Wildlife Forestry Conservation Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
What are the pros and cons of a wildlife forestry conservation career? Get real job descriptions, job prospects and salary information to see if a career in wildlife forestry conservation is right for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of a Career in Wildlife Forestry Conservation

There are a wide variety of careers in wildlife forestry conservation to choose from in which you can impact our forest resources and animal populations in a positive way, whether through labor, planning, management or scientific research. Four common careers in this field are forest and conservation worker, forest and conservation technician, conservation scientist and forester and zoologist/wildlife biologist. Read on for information about the pros and cons of each of these careers.

Forest and Conservation Worker Forest and Conservation Technician Conservation Scientist and Forester Zoologist/Wildlife Biologist
Career Overview Forest and conservation workers strive to maintain, grow and improve forests through hands-on labor. Forest and conservation technicians maintain and improve forests, rangelands and other natural environments through planning and design. Conservation scientists and foresters are in charge of managing forests, parks, and rangelands. Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals in the wild as well as in other habitats.
Education Requirements At least a high school diploma or a GED At least an associate's degree At least a bachelor's degree At least a bachelor's, but a master's degree or doctorate may be required for certain positions
Program Length 4 years to complete high school 1-2 years for an associate's degree About 4 years for a bachelor's degree About 4 years for a bachelor's degree, 1-2 more for a master's degree and 4-5 more for a PhD
Additional Training On-the-job training On-the-job training N/A N/A
Licensing N/A N/A Licensing or registration is necessary in 12 states N/A
Work Experience Varies widely; employers may request 1-5 years of experience Varies widely; some employers require a few months to a year of experience Varies widely; 2-4 years of experience may be necessary for some jobs Employers typically accept varying combinations of education and experience
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 Slower than average growth (4%) compared to all occupations* Declining growth (-4%) compared to all occupations* Slower than average growth (3%) compared to all occupations* Slower than average growth (5%) compared to all occupations*
Median Salary (2014) About $27,160* About $35,260* About $61,860* About $58,270*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Forest and Conservation Worker

The job of a forest and conservation worker typically involves very hands-on, outdoors work. You'll typically attempt to gauge and improve forest quality through labor and maintenance. Duties may include managing forest growth on park trails, applying insecticides, counting trees, cutting down trees afflicted with disease, planting trees and combating forest fires. Usually, you'll work under the guidance of a forest and conservation technician or forester.

Requirements

Little education beyond a high school diploma or a GED is usually necessary to enter this field. Some workers complete a state training program or a degree program in a field like forestry. For supervisor positions, you may need an associate's degree in natural resources conservation, forestry technology or a related discipline. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) offers certification, which may be required for certain high-level worker positions. The amount of experience that you'll need depends on the employer.

You'll need to know how to operate various types of forest machinery as well as how to maintain this equipment. Your work also requires you to implement basic hazard-prevention and safety techniques, like wearing protective clothing and eyewear. Physical stamina is also important since this job requires manual labor.

Three positions that were posted on the Internet in December of 2012 were:

  • A city in Kansas was hiring a full-time forestry maintenance and seasonal horticulture worker to work for its parks department. The employer didn't require any education credentials but preferred candidates with 1-3 years of experience. A driver's license was necessary.
  • In Colorado, a parks department sought a forestry supervisor who had an associate's degree and who was an ISA Certified Arborist. Five years of experience in urban forestry was also preferred.
  • In Ohio, a city was looking for a forestry crew worker. Candidates needed 1-2 years of non-managerial work experience.

Standing Out

In a field experiencing little to no growth, it's particularly important to stand out from other job applicants. Staying abreast of the latest developments in modern forestry, such as forestry's application to urban environments and conservation technology, can be a solid way to get an edge.

If you're willing to move to the West, you may find more options, since abandoned roads through forests are being repaired, requiring workers to clear wildlife. Other roads are being converted into natural forest. If you're trained to contain wildfires, you may also find that you have increased job prospects.

Forest and Conservation Technician

As a forest and conservation technician, you'll just as often be required to work behind the scenes as in the field. Technicians are in charge of collecting data on soil and water characteristics, fire threat conditions and insects' effect on forests. You may determine protected areas and property lines, plant and cut down trees, control and suppress fires and train employees. In addition, you'll manage wildlife, trails, campsites and roads. You strive to improve natural areas such as parks, forests and rangelands, through physical work and public education. Conservation scientists and foresters often supervise technicians.

Requirements

You're typically required to complete an associate's degree program in natural resources conservation or a related discipline. Ensure that your program is accredited by the Society of American Foresters (SAF) since most employers look for this. On-the-job training is also common.

The amount of experience required varies. For some positions, you'll need work experience or expertise in certain kinds of forestry or topics like fire control. Knowledge of computer modeling and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology is sometimes required as well.

