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Careers Working with Wildlife Tracking Systems

Sep 26, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed for a career in wildlife tracking. Get a quick view of the specific careers that utilize this technology as well as details about degree requirements, training, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

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Maintaining wildlife populations is part of the task that foresters perform. They track animals and monitor their food and water supplies to help keep them away from developed areas. Wildlife biologists and geographic informational specialists also track wildlife, monitoring endangered animals and population numbers.

Essential Information

Animal populations and behaviors in a given area are monitored using wildlife tracking systems. These systems utilize advanced technology like motion sensors, aerial photography, global positioning systems and infrared cameras. Forestry, geography and wildlife biology degree programs provide training with various wildlife tracking systems.

Careers Foresters Geographic Information Specialists Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
Required Education Bachelor's Degree Bachelor's Degree Master's Degree
Other Requirements Some states require a license If categorized as a land surveyor then a license is necessary No licensing requirements
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028*) 1% 15% (for cartographers and photogrammetrists) 5%
Mean Salary (2018*) $63,150 $68,340 (for cartographers and photogrammetrists) $67,760

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Forester

Foresters work in the field of conservation, helping maintain wildlife populations. Using wildlife tracking equipment, such as geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS), foresters can determine common food and water sources, locations of different species and seasonal migration patterns. They can use this information to keep wildlife habitats safe from urban development.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of foresters is expected to grow 1% from 2018-2028. The BLS suggests that employment opportunities may be best for those with strong GIS skills. As of May 2018, foresters earned an average salary of $63,150.

Geographic Information Specialist

Sometimes called cartographers, geographic information specialists mainly use GIS equipment to map out geographic regions. Some specialists also use cameras and other equipment to track wildlife in a particular area. For instance, endangered animals are often tracked to verify the numbers of a given population over time. Specialists also assist land owners in determining a region's wildlife population. This information is vital to land owners who are interested in eco-friendly construction and development.

According to the BLS, employment of cartographers and photogrammetrists is predicted to increase 15% between 2018 and 2028. This much faster-than-average growth is attributed to the growing number of map-based websites and applications. These workers earned an average annual salary of $68,340 as of May 2018, per BLS data.

Wildlife Biologist

A wildlife biologist studies the behavior, physical appearance and activity of animals, including how they interact with their environments and with humans. They may use GIS systems to track their movements and estimate population levels. The GIS data may be used to predict the spread of diseases and invasive species as well as changes in their habitats.

Per the BLS, wildlife biologists and zoologists earned an average salary of $67,760 in May 20158. While wildlife biologists and zoologists will continue to be in demand to study animals, job growth will be slower-than-average due to shrinking budgets. Thus, the BLS predicts that employment of these workers will only increase five percent from 2018-2028.

Requirements for Careers Working with Wildlife Tracking Systems

Education Requirements

Both foresters and geographic information specialists need a minimum of a 4-year degree while wildlife biologists may need a graduate degree. The BLS reported that foresters usually major in forestry, but those interested in tracking wildlife could consider including a minor in wildlife sciences. Forestry coursework typically covers GIS and remote sensing technology, ecology, plant and animal identification, biology and fire prevention.

Geographic information specialists can choose to major in forestry or a related major, including cartography, engineering or geography. Whatever the major, students should make sure their program includes extensive studies in GIS, GPS and other technology used for mapping and tracking wildlife. Cartography and geography coursework generally includes map interpretation, world geography, aerial photography, GIS technologies and environmental systems.

A bachelor's degree may be sufficient for some entry-level wildlife biologist positions; however, the BLS indicates that a master's degree is often needed for career advancement and a Ph.D. is needed for research positions. Undergraduate degree programs in zoology, ecology or biology could be a good fit for this career; some schools also offer degree programs specifically in wildlife biology.

Licensing Requirements

Foresters are not required to be licensed in every state, but the BLS reported that, as of 2008, 16 states had licensing regulations. To obtain a license, applicants are usually required to possess a specified number of years of field work and a bachelor's degree. Many foresters-in-training obtain experience while working alongside a licensed forester or by volunteering.

Depending on the specific occupation or employer, geographic information specialists might not need a license. However, some states categorize these specialists as a type of land surveyor, and every state requires surveyors to be licensed. The licensure process for surveyors can involve taking multiple exams over time. After applicants pass the first exam, they work in the field to accrue experience before the next exam. Each state has different requirements for the number of exams and amount of experience required to complete the process. Wildlife biologists are not required to be licensed.

Careers that involve wildlife tracking require a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Common fields of study include forestry, wildlife sciences, biology or cartography. An entry-level position as a wildlife biologist may be possible with a bachelor's degree but a master's is required for advancement, while wildlife biologists interested in research will need a Ph.D.

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