PhD Programs in Ecology: Degree Information

Students in ecology PhD programs study the relationship between an organism and its environment. See program requirements, coursework and employment opportunities and outlook.

Essential Information

A PhD program in ecology is generally interdisciplinary, including many components of the environmental sciences - such as geology, microbiology, botany and entomology - in addition to the biological sciences. To graduate, PhD students will need to complete a dissertation based on original, independent research. Students typically must possess a master's degree prior to entering into a PhD program. Applicants should have training in mathematics, chemistry, physics, statistics and geology.

PhD in Ecology

A PhD program in ecology may involve coursework in plant and animal physiology, behavioral ecology, ecosystems, paleoecology and social sciences. Topics covered may include:

  • Physiological ecology of plants
  • Population ecology
  • Habitat data analysis
  • Genetics and conservation
  • Landscape management
  • Bioclimatography

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Ecologists can look for employment in a variety of fields, including agronomy, climatology, entomology, forest ecology, oceanography and zoology. Some ecologists may also want to pursue work in teaching. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that postsecondary teachers in general were projected to see a 13% increase in employment opportunities from 2014-2024; postsecondary biological science teachers had a slightly higher projected growth of 16%. The median annual wages for biological science professors were $75,320 in May 2015.

Continuing Education

After successfully finishing a PhD program, an individual may choose to earn a senior ecologist certification through the Ecological Society of America. In addition to an ecology PhD, requirements for certification include organizational and technical competence, five years of full-time professional experience and a demonstrated knowledge of scientific literature. Candidates must have also written an original piece of academic literature pertaining to ecological practices.

A Ph.D. program in ecology combines coursework and research in the environmental and biological sciences to prepare students for careers as researchers or professors. Graduates can expect positive job growth and may decide to earn additional certification.

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