Conservation Biology Degree Program and Course Information

Oct 12, 2019

Individuals aiming to work in biology research, conservation areas or environmental research may consider a conservation biology degree. Explore the program options, common courses and employment outlook.

Essential Information

Conservation biology degree programs focus on preserving and maintaining the biological diversity of plants and animals. Such multidisciplinary programs incorporate scientific disciplines with social and political issues. Bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degree programs are available in conservation biology. These degree programs may offer a combination of seminars, field experiences, directed research and independent study. Through the study of topics such as ecology, evolution and microbiology, students can prepare to take on such roles as soil conservationist, laboratory assistant or researcher.

For a bachelor's degree program, a high school diploma or the equivalent is required for admission. Master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree in biology, conservation biology or a related field. Ph.D. candidates need a master's degree in conservation biology or a related field before entering into a doctorate degree program. Additionally, they may be required to take a qualifying exam in their first year of study to ensure their ability to continue in a rigorous science-based program.

Bachelor's Degree in Conservation Biology

Bachelor of Science programs in this multidisciplinary science train students in the components of conservation biology, such as habitat preservation, climate change, population biology and social aspects of conservation.

Coursework in a conservation biology bachelor's degree program may include elements of resource management, resource analysis, ecology and social and political issues. Specific coursework may include:

  • Botany
  • Environmental philosophy and politics
  • Ornithology and herpetology
  • Wetland ecology
  • Biogeography
  • Processes and management of the forest ecosystem

Master's Degree in Conservation Biology

The general goal of a Master of Science (M.S.) program in conservation biology is to inspire students to engender solutions to conservation issues in a manner that is both environmentally sound and within the confines of political and social limitations. A master's degree program combines training in biological sciences with the study of the social and political aspects of conservation biology. This program builds upon concepts learned in a bachelor's degree program.

Coursework in a master's degree program involves principles of ecology, wildlife management and geography. Specific courses may include:

  • Water pollution
  • Evolution
  • Animal behavior
  • Computer cartography
  • Aquatic ecology

Ph.D. in Conservation Biology

A Ph.D. in Conservation Biology prepares students for involvement in research and educational careers. Programs focus on both the social and ecological aspects of conservation through independent, multidisciplinary research training.

Coursework involved in a Ph.D. program is often tailored to a student's research interests. The following courses may be part of a Ph.D. program:

  • Research communication
  • Scientific communications
  • Problems in biology
  • Advanced microbiology
  • Bird biogeography

Popular Career Options

With a bachelor's degree in conservation biology, an individual may be able to gain entry-level employment in environmental organizations, law firms, national parks and museums. Entry-level career options include:

  • Museum docent
  • Biology research assistant
  • Environmental lab assistant
  • Park ranger
  • Soil conservationist

Employment Outlook and Career Info

With a master's degree in conservation science, individuals can work in science-based educational programs as habitat restoration experts or in other education and management positions. According to the BLS, the average annual salary of a conservation scientist in May 2018 was $65,320 with federal agency conservation scientists making $79,490 and state and local agency conservationists taking home $53,550 and $56,350, respectively. In addition, the BLS reported in 2018 that federal, state and local government agencies employed the highest number of conservation scientist jobs.

After earning a Ph.D. in Conservation Biology, students may seek employment as postsecondary educators and/or researchers. The BLS reported that in May 2018, college professors teaching conservation science earned an average salary of $92,550, while professors teaching biology earned an average salary of $97,340. In addition, some science organizations provide postdoctoral fellowships for conservation biologists to complete major research projects that aid in solving ecological problems. According to the American Institute of Biological Sciences, biologists working for private research companies and for government agencies may earn a higher salary.

Continuing Education

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers in the field of conservation science typically prefer job applicants to have a master's degree ( Furthermore, a master's degree is required for research and teaching positions.

After completing a conservation biology M.S., a student may choose to go on to earn a doctorate degree in conservation biology. Doctorate degree programs build upon concepts learned in both bachelor's and master's degree programs.

Students interested in studying conservation biology can earn a bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree in the field to prepare for careers as educators, researchers or scientists. All the programs provide students with extensive hands-on training and research opportunities.

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