Online wildlife management master's degree programs are rare; students may find entirely online natural resources management or wildlife administration master's degree programs instead. Programs usually require that applicants hold a bachelor's degree before starting, though it need not necessarily be in a related field. Some programs offer remedial courses in basic natural science and ecology for individuals without previous educational or professional experience in environmental or wildlife management areas. While coursework is available fully online, students may have to come to campus for thesis requirements for final exams.
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Master's Degree in Wildlife Administration or Natural Resources Management
Wildlife management-related classes draw from biology, ecology, statistics and earth sciences. Some master's degree programs are offered by the agriculture or natural resources departments of universities, while others are specializations within biology programs. Classes also cover vocational topics, such as forestry principles and fishery management. Graduates are prepared for work in government agencies at the federal or state levels or in private environmental organizations.
Information and Requirements
Online master's degree programs in wildlife administration or natural resources management are generally designed to accommodate students engaged in full-time employment, so courses can be taken part-time depending on a student's schedule.
During an online master's degree program, students access course readings and lectures from university websites and interact with one another and their instructors on Internet message boards and via e-mail. Some programs require that students travel to campus at the end of their program to defend a thesis or sit for final examinations.
Most classes in wildlife administration or natural resources management programs derive their course matter from the sciences, though some are influenced by various disciplines, such as mathematics, geography or business. For example, students may be required to take courses in the economics of natural resources or geographic information systems (GIS).
Behavioral ecology explores the relationship between animals and their environments from ecological and evolutionary perspectives. Students learn about patterns of animal behavior and study their causes.
A course on wildlife habitats looks at the environmental requirements and effects of wildlife in various ecosystems. Course topics may also include current U.S. laws governing the management of land designated as wildlife habitats.
Students learn about ways of restoring damaged land and marine environments to a state that can support wildlife. Various types of ecosystems and techniques for restoration are discussed. Legal, financial and practical approaches are covered.
Career Information for Graduates
Graduates of wildlife management master's degree programs may seek employment as foresters and conservation specialists. Most available positions are in government agencies (about 75% of conservation scientists and 39% of foresters work for government agencies as of 2014). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average annual wage for conservation scientists as of 2015 was $63,800. Foresters earned an average wage of $60,650 in the same year.
Continuing Education Information
Job positions for conservation and wildlife management specialists usually do not require education beyond a master's degree. However, graduates with an interest in an academic research or teaching career might pursue a doctorate in wildlife or natural resources management. There are currently few online options for wildlife management Ph.D. programs, though students may be able to find universities that offer some portion of courses online. The Wildlife Society manages U.S. professional certification for trained wildlife biologists.
Students interested in studying wildlife management online may need to pursue an online master's program in wildlife administration to study ecology, wildlife habitats and more. Graduates of these programs may be prepared for work as conservation scientists or foresters, but also have the option to enroll in doctoral programs.