Wildlife Biologist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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A wildlife biologist's average salary is around $63,000. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a wildlife biologist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Wildlife Biologist

The habitats of wildlife and animals are studied by wildlife biologists. Continue to read below in order to learn more about the upsides and downsides to becoming a wildlife biologist.

PROS of Being a Wildlife Biologist
Salary is above the national average (average $62,230 in 2014)*
Opportunity to help wildlife*
Employee benefits when working with the government full-time*
Only a bachelor's degree is required for entry-level positions*

CONS of Being a Wildlife Biologist
Fieldwork can require extended travel*
Irregular and long hours are associated with fieldwork*
Some employment is tied to government budgets, so lower budgets mean fewer jobs*
A doctoral degree is typically required for research and post-secondary education positions*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Description

Wildlife biologists perform a variety of tasks. For example, you might need to draw blood from an animal to analyze the state of its health. You could be in a natural surrounding or in a controlled setting depending on the nature of the assignment. You'll also spend a lot of time studying animals and wildlife. This is done so that you can understand how that specific piece of wildlife is interacting with other aspects of wildlife. You will study how human activity impacts the wildlife in the area that you're studying. Sometimes the overall goal for a wildlife biologist is to make recommendations to the public on how best to go about management and conservation issues of an area's wildlife.

Salary Information

Wildlife biologists were reported to make a mean annual salary of about $62,230 nationwide as of May 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This results in wildlife biologists earning around $30 an hour. Wildlife biologists in the top ten percentile of earners made upwards of $95,000 annually, according to the BLS. If you're interested in employment in one of the states that pay wildlife biologists the highest income on average, then look for jobs in the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey or Maryland.

Job Outlook

According to the BLS, from 2012 to 2022, the employment for wildlife biologists should increase by 5%, which is slower than the average. The employment for wildlife biologists is often dependent upon the budget of government agencies that hire them. Other factors that impact wildlife biologist employment include the need to examine wildlife development and population growth.

Occupational Requirements

Education and Training

To be a wildlife biologist at the entry-level, you're going to need a bachelor's degree. Ideally, you'll pursue a major in wildlife biology or zoology. Other fields like ecology are sometimes acceptable as well if you can't find a school that offers a wildlife biology program. You'll generally want to take classes in subjects like cellular biology, anatomy and wildlife management. Some wildlife biologists choose to pursue education in a specific study group like botany, ornithology or ichthyology.

If you're interested in more advanced positions, you'll need to earn a graduate degree in biology, wildlife biology, or a related field. Master's degree programs can help prepare you for more responsible positions, and doctoral degree programs will prepare you to work in research and academic positions. A doctorate is the typical requirement for college professors.

What Do Employers Want?

Some employers hire wildlife biologists for specific job duties rather than general ones. For example, an employer might need a wildlife biologist to track the condition of a specific plant or animal in an area. By obtaining a specialty in a focus area, you might be able to meet the specific criteria an employer is looking for. Computer skills are also important for wildlife biologists as employers often give them technological equipment to use out in the field. You can learn what some real employers wanted in wildlife biologists from some information below which was summarized from November 2012 job advertisements.

  • A business in Arizona desires a wildlife biologist that has certification and training for surveying the spotted owl in Mexico.
  • A Virginia government department is looking for a wildlife biologist with previous work experience in wildlife management or research.
  • In Missouri, a wildlife biologist opening needs an applicant who has taken coursework in animal ecology, wildlife management, ornithology or mammalogy.
  • An opening for wildlife biologists in West Virginia calls for applicants that possess a master's degree.

How to Stand Out as a Wildlife Biologist

Interpersonal communication is a skill you might want to work on as an aspiring biologist. Wildlife biologists sometimes have to give presentations or work in teams, so being able to communicate effectively is important. By having communication skills through training, education or work experience, you'll potentially have an edge over other wildlife biologists who don't have the same strengths. Additionally, since biologists are typically defined in their work by the types of environments and animals that they study, it will most likely be beneficial to you to take courses and gain work experience particular to a certain type of wildlife biology, such as marine biology, ornithology or ichthyology.

Other Career Choices

An alternative career to wildlife biologist is conservation scientist. In this occupation, you come up with plans for resources and lands. This typically involves negotiations and contracts for land-use and forest harvesting. Your overall goal is to ensure that the land is used in the most efficient and safest way possible in order to minimize the damage done to the land. In May 2014, conservation scientists earned about a mean annual salary of about $64,420 according to the BLS. A 3% growth in employment has been projected as well for this career from 2012 to 2022.

You might consider being an environmental scientist instead of a wildlife biologist. As an environmental scientist, you'll help find problems that are hazardous to the environment and the populations that live there. Once you discover an issue, you can work towards addressing it and fixing the problem. An example of this might involve restoring contaminated water or land. There is expected to be a 15% employment growth from 2012 to 2022 for environmental scientists. The BLS also reports that environmental scientists earned a mean annual salary of about $72,050 as of May 2014.

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