Fisheries Management Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a fisheries management program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Fisheries Management: Degrees at a Glance

Fisheries management is the study and practice of maintaining healthy fish populations both in commercial farming applications and in the wild. In a fisheries management program, you will learn about the biology and ecology of fish and how to utilize this knowledge in conservation and farming situations. A degree in this field can lead you to a variety of careers, like as a fisheries biologist, hatchery manager or conservation scientist.

If you're interested in joining one of these professions, keep in mind that these jobs usually require at least a bachelor's degree. Also note that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected slower-than-average job growth for jobs in this field, including fisheries biology and conservation science, from 2010-2020, while employment of hatchery managers and other agricultural managers was expected to decrease by 8%.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Those interested in entry-level roles in fisheries management or conservation Individuals interested in more advanced roles in fisheries management and science
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) Hatchery technician ($34,000)*
Fish research assistant (salary unavailable)*
Fisheries biologist ($57,000)*
Fisheries conservation scientist ($60,000)*
Hatchery manager ($65,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full time 4 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements Completion of a practicum or internship Completion of a practicum or internship
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Limited Yes

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

Associate's in Fisheries Management

An associate's program in fisheries management is a science-based program focusing on fish biology, ecology and habitats, and many of these degree programs cover both fisheries and wildlife management. Programs combine lecture and lab work, and you may partake in various projects dealing with habitat manipulation. Keep in mind that schools do field study at nearby waterways. If you are interested in working in a particular type of ecology, such as salmon streams or ocean fisheries, you may wish to consider attending a school near such an ecology.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can qualify you for entry-level jobs after only two years of study (hatchery technician, research assistant, etc.)
  • Work in positions that provide food solutions for a growing population
  • Program provides you with a range of skills in science and hands-on training in the field

Cons

  • Only prepares you for entry-level employment in the relatively small field of fisheries management
  • Hatchery technicians earned lower-than-average median salaries as of 2011*
  • Little opportunity to specialize your studies in an area of interest

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Coursework you will find in this degree goes into detail about fish biology and ecology. The fisheries management curriculum may start out with fundamental courses in wildlife policy and law, botany and wildlife maintenance. More advanced courses may include:

  • Ichthyology
  • Ornithology
  • Aquatic ecology
  • Habitat maintenance
  • Dendrology
  • Equipment usage

In addition to standard coursework, you'll likely be required to complete a practicum or internship that allows you to gain hands-on, supervised experience in fisheries management or a closely related field.

Online Course Info

Fisheries management education involves laboratory and practical instruction; in fact, schools typically require a minimum amount of practicum, internship or field work to qualify for graduation. As such, associate's degree programs available entirely online are not common; however, some schools have hybrid programs, which allow you to complete some of your coursework online.

Stand Out with This Degree

Since an internship or practicum is a requirement of many programs, many fisheries management professionals enter the occupation with some experience in the field. You might benefit from going a step further than your peers and gaining additional experience. You may be able to arrange for extra internships with your degree program, or you could gain experience as a volunteer. Government conservation agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, often want volunteers to fill positions in aquaculture research, laboratory assistance, wildlife conservation and other fisheries-related jobs. Taking advantage of such opportunities would give you hands-on experience with both the equipment and techniques used in fisheries management.

Bachelor's in Fisheries Management

The bachelor's degree program in fisheries management covers many of the same concepts as the associate's degree program; however, it focuses more heavily on direct management of aquatic resources. A fisheries management bachelor's degree offers more advanced career opportunities in fisheries management and hatchery management. In addition, a bachelor's degree allows you to seek employment as a scientist in the field, such as in fisheries biology or conservation science. However, some research positions may only be available to those who hold master's degrees or higher.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Opportunities to specialize your studies in a concentration of fisheries management
  • Can lead to more advanced careers than an associate's degree (fisheries biology, conservation science, hatchery management, etc.)
  • Higher-than-average median salaries for bachelor's degree holders as of 2011*

Cons

  • Slow expected employment growth or a decline in jobs for fisheries biologists, conservation scientists and hatcheries managers from 2010-2020*
  • Specialized degree may limit career choices
  • May not qualify you for upper-level or research positions
  • Work may be physically demanding
  • Field work can involve working in harsh weather and extreme temperatures

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

In this bachelor's program, you'll study many of the same natural science topics as you would in the associate's degree program, like biology and ecology, but you'll delve deeper into fish management, resource management and policy studies. This program also lays greater emphasis on wildlife behavior, evolution and habitats. Many courses will involve laboratory study and field work, and you'll complete at least one internship in fisheries management. You can also expect to take core courses in:

  • Ichthyology
  • Biometrics
  • Population dynamics
  • Fish management
  • Physiology
  • Wildlife genetics
  • Ecosystems

Online Course Info

Bachelor's degree programs in fisheries management are available entirely online and in hybrid format and cover many of the same topics as an on-campus program, including biology and ecology. Keep in mind that some of these programs do not provide laboratory instruction, fieldwork or internship opportunities. As such, you may need to gain the essential hands-on experience in the field by pursuing internships or volunteer opportunities on your own. Some schools may instead require you to visit a nearby campus for specific laboratory classes or field work projects.

Stand Out with This Degree

During college, consider concentrating your studies in an area of interest. Some bachelor's-level fisheries management programs allow you to specialize your studies after you've completed the core coursework. You might, for example, gear your electives toward fishery biology or restoration ecology. Endangered species conservation is another viable option, and the BLS reports that a leading cause of job growth for fish and other wildlife conservation scientists is the need to combat threats to endangered species. If your program doesn't include a class in global information systems (GIS), you may want to take one as an elective; GIS is useful for an outdoors career like fisheries management.

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