Freshwater Biology Jobs: Career Options and Requirements

Freshwater biology requires some formal education depending on which position you choose. Learn about the degree requirements, career options and job duties to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Freshwater biology is an exciting career choice for people who are interested in freshwater ecosystems and the environment. Since water is an essential resource for living organisms, this is a very important and rewarding area of study with many job opportunities ranging from improving the water quality to addressing complex environmental issues. An associate's degree is required for an entry-level technician job, but a bachelor's or graduate degree is required for higher level positions.

CareerWater Resources TechnicianFreshwater BiologistPostsecondary Instructor or Academic Researcher
Education RequirementsAssociate's degreeBachelor's degree, master's or doctorate degree in related fieldMaster's or doctoral degree in related field
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)19% (environmental science and protection technicians)*5% (zoologists and wildlife biologists)*19% (postsecondary teachers)*
Average Salary (2014)$45,910 (environmental science and protection technicians, including health)*$63,230 (zoologists and wildlife biologists)*$86,200 (biological science teachers, postsecondary)*

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Options in Freshwater Biology

Career opportunities in freshwater biology can be found in several areas, including government agencies and private industries. Depending on their education, students have access to careers ranging from academia and research to policy setting and aquatic science. Some of the available career choices are a water resource technician, a freshwater biologist, and a postsecondary instructor or academic researcher.

Water Resources Technician

A water resources technician is an entry-level career opportunity for those with an associate's degree or 2 years of postsecondary or on-the-job training; a bachelor's degree is helpful for obtaining higher level work. Technicians measure water, using a variety of instruments, to gauge various levels of toxins. They are familiar with practices in water restoration for a variety of types of bodies of water and habitats, as well as understanding how to improve the water quality. These technicians can work for government agencies locally or nationally, along with health departments and private consulting firms.

Freshwater Biologist

Becoming a freshwater biologist, also known as limnologist, is among the most common career goals for those interested in freshwater biology. Limnologists assist in solving the issues in freshwater ecosystems. They may work closely with marine biologists. Freshwater biologists are knowledgeable in the human factors that disrupt or exploit freshwater systems. Freshwater biologists analyze environmental factors and genetic issues. Limnologists also analyze recorded data such as migration patterns and toxin levels.

Postsecondary Instructor or Academic Researcher

As the scientific field continues to expand, requiring fresh voices and ideas, instructors and professors are needed to plan lessons and instruct students in biological theories and hands-on techniques used in the field. Instructors may also conduct academic research in an effort to further the field of freshwater biology. Academic researchers are often called upon to share their expertise in seminars or speeches. They may also be called upon to appear as an expert in court during legal disputes that involve environmental issues. Completing an advanced degree program, such as a doctoral degree, is required in order to become an instructor or academic researcher.

Education Requirements for Freshwater Biology Jobs

Bachelor of Science in Freshwater Biology

These are 4-year degree programs, which focus on studies in marine and freshwater environments. Freshwater biology programs educate students in biological sciences such as marine science and geology. Students typically gain hands-on knowledge through labs and field experiences. Common courses in these programs include:

  • Oceanography
  • Freshwater ecology
  • Marine conservation
  • Biology of microorganisms

Master of Science in Environmental Sciences

Master's programs utilize undergraduate education while emphasizing environmental studies with a focus on environmental degradation. Students gain an advanced understanding of environmental processes and chemistry. Students may choose to focus their studies on specific resources such as land, air or water. Common courses include:

  • Environmental management
  • Environmental policies
  • Environmental planning
  • Environmental monitoring

Doctorate of Philosophy in Natural Resources

Entering a doctoral degree program in natural resources is a logical choice for those interested in freshwater biology careers. These programs teach and enhance student knowledge of the protection and management of fish, water, wildlife and land resources. In addition to intensive research, labs and a dissertation, students complete the following courses.

  • Research paradigms
  • Resource policy and sustainability

Outlook and Salary Info for Freshwater Biology Jobs

Water resources technicians are considered to be environmental science technicians by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This group of professionals is expected to experience a faster-than-average increase in employment opportunities during the 2012-2022 decade, due in part to the need to protect the environment from the increasing demands of population growth. Environmental science technicians in general earned an average salary of $45,910 in May 2014.

Freshwater biologists, or limnologists, fall under the BLS occupation of zoologist/wildlife biologist. The BLS predicts that these scientists will experience a 5% growth rate from 2012-2022, also due to the increasing demands of human populations on wildlife and habitats. In May 2014, freshwater biologists made average yearly wages of $63,230, with major employers being state and federal government agencies.

Those interested in college instruction and/or academic research can expect 19% growth in these jobs overall from 2012-2022 as postsecondary enrollment continues to increase. Postsecondary teachers/researchers of biology sciences, including freshwater biology, made average wages of $86,200 in May 2014.

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