Urban Ecologist: Job Description & Career Info

Mar 18, 2019

Learn what urban ecologists do. See the education and training requirements, and find out what the career prospects are to discover if this job is right for you.

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Career Definition for an Urban Ecologist

An urban ecologist studies humans, animals, and plants and how they interact and relate with each other and their environment in an urban setting. They also study and research any ecological conditions and developmental patterns that occur within an urban development. Urban ecologists also investigate the quality of sunlight and water, and how they affect life in a city.

Required Education Bachelor's, master's, or Ph.D. in ecology or related field
Job Skills Competent in the scientific disciplines, good communication skills, comprehension of scientific research and analysis
Average Salary (2017)* $66,250 (zoologists and wildlife biologists)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 8% (zoologists and wildlife biologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

A bachelor's degree in ecology is required for anyone looking to start a career as an urban ecologist. This type of degree will only get you an entry-level position. If you are interested in acquiring a high-level position, or in teaching at the collegiate level, you will need to receive your master's degree or your Ph.D. Coursework in environmental research, biology, mathematics and statistics, and zoology will be essential for success in an urban ecology career.

Skills Required

All urban ecologists must be well-versed in all the scientific disciplines, including chemistry, biology, and environmental science, and have a strong understanding of scientific research and analysis methods. Excellent communications skills are needed to write and present reports on how to prevent and solve urban environmental issues.

Career and Economic Outlook

Due to the nature of the career, the best place to find a job as an urban ecologist is in a major metropolitan city in the United States, such as New York City. Smaller cities with a commitment to the environment, such as Portland (OR), Tampa (FL), and Seattle (WA), may also provide good job prospects.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov, doesn't offer a salary statistic specifically for ecologists. However, the BLS noted that zoologists and wildlife biologists earned an average annual salary of $66,250 as of May 2017; other biological scientists earned an average of $80,200 annually during the same time period. The BLS also reports that zoologist and wildlife biologist jobs are expected to grow 8% from 2016 to 2026.

Alternate Career Options

Other careers similar to an urban ecologist include:

Conservation Scientist

Conservation scientists coordinate the responsible use of land - whether it's farmland, forest or park land, in keeping with the concepts of environmental and natural resource stewardship and applicable state or federal regulations. Conservation scientists are concerned with issues like crop rotation, reforestry, and terracing. They usually have at least a bachelor's degree and are often government employees, although some conservation scientists work for advocacy groups. Common degree fields include forestry and agricultural or environmental science. Some states require licensing and registration of conservation scientists; workers in this field may also earn voluntary professional certification. According to the BLS, the number of jobs for conservation scientists isn't expected to increase significantly from 2016-2026, just 6%. The BLS also reports that conservation scientists earned mean pay of $64,850 in 2017.


A microbiologist is a scientist who specializes in the study of organisms that are so small, they can't be seen without a microscope. Microbiologists can specialize according to what they study - like fungi, viruses, bacteria, or what they want to learn - like environmental microbiology, immunology, industrial microbiology or clinical microbiology. Microbiologists work collaboratively with other lab professionals. They develop and carry out experiments and deliver reports of what they find to others. Microbiologists need at least a bachelor's degree in biological sciences. A graduate degree, such as a Ph.D., can allow microbiologists to perform more advanced and independent research. Clinical microbiologists can earn voluntary professional certification. The BLS reports that jobs for microbiologists are expected to increase 8% from 2016-2026. Microbiologists earned average pay of $78,400 in 2017, per the BLS.

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