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Wildlife Studies Degree Program Summaries

Wildlife studies focus on the scientific observation of wild animals and their habitats, as well as management of animal populations and ecosystems. Explore the different degree program options, as well as employment opportunities.

Essential Information

Bachelor's programs emphasize hands-on lab experience, while master's and doctoral programs are research-intensive. Master's students must complete a research project or thesis in order to graduate. As a result, the first year is usually devoted to narrowing down a field of study, and the second year is focused on choosing an advisor and completing a thesis. Most Ph.D. programs require participants to pursue advanced research, teach undergraduates, and complete a dissertation. Online programs in wildlife science are available.

While a bachelor's degree is sufficient for most entry-level jobs in wildlife management, those interested in pursuing research will need a master's or Ph.D. degree.

Bachelor's degree programs require applicants have earned a high school diploma or GED certificate prior to enrollment. Most master's degree programs in wildlife sciences require applicants to have completed a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as biology, wildlife management, or ecology. Programs also require applicants have taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and have maintained a high GPA. Most Ph.D. programs in wildlife and fisheries science require applicants to have completed or be finishing a master's degree program. Some programs accept prospective students with only a bachelor's degree if they have a high GPA and have completed honors courses. Candidates are also required to submit their test scores from the GRE.


Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Science

Students learn about game and fisheries management, ecology, and plant management, conservation techniques and the natural sciences. Students should be confident working both independently and as part of a team. Heavy in science and mathematics courses, this bachelor's degree program provides a thorough background in several aspects of the biological and physical nature of wildlife. Lessons touch upon:

  • Botany
  • Fishery management
  • Biology and biology lab
  • Statistics
  • Zoology

Master of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife Science

Master's programs provide a thorough understanding of wildlife science through advanced study. Students specialize in one aspect of the field for research during their second year. Areas of study include:

  • Advanced fish ecology
  • Wetlands ecology and conservation
  • Applied data and statistics
  • Animal population behavior and management
  • Ecology of forests and forestry management

Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Graduate students who wish to complete a doctoral degree in wildlife and fisheries science do so in order to pursue a career in research or teaching. Some graduates choose to also pursue a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Students take many of the same core courses required of master's degree candidates. Depending on their area of dissertation research, students concentrate on one particular problem or area of wildlife science, such as limnology, toxicology of water systems or vertebrate behavior. Advanced-level course topics include:

  • Landscape ecology and conservation
  • Vertebrate behavior and ecology
  • Range populations
  • Invasive species management
  • Seminar on wildlife science

Popular Career Options

Graduates qualify for many entry-level jobs in the government or private sector. Wildlife scientists can also find work in non-science fields such as marketing, textbook or journal publishing and teaching. Some career choices include:

  • High school biology teacher
  • Fish and wildlife technician
  • Range conservationist

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

A large number of wildlife scientists with master's degrees find employment in state parks and recreation or fishery departments; others pursue research-based positions for the government or private sector, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS stated that employment of wildlife biologists and zoologists is projected to increase by 4% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reported that, as of May 2015, the national median salary of wildlife biologists and zoologists was $59,680 (www.bls.gov).

Popular Career Options

Graduates can qualify for advanced independent research positions, academic work and consulting work. Popular career choices include:

  • Professor of wildlife science
  • Conservation consultant
  • Fisheries and wildlife department research

Students interested in wildlife science can earn a bachelor's, master's or doctorate in the field. Graduates will often find work in research or education that focuses on their area of specialization.

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