Wildlife Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a wildlife technician career? Get real job duties, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a wildlife technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Wildlife Technician Career

A wildlife technician works in the field assessing the health of wildlife and resources that pertain to animals' natural habitat. Read about the pros and cons to find out if this is a good career for you.

Pros of Being a Wildlife Technician
Many employers only require an associate's degree*
Opportunity for entering the career at several levels (you can start in an entry level position, or if you have experience and advanced education, you can enter this career at a higher level with more responsibility)*
Satisfaction of improving wildlife habitat and helping prevent animal-borne disease**
Jobs can be found all over the United States*
Opportunity to work outdoors*

Cons of Being a Wildlife Technician
Salary is lower than the national average (average salary for forestry and conservation technicians was almost $38,000 in 2014, average salary for all occupations was about $47,000)**
Jobs expected to grow slowly for forestry and conservation workers (4% growth projected in 2014-2024 decade)**
Possible injury risk from handling aggressive animals and organic substances*
Work may be physically demanding (e.g. walking long distances on difficult terrain)*
Extended work hours may be required*

Sources: *Multiple online job postings (obtained April 2012), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

Your responsibilities may vary by employer and location; however, your work will typically include collecting wildlife and habitat information and samples. For example, if you work on the coast, you might be counting shorebirds and assessing their habitat. If you work near forested areas, you might work to curb the deer population to decrease instances of deer-borne disease. In any location, you might trap and tag animals, conduct and develop surveys, and develop and improve habitats. In addition to gathering and interpreting data, you may assist with creating reports and providing recommendations based on research findings. Closely related or synonymous job titles include forest and conservation technician, fish and wildlife technician, and biological technician - wildlife.

Two primary areas of work in your field are wildlife management and wildlife biology. While there is overlap in these areas, your job might focus on one or the other. If you work in wildlife management, you'll work to conserve, increase or decrease, harvest and monitor wildlife. If your emphasis is on wildlife biology, you may assist wildlife biologists who conduct research on various aspects of animals and related natural resources, including behavior, disease and genetics.

Salary Information

Your salary may vary by employer, duties and experience. For example, some government agencies offer staggered job grades and salaries for wildlife technicians. In January 2016, the U.S. Department of the Interior offered a salary range of approximately $25,000 to $124,000 among seven different job grades for biological wildlife technicians. These job grades were contingent upon education level and work experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the 2014 mean annual salary for forest and conservation technicians was nearly $38,000.

What Are the Career Requirements?

Education Requirements

The minimum education requirement is typically an associate's degree, two years of college, or 60 semester credit hours of college coursework. However, some employers will accept a lesser amount of education if coupled with work experience. Associate's degree programs are offered in wildlife management and wildlife biology. Related disciplines include forestry, wildlife and natural resources, wildlife technology, ecology, biology and agriculture. Some schools also offer professional certificates and diplomas.

Physical Requirements

This career field can be physically demanding and requires physical stamina and strength. Much of the work is completed outside and you may be required to lift up to 50 pounds. You may have to work in very hot or very cold weather in order to assess animals that are visible in certain seasons.

What Employers Are Looking For

Work opportunities are available through government agencies, non-profit organizations and private companies nationwide. In addition to educational training, employers are also looking for applicants who have good analytical skills, physical stamina and computer skills, including the ability to use GIS software and GPS technology. A few of the job listings for wildlife technicians that were posted in April 2012 are as follows:

  • A state government agency in Oregon wants to hire a fish and wildlife technician who has an associate's degree in fisheries technology, wildlife technology or a related degree. Candidates must have 18 months of experience in fisheries, care of livestock, agricultural research or similar work. Proficient use of power tools and other construction related equipment is desirable.
  • A consulting firm in Washington is looking for a wildlife field technician with a bachelor's degree in wildlife ecology, environmental biology or other applicable field. Experience in wildlife survey methodologies, terrestrial ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest, wildlife habitat ecology and endangered/threatened species regulatory protocols is also required. Additionally, you must be detail oriented, a good technical writer and communicator and be able to work in the field.
  • A federal government agency in Washington, D.C. would like to hire temporary biological aides and wildlife technicians to work for six months in Oregon, Wyoming or New Mexico inventorying wildlife and using GIS/GPS technology to document wildlife locations. Depending on the level of responsibility, educational requirements range from a high school diploma to one year of graduate studies in biological science or a related discipline. Required work experience ranges from three months of general experience to one year of specialized experience.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Because an associate's degree is the more common requirement, one way to stand out in the job market is to acquire a bachelor's degree or higher in your field. You could potentially secure more work opportunities, and it may be beneficial for career advancement. Joining a trade association, such as the Wildlife Society or the Society for Conservation Biology, may also be advantageous. By doing so, you could possibly increase your visibility through group affiliation. These organizations often keep members current on related industry and legislative changes.

Alternative Career Paths

Environmental Science and Protection Technician

If you like the idea of working outside as a technician, but you're looking for a job with better salary and job growth prospects, you might want to consider becoming an environmental science and protection technician. In this job, you take samples of air, water and soil and analyze them in a lab to determine if pollutants are present. This career requires about the same amount of education as a wildlife technician, but job growth was projected to be 24% during the 2010-2020 decade, about 25% better than wildlife techs. Environmental science and protection technicians made a mean salary of about $45,000 in 2011, about $8,000 more than wildlife techs.

Wildlife Biologist

If you would like to work with animals and the environment, have higher pay and are willing to commit to a bachelor's or graduate degree program, you may want to consider becoming a wildlife biologist. Instead of serving in a support role for wildlife research, you would handle the primary responsibilities of designing and conducting wildlife studies. The BLS reported that the 2011 annual mean salary for wildlife biologists was about $62,000. Entry-level wildlife biologists are usually required to have a bachelor's degree. However, in order to conduct independent research you typically need a graduate degree.

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