Natural Resources and Conservation Degree

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What is Natural Resources and Conservation?

Natural Resources and Conservation is a field of study focused on the management of Earth’s natural resources (land, air, water, soil, animals, plants) with a keen eye towards quality of life for current and future generations.  Conservationists and natural resource managers are trained to study and analyze natural resources along with the prudent use of each.  Major components of natural resource analysis include the chemical, biological, radiological, and physical components.

What Do Conservation Specialists Do?

Conservation specialists are charged with analyzing how industry and employers across various sectors of the economy utilize resources and enhance the efficient use of resources.  Professionals help companies create more socially responsible technologies and environmentally sustainable services.

In addition, natural resource managers provide a litany of education opportunities to all stakeholders.  Conservationists of all backgrounds and specializations work at the intersection of social, cultural, economic and environmental concerns.  The Economist calls this confluence the Triple Bottom Line which melds people and profits with the plant.

Top Natural Resources & Conservation Degrees

Conservation in an interdisciplinary field of study that has rapidly vaulted into the international scene.  The global crisis confronting us will require a number of thoughtful and educated individuals to steer us towards viable long-term solutions.

Professionals in the field of conservation utilize prudent practices to encourage the maintenance and sustainable management of landscapes, organisms, natural systems, ecological processes, and cultural systems.  By blending policy with science and values, a natural resource manager will help properly shape the future.

Natural Resources & Conservation Bachelor Degrees

Bachelor degrees in the field of conservation can be conferred as either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS).  How a degree is conferred by an accredited college or university is a function of the program’s emphasis and overall curricular design.  On-site and online bachelor degrees can be earned in four-years’ time, on average.  Some schools do provide pathways for an accelerated degree which can condense the average time to complete a degree at this level.

Students can expect to take a number of general education courses in conjunction with core classes.  By melding liberal arts education with science-based classes, students will develop greater analytical skills and holistic analysis tools to help benefit their long-term success.

Core conservation classes will vary from school to school.  However, you can expect an array of similar classes across institutions that include the following courses:

Principles of Sustainability Pollution and Protection
Contemporary Conservation Issues Energy and the Environment
Environmental Awareness Sustainable Living
Biodiversity Environment and Society
Environmental Biology Biostatistics
Forest Ecology Landscape Ecology
General Ecology Wildlife Ecology
Environmental Science Aquatic Ecosystems
Agroecology Wetland Ecology and Management
Geology and the Environment


Natural Resources & Conservation Master Degrees

Qualified students of a graduate degree program in natural resources and conservation will typically be charged with following an existing path or customizing coursework they find most interesting.  Areas of specialization can include Wetland Ecology, Wildlife Policy, Forest Management, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Systems Thinking, Sustainable Living, Quantitative Ecology, and Environmental Economics to name a few.

Graduate students will find degrees conferred as a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA).   Programs will take two to three-years to complete based on full-time study.  Students successfully completing a master’s degree in conservation will be prepared to launch a career in a number of industries or continue their academics in a PhD program in an adjacent field of study.

Conservation Educational Requirements

Conservation and natural resource management degree programs can be quite diverse.  Most conservation degrees will blend science-based classes and social sciences.  The overlap between programs will help paint a picture of classes you can expect to take while in college.  The following classes help conservationists to better understand resources within the nexus of: biological indicators, human consumption, industrial usage, chemical analysis, water quality, real-time monitoring, physical composition, chemical indicators, forestry, biodiversity, agriculture, environmental management, fishing, mining, and tourism.

Employment & Conservation Specializations

Conservation degree programs provide students with skills and knowledge to assess, organize, and solve for various issues.  Students interested in expanding their horizons beyond the conservation specialization may be interested in careers with similar emphasis.  Vocational options for natural resource managers can include any number of the following: environmental engineer, civil engineer, geoscientist, conservation scientist,  landscape architect, urban planner, surveyor, environmental scientist, mathematician, hydrologist, meteorologist, and physicist.

Conservation Jobs & Career Outlook

Conservation jobs are projected to grow at a pace on par with the U.S. economy over the next ten years.  The BLS estimates an estimated 2,000 new jobs will be created during this time growing at a 6% clip.  Similarly, hydrologists are on pace to grow 7% and environmental scientists by 12%.

Median annual income for conservation scientists is $61,480 or $29.56 an hour.  States paying conservation scientists the highest wage are Alaska, New Jersey, and Connecticut all averaging above $80,000 per year.  The largest employers of conservation scientists are the federal government, state government, social advocacy groups, universities, and local government agencies.

Natural Resources & Conservation Careers

For students considering a future in conservation, it is important to think through the career possibilities after graduation.  The list of vocational possibilities is immense in the field of sustainability and conservation.  The list below, while not exhaustive, provides students with a litany of career paths to consider.  The list of possible career paths in natural resource management include:

Ecologist Wetland Specialist Director Sustainability
Conservation Data Specialist Air Quality Forecaster Marine Biologist
Environmental Attorney Aquarist Hydrographic Surveyor
Forest Ranger Sustainability Specialist Landscape Architect
Marine Conservationist Watershed Manager Ecotourism Guide
Preserve Manager Aquatic Biologist Energy Manager
Turf Scientist Biofuel Production Operator Geoscientist
Water Resource Engineer Soil Conservation Technician Petrologist
Natural Resource Manager Nuclear Engineer Environmental PR Specialist
Field Biologist Petroleum Engineer Geophysical Engineer
Agroforester Solar Engineer Sustainability Coordinator
Watershed Science Technician Chemical Engineer Wind Energy Engineer

Additional Resources in Natural Resource Management

Professionals, educators, and students seeking additional information in natural resource management can connect with associations and organizations to learn more.  Learning opportunities, membership benefits, continuing education, and leading-edge research are common reasons to join an association.  Below are agencies and associations that may be of benefit for students and professionals in the industry:

  • National Preservations Institute (NPI)
  • International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP)
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals (ANREP)
  • Sustainability Management Association (SMA)

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Career Summary: Natural resources conservation Major




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