In December 2012, employers listed the following positions for forest and conservation technicians online:

  • In California, an agriculture government agency was hiring a forest technician with at least 90 days of experience to suppress and control wild fires. A driver's license was required.
  • A forestry technician was sought in Mississippi. Duties involved inventorying timber, combating tree diseases and insects, developing fire lanes and carrying out reforestation. An associate's degree in forestry or an equivalent amount of education was required, along with a driver's license.
  • A Native American issues government agency was hiring a forestry technician specializing in fire control to work in Arizona. Candidates would need to be familiar with using a range of fire-fighting tools and constructing fire lines. About a year of prior experience was necessary.

Standing Out

There are a few suggestions you can implement to get ahead as a forest and conservation technician. Choosing a specific area of expertise can be a solid way to stand out from job applicants who have more general technical knowledge of the field. You might also choose to concentrate on reforestation or conservation of certain kinds of forests and wild lands. Fire control is another option to consider.

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

Typically, conservation scientists and foresters are in charge of managing, administrating and monitoring forests and other related natural environments. You'll often be in charge of teams of forestry workers and technicians and work in the same environment as them. Duties of the job usually include designing forestry plans, negotiating land use and minimizing any environmental damage possible, including in areas where the timber industry operates. You might use technological equipment, like GIS, GPS or remote sensing tools, as well as measurement tools like bark gauges and clinometers (an instrument to measure tree height). Some foresters tend to trees and plants in urban settings.

Requirements

To become a conservation scientist and forester, you'll typically need to earn at least a bachelor's degree. Master's degree and PhD programs in the field are also common. Employers typically require your program to be accredited by the SAF. Twelve states require either licensing or registration, and four states have voluntary registration. A bachelor's degree, multiple years of professional forestry experience and a passing score on an exam are common requirements to earn the credential. The amount of required experience that employers request varies.

Here are a few conservationist scientist positions relating to forestry that potential employers posted online in December of 2012:

  • In Florida, a county parks organization was looking for an environmental conservation scientist with a bachelor's or master's degree in botany, environmental science, biology, wildlife management or a related discipline. At least two years of experience in environmental protection was required.
  • A city parks and recreation department in Virginia was seeking a city forester to design and implement forestry programs. Conducting tree health evaluations, networking with other conservation groups, organizing volunteers and taking care of administrative duties were also part of the job. A bachelor's degree in urban forestry, four years of experience and the Certified Arborist credential were necessary.
  • A range management specialist was sought by an agriculture organization in Boise. Applicants needed at least a bachelor's degree, experience in the field and technical writing skills. Certification from the Society for Range Management could substitute for experience. The specialist would be responsible for reviewing government plans regarding rangelands, providing suggestions to preserve the health of rangelands and helping individuals working on rangelands implement sustainable grazing methods.

Standing Out

Certification, while not always required by employers, can be helpful for bolstering your resume and standing out in the job market. For example, the Society for Range Management (SRM) offers two professional certifications. You need to have completed coursework in a variety of areas, like rangeland ecology, soil science and rangeland vegetation management, as well as have demonstrated sufficient work experience to qualify for the Certified Professional in Range Management credential. Proof of academic training and professional experience, plus submission of a variety of reports and publications are necessary to qualify for the Certified Range Management Consultant credential.

The Society of American Foresters (SAF) offers a Certified Forester credential; you need five years of professional experience before you qualify for the exam. Detailed education and professional experience information must be submitted as well. Continuing education credits must be completed to be eligible for recertification. In addition, the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) offers several certifications, including the Certified Arborist, Certified Tree Worker Climber Specialist and Board Certified Master Arborist, among others.

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

As a zoologist/wildlife biologist, you'll typically conduct scientific research on various animal populations and habitats. Wildlife biology is an area of zoology focused on wild animals. You may study the ways in which animals interact with their natural environment and the modern industrial world. Research on the impacts of urban development on wildlife health, such as overall population, nutrition levels or prevalence of disease, is particularly important in current times. Evolution, animal behavior, animal development and genetics are all specialty areas of wildlife you might work in or study. In some cases, you'll give presentations and make wildlife management recommendations to government policy-makers.

Requirements

For most positions in this field, at least a bachelor's degree is required. That being said, there's a fair chance you may need to earn a master's degree or a PhD in wildlife biology, zoology or animal science for jobs with high responsibility or research positions. Having a solid body of research, industry connections built over the years, years of experience and a solid reputation in the environmental science community are also important to attaining many positions.

In January of 2013, the following positions were posted on the Internet:

  • In Arizona, a U.S. government forest service agency was seeking a wildlife biologist with a bachelor's degree in biological science to work in a national forest, conducting research, monitoring wildlife activity and developing natural resource projects. Degree coursework should have included topics like wildlife management, ornithology, mammalogy, animal ecology, vertebrate zoology and parasitology, among other topics. As is quite common for government wildlife biology positions, a combination of education and experience was also acceptable.
  • A wildlife biologist was sought by a government wildlife service department in Louisiana. Duties involve developing and carrying out surveys on threatened and endangered species, analyzing maps and photos of habitats, writing reports and providing advice for managing and protecting wildlife. Requirements included a biological science degree or again, a combination of experience and education.
  • A U.S. engineering corporation in Washington state was looking for a senior wildlife biologist with a combination of education and experience or a bachelor's degree in biological science. The position involved overseeing the conservation of natural resources and wildlife habitats, supervising other wildlife management officials and developing conservation and stewardship programs. Prior specialized experience working on similar projects was necessary.

