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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 environmental system. Many programs will incorporate classroom education with hands-on field experience, laboratory work, and research.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists are similar professions. Both zoology and wildlife biology graduates will learn how to study the origin of wildlife, animal lifecycle, wildlife behavior, genetical composition, population structures. Both zoologists and wildlife biologists may
- Study wildlife in a controlled environment
- Dissect wildlife to learn about their health and physiology
- Collect biological data to assess environmental impacts
- Analyze wildlife populations to help shape land use and water resource policy
- Invest resources in wildlife conservation efforts to preserve at-risk animals
- Work in conjunction with wildlife preserves and zoos to establish optimal environments
What Do Wildlife Biologists Learn in College?
Wildlife biology majors will take a number of science-based classes along with general curriculum in college. General education courses such as history and creative writing are similar from school to school. Meanwhile the core classes you will find from one university to another will vary depending on resources and course design.
A sampling of the core curriculum you may find in a wildlife biology degree may include the following types of course:
- Wildlife Conservation History & Law
- Principles of Biology
- Avian Management
- Wildlife Policy, Administration, and Law
- Wildlife Habitat Assessment
- Adaptive Fish and Wildlife Management
- Wildlife Ecology
- Natural Resource Management
- Organismal Biology
- Behavioral Psychology
- Mammalian Ecology
- Wildlife Population Science
- Renewable Natural Resources
- Wildlife Management
The study of wildlife biology requires an understanding of a cross section of disciplines that include biology, ecology, law, and psychology. Degrees are available at the bachelor, master's, and doctoral level. Master degree holders will have more vocational options as a master's degree is typically necessary for high-level research positions. A doctoral degree will allow an individual to obtain supervisory positions as well as teaching opportunities. To learn more about degrees in wildlife biology, simply search for schools below.
How to Become a Wildlife Biologist
In order to become a wildlife biologist you will need to earn a college degree from an accredited university. Many entry-level positions in wildlife require at least a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology or related degree program such as zoology, biology, ecology, forestry, wildlands science, fishery science, or wildlife management. Wildlife biologists are required to intimately understand the ecology, environmental systems, wildlife anatomy, and biological processes.
Earning a master’s degree or PhD in wildlife biology will help individuals land a job beyond an entry-level position in the field. An online master’s degree in wildlife biology will generally take students one to two years beyond a qualifying undergraduate degree. Meanwhile, a PhD in wildlife biology will take an additional 2-4 years of study depending course load and the area of concentration selected.
Earning a master's degree or doctorate degree in wildlife biology can lead graduates to a wide variety of exciting career pathways. Examples of jobs graduate students can earn include the following: college professor, research analyst for government agencies, specialists for non-government agencies, extension specialist, environmental consultants, research biologist, conservationist, wildlife manager, and wildlife services administrator.
Wildlife Biologist Career Paths
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.
Wildlife Biologist Jobs
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
- Wolf Biologist
- Wildlife Manager
- Assistant Research Scientist
- Environmental Consultant
- Fishery Biologist
- Research Biologist
- Fish and Wildlife Biologist
- Conservation Resources Management Biologist
- Environmental Specialist
- Wildlife Biologist
- Fisheries Biologist
Wildlife Biologist Job Description
A recent survey performed by the U.S. Department of Labor yielded key insights into what wildlife biologists do on a daily basis. Looking at what wildlife biologists do from industry to industry will help prospective students visualize the job in acute terms and determine if it is a good fit. Below you will find a summary of the most popular job duties of a wildlife biologist.
- Studying a variety of animals to determine environmental impact on wildlife and humans while working with constituents to remediate issues
- Collecting data on animal inventories and wildlife populations
- Organizing studies with animals in controlled environment or in their natural habitat
- Consulting organizational stakeholders and making policy suggestions on key wildlife management systems, wildlife habitat, and wildlife populations
- Publishing topically relevant wildlife articles, grant writing, reports, funding requests, and white papers
- Presenting information and research to schools, interest groups, clubs, trade organizations, and park programs
- Utilization of computer software such as statistical software, cartography, and geographic information systems (GIS).
Wildlife Biologists Salary
Students curious about how much a wildlife biologist makes will find a summary below. It is important to remember that the average salary of a wildlife biologist will vary based on degree, employer, and field. Data gathered from the BLS reveals wildlife biologists salary by employer. The state and federal agencies lead the way by salary and number of wildlife biologists employed across the country. Below is a quick summary of the average salary for a wildlife biologist:
- 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 Agencies
- Federal Government Entities
- Technical and Scientific Consultants
- Research and Development Firms
- Local Government Agencies
States Employing the Most 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 colleges can quickly sort a full list of accredited colleges offering wildlife biology degrees below. Interested students may also be interested in similar degree tracks such as 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.