How to Become a Certified Wildlife Biologist

Feb 27, 2019

Find out how to become a certified wildlife biologist. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in wildlife biology.

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Should I Become a Certified Wildlife Biologist?

Wildlife biologists collect and analyze data about wildlife behavior, biology, ecology, physiology, and genetics. They use the information to learn about various species and their habitats, and make decisions regarding management and policies.

The job of a wildlife biologist consists of traveling to remote locations for fieldwork, working long and irregular hours, and enduring extreme weather conditions. The Wildlife Society grants certification to wildlife biologists after they meet the organizations rigorous education and experience requirements. The path to certification typically includes a minimum of a bachelor's degree and at least five years of practical experience. Those with advanced degrees in the field can apply for certification.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree (minimum); master's and/or Ph.D. for advancement
Degree Field Wildlife biology or similar related field
Certification Available from the Wildlife Society
Experience Educational experience recommended; field experience required for certification
Key Skills Communications, organization, writing skills, observation, data gathering, analysis, and the use of the scientific method
Median Salary (2015)* $59,680 per year (for zoologist and wildlife biologists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Wildlife Society, Job postings (July 2012), O*Net OnLine,

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The Wildlife Society requires applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in a subject related to wildlife biology. They have specific requirements regarding the type of courses taken in the degree program. The majority of courses should be from the areas of wildlife biology and management, botany, ecology, and zoology. Another important area is communication, which includes courses in English composition and public speaking. Courses include topics in administration, law, and policies that are specific to wildlife biology and management. These courses are found in a wildlife biology degree program.

Success Tip:

Earn experience by volunteering or interning. Interning doesn't count towards the five-year experience requirement needed for the Wildlife Society certification. Instead, an internship is a good way to show potential employers you've been exposed to a wildlife biologist's job. Professional references for future jobs can be obtained through volunteering and interning.

Step 2: Apply for Associate Wildlife Biologist Certification

The Wildlife Society offers associate certification to candidates with a bachelor's degree. Candidates who receive the associate wildlife biologist certification demonstrate professionalism and ethical behavior. The certification lasts for up to ten years after it's awarded. During this time, associate certification holders should acquire more experience and apply to become a Certified Wildlife Biologist before the associate certification expires.

Step 3: Gain Experience

The Wildlife Society defines professional experience as work accomplished in the field of wildlife biology after completing a bachelor's degree program. Experience as a fish biologist, park ranger, and even a wildlife technician isn't accepted. To obtain experience, you can volunteer or work as a wildlife biologist for a state or federal agency such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Park Service.

Another way to meet the experience requirement is to complete either a master's or Ph.D. degree program in wildlife biology or a related subject. A master's degree counts for one year of experience, a Ph.D. counts for two years. Therefore, a person who holds both degrees is granted the equivalent of three years of experience. In addition, these degrees qualify you for wildlife biology research positions.

Success Tip:

Maintain strong ethics and develop professional relationships. Whether through professional employment or advanced education, you should strive to meet the Wildlife Society's strict ethical guidelines. Those who review applications for certification at the Wildlife Society pay close attention to references regarding behavior that is deemed professional, ethical, and in support of the goals of the society and the wildlife biology community.

Step 4: Get Certified as a Certified Wildlife Biologist

After fulfilling the minimum requirements, you can apply to the Wildlife Society to become a Certified Wildlife Biologist. The process includes a detailed application review, submission of college transcripts and professional references, and paying a fee. A wildlife biologist can apply for certification renewal every five years. To qualify for renewal, Certified Wildlife Biologists must prove they uphold certain guidelines required while working with the certification. Although the requirements are specific and demanding, employers will prefer to hire applicants with certification.

Obtaining a bachelor's degree, getting certified as an Associate Wildlife Biologist, gaining experience and advanced degrees, and getting certified as a Certified Wildlife Biologist are the path to making the most of this career choice.

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