Wildlife Biologist Career Guide

Job Description:
  • Study the origins, behavior, diseases, genetics, and life processes of animals and wildlife.
  • May specialize in wildlife research and management.
  • May collect and analyze biological data to determine the environmental effects of present and potential use of land and water habitats.

Wildlife Biologist Salary 2024

National Salary Data for Wildlife Biologists

This bar graph shows the annual salary for Wildlife Biologists.

U.S. Salary in 2024

Annual Median Salary: $67,430
Hourly Median Wage: $32.42

Data sourced from O*NET Online, provided by the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics wage estimates.

Projected Employment for Wildlife Biologists

Job Growth Projections

This line chart shows the projected job growth over 10 years for Wildlife Biologists.

Projected Job Openings for s by 2031

Projected Growth Rate in Job Openings by 2031: 1%

Data sourced from CareerOneStop, provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Typical Tasks for Wildlife Biologists

  • Develop, or make recommendations on, management systems and plans for wildlife populations and habitat, consulting with stakeholders and the public at large to explore options.

  • Inform and respond to public regarding wildlife and conservation issues, such as plant identification, hunting ordinances, and nuisance wildlife.

  • Inventory or estimate plant and wildlife populations.

Technologies and Skills Used by Wildlife Biologists

Analytical or scientific software

  • SAS
  • Statistical software

Geographic information system

  • ESRI ArcGIS software
  • Geographic information system GIS software

Presentation software

  • Microsoft PowerPoint

Basic Skills

  • Listening to others, not interrupting, and asking good questions
  • Reading work related information

People and Technology Systems

  • Figuring out how a system should work and how changes in the future will affect it
  • Thinking about the pros and cons of different options and picking the best one

Problem Solving

  • Noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it

How To Become a Wildlife Biologist

If you're intrigued by the natural world and passionate about conservation, becoming a wildlife biologist might be the perfect career path for you. Wildlife biologists study animals and their ecosystems, often working to preserve habitats and understand wildlife patterns. To launch a successful career in this field, there are several steps you'll need to take.

Educational Requirements

  • Earn a Bachelor's Degree: A bachelor's degree in wildlife biology, ecology, environmental science, or a related field is typically the minimum requirement to begin a career in wildlife biology. Your coursework should include biology, chemistry, physics, math, and statistics as well as specialized courses in mammalogy, ornithology, herpetology, and botany.

  • Consider Advanced Degrees: For those looking to conduct independent research or teach at the university level, a master's degree or Ph.D. is often necessary.

    • Master's programs allow you to specialize in a particular area of study and usually require a thesis based on original research.
    • Ph.D. programs focus on extensive research and can lead to advanced positions in research and academia.

Gain Field Experience

  • Internships and Volunteer Work: Participate in internships or volunteer with organizations like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to gain practical experience.

    • These experiences can provide hands-on learning opportunities that are invaluable for your future career.
  • Part-Time Jobs: Look for part-time jobs or summer work in related fields which can provide additional experience and help you make industry connections.

Obtain Necessary Certifications

  • Professional Certifications: Consider obtaining professional certifications such as The Wildlife Society's Certified Wildlife Biologist® credential which can enhance your job prospects.
    • These certifications often require a combination of education, experience, and passing an exam.

Develop Relevant Skills

  • Technical Skills: Gain proficiency in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), statistical software, and remote sensing which are often used in wildlife research and management.
  • Field Skills: Develop strong field skills including identification of species, habitat assessment, and survival skills for remote work environments.
  • Communication Skills: Improve your written and verbal communication skills for reporting findings and collaborating with peers.

Networking and Professional Development

  • Join Professional Organizations: Organizations like The Wildlife Society offer networking opportunities and resources for emerging professionals.

    • Attend conferences, workshops, and webinars to stay up-to-date with the latest research and practices in wildlife biology.
  • Build a Professional Network: Connect with professors, colleagues, and professionals in the field to learn about job openings and new research areas.

Stay Informed About Job Opportunities

  • Government Careers: Many wildlife biologists work for state or federal government agencies. Regularly check government job portals such as USAJOBS for openings.
  • Research Institutions: Keep an eye on job boards from universities and private research organizations.

Remember that the path to becoming a wildlife biologist involves continuous learning and a deep commitment to wildlife conservation. By following these steps and being proactive about gaining experience, you'll be well on your way to a fulfilling career studying and protecting the wonders of nature.

Wildlife Biologist Career Path FAQ's

What education is required to become a wildlife biologist?

To pursue a career as a wildlife biologist, you typically need:

  • A Bachelor's degree in wildlife biology, ecology, zoology, environmental science, or a related field for entry-level positions.
  • A Master's degree may be required for higher-level investigative work or research positions.
  • A Ph.D. is often necessary for independent research and university teaching positions.

What skills are important for a wildlife biologist?

Successful wildlife biologists often possess a combination of the following skills:

  • Strong analytical skills for data interpretation and research.
  • Proficient use of technology, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and statistical software.
  • Excellent communication skills for writing reports and presenting findings.
  • Fieldwork skills, such as identification of species and habitat assessment.
  • Patience and perseverance for long-term studies and unpredictable field conditions.

Are there special certifications needed to be a wildlife biologist?

While not always required, certain certifications can be beneficial:

  • The Wildlife Society offers voluntary Certified Wildlife Biologist credentials.
  • Specialized training or certifications for handling specific types of wildlife or habitats.
  • First aid and CPR certifications can be essential for fieldwork safety.

What does a typical day look like for a wildlife biologist?

A typical day can vary greatly but may include:

  • Fieldwork: observing animals in their natural habitat, collecting samples, or tracking movements.
  • Lab work: analyzing samples and data collected from the field.
  • Office work: writing reports, preparing presentations, or managing data.

What are the best colleges for studying wildlife biology?

Some well-respected institutions offering programs in wildlife biology include:

  • Colorado State University
  • University of Montana
  • University of Florida
  • Cornell University
  • Texas A&M University

Can wildlife biologists specialize in certain types of animals or ecosystems?

Yes, wildlife biologists can specialize in areas such as:

  • Marine biology
  • Ornithology (birds)
  • Mammalogy (mammals)
  • Herpetology (reptiles and amphibians)
  • Entomology (insects)

What are the job prospects for wildlife biologists?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of zoologists and wildlife biologists is projected to grow 5% from 2020 to 2030. Job prospects can be competitive due to strong interest in the field.

What kind of organizations hire wildlife biologists?

Wildlife biologists are employed by various organizations, such as:

  • Federal government agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Park Service
  • State wildlife agencies
  • Environmental consulting firms
  • Nonprofit conservation organizations
  • Academic institutions and research facilities

How can I gain experience while still in school?

To gain experience, consider the following opportunities:

  • Internships with conservation organizations, government agencies, or research labs
  • Volunteer work with local environmental groups or rehabilitation centers
  • Participatory research projects or field studies offered by universities

Are there opportunities for advancement in a wildlife biologist career?

Opportunities for advancement may include:

  • Moving into higher research positions with more responsibility
  • Specializing in a subfield and becoming an expert consultant
  • Leading conservation projects or directing research programs
  • Transitioning into management roles within agencies or organizations

Remember that a career as a wildlife biologist requires dedication and passion for conservation and research. Continuous learning and staying updated with the latest scientific advancements are also key components to success in this field.

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