Ecologist: Job & Career Information

Job seekers trained in ecology or environmental science may find job opportunities in fieldwork and research, and with more experience can move on to jobs in applied ecology, environmental impact assessment, environmental geology, meteorology, hydrology or oceanography. Read on to learn more about the education and skills requirements, along with the salary and employment outlook.

Career Definition for an Ecologist

An ecologist finds ways to use resources efficiently and manage them responsibly, identifies ecological hazards and works to eliminate them, and studies the environment in general. Ecologists conduct research into the preservation and reclamation of natural resources, help business and industry to be ecologically responsible and work for government agencies, which inspect and regulate environmental standards.

Education Bachelor's, master's or Ph.D. in ecology
Job Skills Interest in preserving the environment, desire to solve problems, understanding of scientific methodology
Median Salary (2017)* $69,400 (environmental scientists and specialists)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 11% (environmental scientists and specialists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

A bachelor's degree in ecology will prepare a student for entry-level fieldwork or a position as a lab technician, but positions in applied research often require a master's degree. In order to teach or lead independent research, applicants must typically have a Ph.D. in the appropriate sub-specialty. Environmental science programs offer students an interdisciplinary approach to the natural sciences, requiring credits from a broad range of subjects. Ecology undergraduates will typically get a firm foundation in biology, chemistry, geography, hydrology and statistics, before selecting a specialty subject for a higher degree.

Skills Required

An interest in preserving and protecting the environment is important, along with a natural curiosity and a desire to solve problems. As in most scientific disciplines, a firm grasp of scientific methodology can be a valuable asset.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for the broader category of environmental scientists and specialists was expected to be 11% from 2016-2026. As of May 2017, environmental scientists and specialists earned a median annual salary of $69,400.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options within this field include:

Environmental Engineer

With a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering or a related field, these engineers can use scientific and engineering principles to find solutions to problems plaguing the environment. Some schools offer 5-year degrees that confer both a bachelor's and a master's degree. The BLS projected faster-than-average job growth, from 2016-2026, of 8% and reported an annual median wage in 2017 of $86,800.


Hydrologists usually have master's degrees in the natural sciences and need licenses in some states. These scientists study water and work toward solving issues pertaining to water availability and quality. In 2017, the BLS reported median earnings of $79,990, per year, and predicted a faster-than-average employment increase of 10% from 2016-2026.

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