Wildlife Management Degrees: Associate's, Bachelor's & Online Training Info

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Associate's and bachelor's degrees in wildlife management can lead to careers in wildlife conservation. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Wildlife Management: Degrees at a Glance

Wildlife management degrees teach students the skills necessary for a career in conservation, natural resources or ecology. Graduates of these programs often work for government agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Degree programs may also be offered under the title of wildlife ecology and management, fish and wildlife management or wildlife resources management.

Competition may be high for jobs in this field, as job growth is expected to be slow. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), positions for forest and conservation workers were expected to increase by just one percent between 2010 and 2020.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Students who want an introduction to the field Environmentally-minded people who want to maintain wildlife habitats
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Forest and conservation worker ($27,000)*
- Forest and conservation technician ($37,000)*
- Fish and game warden ($56,000)*
- Conservation scientist ($62,000)*
- Wildlife biologist and zoologist ($62,000)*
Time to Completion Two years, full-time (may include a summer term) Four years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Between 60 and 90 credit hours of coursework
- Practicum or capstone project
- Between 120 and 180 credit hours worth of coursework
- Seminar or capstone
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED equivalent High school diploma or GED equivalent
Online Availability Hybrid only, rare Yes

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's Degrees in Wildlife Management

Associate's degree programs, such as the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Wildlife Resources Management or AAS in Fish and Wildlife Management Technology, provide an entry-level introduction to hands-on knowledge of nature and its preservation. An associate's degree in this field can be used to transfer into a bachelor's degree program if you wish to further your education. Wildlife management may also be offered as a concentration in a forestry management technology degree, or the wildlife management degree may include information on fisheries as well.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can work in a variety of conservation-based industries
  • A variety of wildlife management programs are available
  • Good introduction to the field without having to spend a lot of time and/or money

Cons

  • You may need an advanced degree for some positions
  • Potential careers do not necessarily pay average for level of education
  • Potential careers are physically demanding

Common Courses and Requirements

Most associate's degree programs in wildlife management take about two years to complete, including a summer term. Associate's degree programs work as an introduction to the field as well as prepare graduates for transfer to a 4-year program. Coursework is broken down into general education, core courses and elective courses. Generally, most programs include a mixture of lectures and labs.

Courses you may take include:

  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Dendrology
  • Botany
  • Ichthyology

Some programs may include either a practicum or a capstone or both.

Online Degree Options

Online associate's degree programs in wildlife management are extremely rare due to the hands-on nature of the degree. Programs may be offered in a hybrid format, where some courses, such as general education and core courses, may be offered online, but even this is not common in this field. Often, courses that are offered online are also offered on-campus.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

You might consider joining a professional society. Professional societies often offer education and opportunities to their members that can be beneficial. For example, the Forest Guild, which is a professional organization for natural resource professionals, offers their members networking opportunities, research opportunities, workshops and field sessions, discounts and publications. They offer both student and professional memberships. Additionally, many of these professions spend a good deal of time outdoors, so a love of nature and the ability to hike long distances will be a plus.

Degree Alternatives

If you like the idea of being outdoors, you might also consider becoming an environmental science and protection technician. Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment for pollution, especially health-affecting sources. According the BLS, job positions for environmental science and protection technicians were expected to increase by 24% between 2010 and 2020, and they made an average of $45,000 a year as of May 2011. Environmental science and protection technicians typically earn a degree in a natural science field.

Bachelor's Degrees in Wildlife Management

Bachelor's degrees in wildlife management teach students the science necessary for maintaining, preserving and managing wildlife populations. Wildlife management may be offered as a concentration in a larger degree, such as environmental science. Typically, wildlife management degrees are 4-year programs that are offered at universities. These degrees can be used for a variety of positions, and are more versatile than a wildlife management associate's degree. Typically, a Bachelor of Science is awarded in this field.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Versatile degree with many career paths
  • Potential careers typically pay above average salaries
  • Hands-on programs that allow you to use what you learn

Cons

  • Often outdoors in different and potentially harsh weather
  • Many potential careers have a predicted slower-than-average job growth
  • May work irregular hours doing fieldwork

Common Courses and Requirements

Courses in a bachelor's degree wildlife management program often are a mix of animal-based science, other environmental sciences, general education and conservation. Some programs may allow you to choose a specialization and take courses towards a specific interest. Programs tend to include labs and other hands-on activities. Programs may also include a seminar or a capstone project.

Courses you may take include:

  • Ornithology
  • Wildlife behavior
  • Genetics
  • Plant taxonomy
  • Environmental ethics

Some positions may require licensing. For example, conservation scientists must be licensed in sixteen states. Requirements vary by state.

Online Degree Options

Some schools may offer fully online programs. These programs tend to be identical to the on-campus programs if an institution offers both. Some institutions may also offer online tutoring and other services. Some programs may be offered only on the Internet. Online versions of the degree typically do not include lab courses or practicum, but still cover similar topics.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

Professional certification can be useful for proving that you have a necessary skill set. The Society of American Foresters (SAF) offers several certifications, including Certified Forester, Forest Certification Auditor and Candidate Certified Forester. Certification requires that you pass an exam. Additionally, the Wildlife Society offers Associate Wildlife Biologist and Certified Wildlife Biologist certifications. You must have a certain number of semester hours in certain subjects, including wildlife management and biology, have a bachelor's degree, have a certain number of years experience and meet their ethics requirements.

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