Bachelor's degrees in fish, wildlife and forestry cover conservation, ecology and wildlife law, providing foundational knowledge for the overall field. Master's degree programs provide advanced knowledge or allow professionals to further specialize in an ecological niche, such as marine or arboreal conservation.
Online programs are rare at both levels, and distance learning undergraduate degrees still require some in-person lab work. Students interested in a fully online bachelor's degree might consider a related program in environmental science. Master's degrees often require field internships and final presentations, though program course requirements can be completed online.
Bachelor's Degree in Fish, Wildlife and Forestry
While online fish, wildlife and forestry bachelor's degree programs are uncommon, students can complete most of their Bachelor of Science coursework over the Internet. Students are expected to complete laboratory-based courses through a local community college or university. Programs emphasize conservation, and students often have the opportunity to participate in field-based internships.
Program Information and Requirements
With the exception of required biology lab classes, students can complete most of their fish, wildlife and forestry coursework entirely online. Lectures are delivered through streaming videos and students interact with classmates and teachers through e-mail and message boards. The program takes four years to complete.
The courses required in a fish, wildlife and forestry online bachelor's degree program teach students about wildlife habitats and restoration, wildlife law enforcement and human interference in ecosystems.
A wildlife conservation course covers natural resource conservation from a historical and practical perspective. Students also learn about wildlife management and research and the cost of conservation.
An ecology course teaches students about the relationships between organisms and their environment. Students discuss ecological principles at various levels of species organization.
Through lectures and lab experiments, a population dynamics course teaches students how to manage wildlife populations. Students learn how to estimate population numbers, calculate healthy harvest levels and understand whether a species is at risk of extinction.
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Master's Degree in Fish, Wildlife and Forestry
An online master's degree program in fish, wildlife and forestry allows students to specialize in such areas as natural resource conservation, development and management. Geared toward those already working in the field, these programs teach students about the effect of economics and public policy on the management and conservation of natural resources.
Program Information and Requirements
Often a 36-credit-hour program, the master's degree in natural resources takes 2-3 years to complete. Depending on the program, students may further their knowledge in land-based and water-based ecosystems, endangered species and the policies that affect natural resource management. Some programs require internships and campus-based final presentations, and some prerequisites can often be completed through local or other online colleges and universities.
Students make use of Internet tools including discussion boards, chat programs and e-mail. Time management, discussion participation and independent learning skills are often very important aspects of the program.
Specific courses vary by program and whether or not the student chooses a specialty, but the requirements of a fish, wildlife and forestry master's degree program often focuses heavily on natural resource management. Students learn about public policy, economics and natural energy resources.
Students learn about environmental policies, policy analysis and research methods in an environmental policy course. The methods of making and implementing public policy is also discussed.
Students may complete a course in environmental protection to learn about the laws, policies and agencies that govern environmental standards at local, state and federal levels. The course covers the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act and more.
Graduates of a bachelor's degree program in fish, wildlife and forestry science can find jobs with state and national fish and wildlife services, parks agencies, zoos and conservation groups. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those working as forest and conservation technicians made a median annual wage of $35,430 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Payscale.com reports that wildlife biologists made a median annual wage of $50,746 as of October 2016.
Graduates of an online master's degree program in fish, wildlife and forestry or natural resources are qualified to work for natural resources departments, conservation agencies, zoos and ecological organizations. Often, master's degree holders work in managerial positions or enter the teaching field. The BLS reported that foresters earned a median wage of $58,230 a year in May 2015, and those working for the federal U.S. government earned an annual average of $64,260 for the same date.
Continuing Education Information
Students interested in becoming foresters might consider certification through the Society of American Foresters, which requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited program, five years in the field and successful completion of an exam. Another certification option is offered through the Society for Range Management, which offers rangeland management and rangeland consultant certifications.
Students can earn a bachelor's degree in fish, wildlife and forestry partially online or pursue a fully online master's degree. Both programs offer hands-on learning experiences that can prepare graduates for wildlife biology and forestry careers as well as related professional certification once they meet the work experience requirements.