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If you have decided that wildlife conservation and management is what you want to pursue, below are a few of the degree options you might want to consider, as well as some specific careers in wildlife and nature conservation and management that may be worth exploring.
Degree programs in wildlife conservation and management
Degree programs can be found at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Below is a short overview of degree programs at each level:
Bachelor's degree. These programs typically include coursework in biology, chemistry, statistics, wildlife management and conservation, and ecosystems and ecology. They may also include fieldwork in different natural habitats and a required internship. Some programs may also provide courses in specific categories of plants and animals, such as ornithology (the study of birds) or herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians). Additionally, some degree programs may have classes that focus on specific habitats, such as forest ecology or marine ecosystems.
Master's degree. These traditionally require that an individual already have a bachelor's degree in the same or a related field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, master's degrees in environmental science, wildlife conservation, or a related field may be helpful for advancing in one's career in nature conservancy. Master's degree programs in wildlife and nature conservation often have advanced coursework that explore such topics as methods of habitat conservation, human-ecosystems interactions, current issues in natural resource conservation, and endangered species.
Tips for selecting a wildlife conservation and management degree program
It is important to choose a program that is accredited and which fits your personal and professional goals. Understanding what area within wildlife conservation you would like to specialize in can help you navigate the different options that various wildlife conservation schools may offer, and to find one that matches your interests. In addition, choosing a degree program that is located near natural habitats that you would like to work in may help you find part-time and full-time internships that are relevant to your academic and career interests.
Careers in wildlife conservation and management
Conservation scientists. Conservation scientists work to preserve natural habitats such as forests, rangelands, and parks. They may work with private landowners and public officials to monitor and improve the health and quality of natural lands. They may choose to specialize in certain areas, such as restoration planning, rangeland management, and soil and water conservation. In 2012, conservation scientists earned a national median wage of $61,100 annually, according to data from the BLS.
Foresters. Foresters work to maintain and restore natural forests by supervising teams of conservation workers to monitor the health of different forest habitats, develop forest fire prevention measures, and planting new trees in areas that have been damaged by deforestation, fires, pollution, or invasive species. The mean annual wage for foresters in 2012 was $55,940 nationally, according to BLS data.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists. Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals in their natural habitats and in controlled settings in order to monitor and maintain the health of certain species. Zoologists may specialize by species -- for example, cetologists focus on marine wildlife, mammalogists study mammals, entomologists study insects, and evolutionary biologists study the origins and evolution of certain plant and animal species.
Zoologists can also work on teams of other scientists and environmental advocates in order to preserve the habitats that certain wildlife need in order to survive. Zoologists and wildlife biologists may also oversee the care of wild animals in zoos and educate the public about nature conservation and animal protection. In 2012, zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a national median salary of $57,710, according to statistics from the BLS.
"Department of Fisheries and Wildlife: Curricula and Course Descriptions," fw.oregonstate.edu, Oregon State University, http://fw.oregonstate.edu/content/curricula-course-descriptions
"Natural Resources: Wildlife," wildlife.unh.edu, University of New Hampshire, http://www.wildlife.unh.edu/graduate
"Occupational Outlook Handbook: Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists," bls.gov, 8 January 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/zoologists-and-wildlife-biologists.htm
"Occupational Outlook Handbook: Conservation Scientists and Foresters," bls.gov, 8 January 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/conservation-scientists.htm
"Occupation Employment Statistics: Conservation Scientists," bls.gov, 29 March 2013, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes191023.htm
"Occupation Employment Statistics: Foresters," bls.gov, 29 March 2013, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes191032.htm
"Occupation Employment Statistics: Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists," bls.gov, 29 March 2013, Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes191023.htm