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Wildlife Habitats & Reservations: Career Options & Job Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed for a career in wildlife habitats and reservations. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, training and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

Wildlife habitat and reservation careers include conservation workers, foresters and conservation scientists. Entry-level jobs can be obtained with a high school diploma, although a degree will increase job opportunities. Those interested in pursuing postsecondary studies that can lead to a career at a wildlife habitat and reservation center can consider studies in conservation biology, biological science, wildlife management, or agricultural and biological science.

Essential Information

Wildlife habitat and reservation jobs are most often found with government agencies. The primary similarity between the different jobs in wildlife habitats and reservations is the focus on conservation and protection of wildlife and the environment. Formal education may be required, and professional experience is often beneficial in finding a job in this field.

Required Education High school diploma for lower-level positions, bachelor's degree or higher for advanced positions
Other Requirements Professional experience in wildlife habitats or reservations preferred
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 4% for conservation workers and foresters,
7% for conservation scientists,
8% for foresters
Median Salary (2015)* $26,190 for conservation workers,
$61,110 for conservation scientists,
$58,230 for foresters

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

While there are some jobs at private reserves and nonprofit conservation organizations, the majority of wildlife conservation workers end up employed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), the National Park Service or local government preserves. Career options include archaeologists, botanists, rangers, geologists, forestry and wildlife technicians, biologists, mechanics, gardeners, human resources specialists and foresters. Some jobs may be labor intensive and usually only provide seasonal employment. Advanced positions, such as scientists and foresters, usually have job duties that involve scientific tasks, research and creative thinking.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for conservation workers are expected to see slower-than-average 4% growth from 2014 to 2024, while conservation scientists will experience 7% job growth and foresters are expected to job growth of 8%. In 2015, the BLS reported a median annual salary for forest and conservation workers of $26,190. Conservation scientists made a median wage of $61,110 per year at that time, and foresters' median annual income was $58,230.

Requirements

Which level and type of degree to seek depends on whether the applicant prefers to work in research, management or labor. A typical laborer job at a nature reserve requires a high school diploma, though a college degree may help to increase employment opportunities and advancement. Wildlife workers may consider earning a degree in wildlife management, agricultural and biological science or natural resource management. A bachelor's degree in conservation biology is often required to manage a National Wildlife Refuge. Typically, a 4-year degree is needed to work as a manager on a wildlife reserve. For research positions, graduate degrees are often required.

In some cases, government agencies may allow work experience to be fully or a partially substituted for education requirements. Regardless of what education or experience a person has, prospective nature reserve workers need to be passionate about the environment, wildlife and conservation.

Many wildlife habitat and reservation employees work for the government. Professionals in this field may work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Park Service. In addition to conservation workers, conservation scientists and foresters, other career options in this field include being a botanist, a ranger or a wildlife technician.

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