year
- Researcher - $64,000 per year
- State Employee - $52,000 per year
- Management and Consulting - $50,000 per year
Top Employers of Wildlife Biologists
- State Government
- Federal Government
- Scientific & Technical Consultants
- Science Research & Development
- Local Government
States with the Highest Employment of Wildlife Biologists
- California 2,200
- Washington 1,990
- Florida 1,750
- Oregon 920
- Alaska 730
Top Paying States for Wildlife Biologists
- District of Columbia $106,820
- Maryland $94,270
- Rhode Island $86,590
- Connecticut $85,410
- Massachusetts $83,340
Additional Resources for Wildlife Biologists
- The Wildlife Society Working Groups
- Wildlife Damage Management Working Group
- Zoology Association of America
- Wildlife Management Institute
- The Wildlife Society
- US Fish and Wildlife Services
- US National Parks
Individuals interested in wildlife biology may also be interested in zoology, animal physiology, or entomology. For further information on a career path in biology, visit our Definitive Career Guide in Biology on our blog. As an additional resource, you can also read our blog post titled Top College Degrees for Animal Lovers for more information.