Wildlife biology is a growing field, and the demand for trained professionals is high. If you want to become a wildlife biologist, here’s what you should know.
What Is Wildlife Biology?
Wildlife biology is the study of animals in their natural environments. It involves researching the habits and habitats of different species, as well as how humans affect these creatures’ survival. Biologists who work in this field use their knowledge to help protect animals from extinction and/or extinction-causing activities.
What You’ll Need To Get Started
To become a wildlife biologist, you’ll need to complete an undergraduate degree program in biology or related fields such as ecology or zoology (in some cases). While there are no specific degrees offered specifically for wildlife biologists, most students who go into this field have at least one advanced degree.
In addition to education requirements, there are other things that will help you get started on your career path:
-A love for nature and animals;
-An ability to work outdoors;
-Familiarity with computer software like ArcGIS (GIS) and SPSS (statistical software);
-Good written communication skills;
How To Become Wildlife Biologist
Wildlife biologists research and observe animals in the wild and share their findings with the world. In this article, we discuss the education, training and skills required to become a wildlife biologist and answer frequently asked questions about this career path.
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What does a wildlife biologist do?
Wildlife biologists are animal experts who specialize in preserving wildlife and their habitats. Many work with certain species or with animals who live in specific regions. They also work on teams with other scientists, where they regularly exchange ideas and information. Wildlife biologists are responsible for the following tasks:
- Designing and implementing research studies that reveal how wildlife interact with aspects of their habitat
- Studying animals, native and invasive flora as well as human impacts on environmental conditions
- Collecting data and specimens from wildlife in the field and animals and testing them in laboratories
- Researching and recommending programs that promote healthy reproduction and population growth, especially for game animals and endangered species
- Advocating for their recommendations by compiling their findings and presenting them to policymakers and the public
- Creating conservation plans that allow for development while minimizing negative impacts on wildlife
- Working on development projects that may include residential areas, power stations and utilities and transit projects like airports
- Sharing research and analyses with the scientific community by writing papers and presenting at professional conferences
Average salary for wildlife biologists
Wildlife biologists usually have full-time jobs. Their experience and location both affect their earning potential.
- Common salary in the U.S.: $72,612 per year
- Some salaries range from $16,000 to $141,000 per year.
Wildlife biologist requirements
Employers typically require wildlife biologists to have a graduate degree and a certain skill set. Some wildlife biologists also have a professional certification. Here are the common requirements:
To work in this field, wildlife biologists need at least a bachelor’s degree. This degree generally takes four years to complete and includes classes on biology, ecology, wildlife management, chemistry, physics, statistics and conservation. The most common majors for wildlife biologists include:
- Biology: This degree provides students with a foundation in natural science and requires classes on population biology, molecular biology, microbiology, evolution and immunology.
- Ecology: This major teaches students the basics of biology, chemistry, physics and genetics and includes coursework on animal behavior, wetland ecology and zoology.
- Zoology: This program helps students master the biology of animal life and includes courses on physiology, marine biology, molecular biology, conservation and ecology.
Many professionals in this field also hold a Master’s Degree in Wildlife Biology. This degree typically takes two to three years to complete and can prepare wildlife biologists for advanced positions.
In addition, most wildlife biologists who conduct independent or academic research hold a doctoral degree. A Ph.D. usually takes two to four years to earn and includes coursework on statistics applications, geographic information systems and computer programming.
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Most employers require wildlife biologists to undergo on-the-job training programs. Depending on the company, training may last for a few weeks or for a month or longer. Other training may come in the form of internships while studying or working as a research assistant.
Although wildlife biologists are not required to hold professional certifications, many opt to pursue one to demonstrate their commitment to the field and to increase their earning potential. The Wildlife Society administers the two most common certifications:
- Associate Wildlife Biologist: This credential is available to professionals who have met the society’s academic standards and who have shown their commitment to the profession’s ethical standards. This certification is valid for 10 years and requires providing academic transcripts.
- Certified Wildlife Biologist: Candidates can earn this credential if they have met the requirements of the Associate Wildlife Biologist certification and gained at least five years of work experience in the field. This credential is valid for five years and requires submitting academic transcripts and professional references.
To excel in this field, wildlife biologists need the following skills:
- Critical thinking: Wildlife biologists are responsible for conducting research and drawing conclusions from their findings. They need strong critical thinking skills to analyze their research and observations effectively.
- Attention to detail: These professionals often spend extended time watching animals and collecting data. They must have excellent observation skills to notice differences and developments.
- Problem-solving skills: To find effective solutions to the issues they research, wildlife biologists need strong problem-solving skills. They have to be able to identify areas of concern, consider outcomes and choose reasonable courses of action.
How to be a wildlife biologist
To become a wildlife biologist, follow these six steps:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree.
- Pursue a master’s degree for advanced positions.
- Complete a Ph.D. for high-level research jobs.
- Create a resume.
- Cultivate important skills.
- Consider a professional certification.
1. Earn a bachelor’s degree
First, earn a bachelor’s degree with a major like biology, ecology or zoology. You typically need four years to get this degree.
2. Pursue a master’s degree for advanced positions
If you want to prepare yourself for a more advanced position in the field, consider a Master’s Degree in Wildlife Biology. You can usually get this graduate degree in two to three years. These programs often provide more research and field study opportunities.
3. Complete a Ph.D. for high-level research jobs
If you want to become an independent or academic researcher, earn a doctoral degree in wildlife biology, too. You need two to four years to complete a Ph.D. You may have the opportunity to conduct independent research projects and write a scientific dissertation, which may be eligible for publishing.
4. Create a resume
After completing the academic requirements for this field, create a resume. Include your degrees and any relevant work experience with scientific research or statistics.
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5. Cultivate important skills
As you start to gain work experience, take the time to improve the key skills you need in this career. For example, you can consider finding a mentor in your field to learn their observation and reporting techniques.
6. Consider a professional certification
To demonstrate your commitment to the field, consider earning a professional certification from The Wildlife Society. Getting an Associate Wildlife Biologist or Certified Wildlife Biologist credential may help you qualify for higher-paying positions, too.