Conservation ecology programs are designed to impart an understanding of ecology principles, cellular biology, zoology and ecosystem management. Education is accomplished through classroom lectures as well as fieldwork, research and internships. Higher-level programs often include thesis and dissertation requirements. Potential jobs for graduates could include - but are not limited to - wildlife technicians, foresters, physical scientists and university professors.
Enrollees in a bachelor's degree program in conservation ecology must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate to gain entry into this major. Students pursuing a master's degree in conservation ecology and sustainable development must hold a bachelor's degree, letters of recommendation and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores to gain entrance. Applicants to a Ph.D. program in ecology, evolution and conservation biology need a master's degree in conservation biology or a related field. They will also need to submit letters of recommendation, GRE scores and have a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Bachelor's Degree in Conservation Ecology
Bachelor's degree programs educate future ecologists in natural resource management and protection of endangered species. Students must have a strong understanding of basic mathematics and science, along with an interest in conservation ecology issues. Fieldwork and extensive research give students hands-on experience working in the field.
A bachelor's curriculum provides courses in mathematics, biology and chemistry. Topics in conservation ecology include:
- Ecology principles
- History of life
- Cellular and organism biology
Master's Degree in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development
A master's degree program provides students with professional instruction on the different types of natural environments, as well as the different ways natural environments can be developed and preserved. The cause and effect of humans on animal species making their homes in natural habitats are an important part of this degree program.
A master's degree program combines classroom lectures and seminars with research and wildlife experiences. Prior to completion of the program, students must complete a thesis research project. Coursework may include:
- Ecological basis of environmental issues
- Ecology careers
- Field ecology
- Biology and conservation of marine animals
- Advanced ecology
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology
This degree program offers students a further understanding of biological processes and conservation techniques used in biotic habitats. The curriculum stresses the importance of population biology, plant response to climate change and the conservation of endangered species. Students will participate in original research and fieldwork, as well as present and defend a dissertation in front of an academic board.
Coursework in a doctorate program is centered on conservation management, as well as environmental and biological sciences. Topics covered at the doctorate level include:
- Conservation ecology
- Ecosystem management
- Ecosystems and landscape ecology
- Community ecology
- Environmental policy evaluation
Popular Career Options
Career opportunities within the conservation ecology field are available to qualified scientists and technicians. Job opportunities open to bachelor's grads include:
- Hydrologic technician
- General biologist
- Wildlife technician
Doctorate graduates possess the advanced theoretical thinking and research experience to qualify for senior-level positions in the field. Students also qualify for academic positions with colleges and universities. Typical job titles may include:
- Conservation professor
- Physical scientist
- Supervisory environmental protection specialist
Salary and Career Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the employment of forest and conservation workers is expected to grow by only 4% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also stated that the median annual salary of foresters was $58,230, as of May 2015. The median annual salary of conservation scientists was $61,110 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.
Graduate certificate programs in conservation ecology are available. The program may be taken individually or as part of a master's degree program. Certificate programs provide students with advanced skills in biological and environmental sciences.
Students interested in conservation ecology can study the subject at the bachelor's, master's or doctorate levels to prepare for careers as researchers, professors or environmental specialists. Graduates can seek continuing education through certificate programs.