Both bachelor's and master's degree programs in natural resources management can be completed online, though they aren't widely available. Programs can usually be completed fully online, although schools may offer voluntary internships or independent study opportunities. Some natural resources degree programs may offer specialization areas, like urban forestry, wildlife conservation or natural resources policy.
Online master's degree programs in this field are the most common, and they are usually designed for professionals already working in a field of natural resources. They may require an oral presentation via video chat. Graduate certificate programs are also offered, but they are less common and aren't covered in the article below.
Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources Management
Natural resource management studies emphasize the interdependence of humans and the natural world. Core classes consist mainly of earth, water and air science, math, statistics and biology. These courses are brought together through the study of ecology. Students also learn about the political, economic and social considerations that humans bring to bear on natural resources and policy making.
Wildlife, fish, water, forests and range are among the individual resources examined in depth. Students are usually required to specialize in an area such as conservation, ecology or natural resource policy to prepare for a career direction.
Program Information and Requirements
Almost all classes in natural resource management are available online. They are taught via streaming video lectures and downloadable written materials. Students also participate in live discussions with instructors and classmates via Blackboard or similar software.
Technical requirements usually consist of a computer with high-speed Internet access and e-mail, plus CD/DVD capability. Some courses include attachments as part of assignments and require Adobe Reader.
Programs focus on three main areas, which are core topics, choice of specialty area and the seven natural resource disciplines. These disciplines include fish and wildlife, land and water, forestry, range, natural resource philosophy and values, socio-political issues and natural resources as human amenities.
This course examines the two basic approaches to U.S. forestry, which are ecological-biotic and utilitarian-agricultural. The influence of current cultural ethics and attitudes on these philosophies is also explored.
Wildlife and Fish Conservation
The complexities of conservation are presented from both historical and holistic perspectives. In-depth analysis of individual species management, such as for elk or salmon, provides a framework to understand the biological, ecosystem, animal behavior and human factors involved.
Marine Mammal Conservation and Biology
Whales and other marine mammals have special adaptations for their lives in sea water. Echolocation, diving abilities, reproduction and migration are among the topics covered. Conservation of marine mammals and their relationship to humans is also presented.
Geographic Information Survey
This class shows how GPS, remote sensing and other geography data systems are used in managing natural resources. Case studies offer an opportunity for students to learn about information quality issues that might arise.
Master of Science in Natural Resources Management
Master's programs in natural resource management are more common than bachelor's programs and are often designed for working professionals who want more flexibility in job choice and opportunities for advancement. These programs have a strong focus on the interdisciplinary aspects of resource management and prepare graduates to take administrative leadership roles. Key topics of study are ecology and management, human dimensions, natural resource technology and planning policies.
Program Information and Requirements
Master's programs take two to three years to complete and generally follow the on-campus term schedule. Within that framework, students may study on their own time. Classes are offered fully online and in combination with campus classes. Students are encouraged to participate regularly in online discussions, which can contribute significantly to the final grade.
Technical equipment includes computer with Internet, a browser that is Java-enabled and e-mail access. Adobe Reader, Flash Player or other plug-ins are also necessary, along with a word processing program. Print textbooks may be required for some courses and might be purchased at a discount through the school's bookstore.
Although master level programs have no thesis component, courses may require research or a professional paper. Some programs culminate in an oral presentation that can be completed via video conference.
Law and the Environment
A number of federal laws and regulations are particularly important for environmental issues, including the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. This class explores how some of these laws came to be, what impact they have around the country and how they continue to evolve.
Human Dimensions of Ecology
Humans have an undeniable effect on the natural world and play a major role in sustaining ecological viability. In this course, students examine the evidence suggesting that the success of such human efforts depends on economic feasibility, social desirability and ecological practicality.
Ecology of Rangelands
Rangeland makes up 50% of land on the Earth and consists of arid and semi-arid ecosystems. This course examines the natural forces that most influence rangelands, which are disturbances such as fire and climate change, succession of flora and fauna, and nutrient changes. Students are challenged to analyze and interpret rangeland ecology data.
Ecology and Management of Wetlands
The identification and maintenance of freshwater wetland habitats and their communities of flora and fauna are explored. Students also look at ways of developing such areas with as little impact as possible, following requirements of the Clean Water Act and other regulations.
In 2015, there were about 20,200 conservation scientists employed in the U.S. Job growth is projected at about 7% from 2014 through 2024, which is average. Growth will be especially influenced by an increased emphasis on wildfire management by government agencies, resulting in more funding and programs. The development of urban forestry and sustainability is also important. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates with at least a 4-year degree have the best chance to get entry-level work.
The 2015 median annual salary for foresters was $58,230 and $61,110 for conservation scientists. The majority of natural resource managers work in government jobs. Government jobs also offer strong benefits packages and pension plans.
Continuing Education Information
Natural resources managers may help advance their careers by earning certification through continuing education. Professional experience and passage of an exam may be required for certification.
Natural resources management degree programs are available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels to train students in areas of ecology, conservation and environmental law. Graduates can advance their careers as conservation scientists or foresters through certification.