Standing Out

Specializing in a specific type of animal group, such as fish, reptiles, birds or mammals, can help make you attractive to employers looking for zoologists or wildlife biologists with a specific set of skills. The research work that you've completed can also help bolster your resume. According to the BLS, in order to get ahead as a zoologist or wildlife biologist, a background in computer science can be also helpful, since using GIS and modeling programs is common.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Literacy
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
      • Ph.D in Literacy: Literacy
    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
      • Master of Business Administration: Taxation
      • Master of Science in Accounting
      • Master of Science in Taxation
      • Master of Science in Library and Information Science
      • Master of Science in Library and Information Science: Academic Librarianship
  • Online Programs Available
    2. The University of Scranton

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Accounting
      • MBA - Healthcare Management
      • MBA - Human Resources
      • MBA - International Business
      • MBA - Operations Management
      • Master of Accountancy
    Certificate
      • Executive Certificate in Health Administration
      • Health Informatics Certificate
      • Enterprise Resource Planning Certificate
      • Supply Chain Management Certificate
  • Campus and Online Programs
    3. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Film Production
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
      • M.S. - New Media Journalism
      • Master of Fine Arts - Creative Writing
      • M.S. - Public Relations
      • M.S. - Internet Marketing
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Sportscasting (Campus)
      • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
      • BS - Creative Writing for Entertainment (Campus)
      • BS - Film (Campus)
      • BS - Media Communications (Campus)
    Certificate
      • Cert - English As A Second Language (Campus)
      • Cert - Instructional Design and Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Project Management
      • Master of Finance
      • Master of Professional Accounting
      • Master - Information Technology Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
      • Master - Human Resource Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Communication
      • BS - Human Services
      • BS - Accounting
      • BS - Project Management
      • BS - Marketing
      • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate - Human Resource Management
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Project Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Accounting
      • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
      • Master of Business Administration - International Business (Spanish)
      • Master of Business Admin - Information Security Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts - Business Administration with a concentration in Transportation and Logistics
      • B.A. - Legal Studies
      • B.A. - Psychology
      • B.A. - Business Admin: Management
      • B.A. - Accounting
      • B.A. - Business Admin: International Business
    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Information Technology
      • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
      • Associate of Arts - Accounting
      • Associate of Arts - Paralegal
      • Associate of Arts - Homeland Security
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
    Certificate
      • Grad Business Certificate - Health Services Management
      • Grad Business Certificate - Management and Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    6. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Electronics Engineering Technology
      • Software Development - Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Network Security
      • Bachelor's - Mechatronics
    Associate's
      • Associate's - Electronics Engineering Technology
      • Associate's - Network Security
    Certificate
      • Web Design & Dev
  • Online Programs Available
    7. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin: Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Operations Management
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Master of Business Administration - Accounting
      • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
      • Master of Business Admin: Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Marketing
      • Bachelor of Business Admin - Accounting
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Finance
      • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts in Business Administration
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
      • PhD Technology and Innovation Management Computer Science
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Management
      • Ed.D. - Sports Management
    Master's
      • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • MEd - General Education
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Organizational Leadership
      • Education Specialist - Special Education
      • Education Specialist - International Education
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Education Specialist - Instructional Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Seton Hall University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Accounting
      • Master of Public Administration in Non-Profit Management
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - Accounting
      • Master of Business Administration - Finance
      • Master of Business Administration - Marketing
    Certificate
      • Certificate: Post Conflict State Reconstruction and Sustainability
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • High School with Culinary Arts Professional Pathway
      • High School with Automotive Repair Technician Pathway
      • High School with Pharmacy Technician Pathway
    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma with Focus in Health Care
      • HS Diploma
      • High School with Concentration in Building Technology - Electrical
      • High School with Concentration in Building Technology - Plumbing
      • High School with Concentration in Building Technology - Carpentry

Featured Schools

Saint John's University

  • Ph.D. in Literacy
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
  • Master of Business Administration: Taxation

What is your highest level of education?

The University of Scranton

  • MBA - Accounting
  • MBA - Healthcare Management
  • Executive Certificate in Health Administration
  • Health Informatics Certificate

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Film Production
  • BS - Sportscasting (Campus)
  • Cert - English As A Second Language (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • Master of Project Management
  • BS - Communication
  • Graduate Certificate - Human Resource Management

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
  • Bachelor of Arts - Business Administration with a concentration in Transportation and Logistics
  • Associate of Sciences - Information Technology
  • Grad Business Certificate - Health Services Management

What is your highest level of education?

ECPI University

  • Bachelor's - Electronics Engineering Technology
  • Associate's - Electronics Engineering Technology
  • Web Design & Dev

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Business Admin: Management
  • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
  • Associate of Arts in Business Administration

Are you a US citizen?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
  • Education Specialist - Organizational Leadership

What is your highest level of education?