Should I Become a Wetland Technician?
Wetland technicians work in the field to measure and document the conditions of a natural area's soil, plant life and water resources. Through coursework in associate's and bachelor's degree programs, those studying to become wetland technicians learn about plant identification, biology, ecology, surveying and mapping. Job duties can include creating and locating study plots with GPS units, interpreting aerial photographs and entering field data into computer databases.
Individuals who possess strong prioritizing, critical-thinking and analytical skills as well as an ability to work well in small groups are best suited for this career. This work can be physically difficult, and potential challenges include hiking on wet and uneven terrain in all weather conditions and in remote locations. Jobs in this field can require long work hours.
|Degree Level||Associate's degree meets minimum requirements|
|Degree Fields||Environmental conservation, environmental science, forestry, botany|
|Experience||Entry-level, wetland internships can provide fieldwork experience|
|Certification||Available, but voluntary|
|Key Skills||Plant identification, mapping and surveying skills; physical endurance; familiarity with GPS systems|
|Salary||$35,260 (median salary for all forest and conservation technicians)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014).
Step 1: Complete an Associate Degree Program in Environmental Conservation
The first step in becoming a wetland technician is to develop a basic understanding of wetlands ecology through an associate-level degree program in environmental conservation or, for wetland silviculture, forestry. These 2-year programs cover the fundamentals of biology and provide an overview of government policy and regulation. Methods of species identification and measuring, principles of ecology and fundamentals of earth science are addressed in these programs. Natural resource management is also introduced, as well as water and soil biology and chemistry.
Step 2: Gain Experience through Wetlands Internships
Either concurrent with an associate degree program or directly following it, students should take part in wetland internships. These internships generally take place in the wilderness and provide the hands-on experience that is critical to developing skills necessary for fieldwork. Scientific skills, such as biological sampling, surveying and species identification techniques, are reinforced alongside practical skills in wilderness safety, wetlands navigation, GIS, wilderness camping, methods of travel and basic survival. Students learn to function far from the comforts of civilization, performing their job duties in sometimes difficult environments.
Step 3: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Biology or Environmental Science
In continuing to build a career in wetlands science, some technicians move on to complete a relevant bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree in biology, forestry or environmental science may prepare participants for leadership positions in which they'll manage projects, train new employees and lead research teams. Courses taken in these programs should help students develop skills in land management and measurement. Areas of study may include both biological and policy aspects of environmental studies.
Step 4: Consider Certification
Wetland technicians who have met basic educational requirements but lack experience can pursue the Wetland Professional In Training designation through the Society of Wetland Scientists as a preliminary step. Applicants meeting both educational and experience requirements can pursue certification as Professional Wetland Scientists. Certification must be renewed every five years through work experience, conference attendance or other professional activities.