Wildlife Biologist Definition
Wildlife biology is a natural science that explores the various habitats, interactions, and other characteristics of different wildlife species. A wildlife biologist is a scientist who is trained to study wildlife and then, in turn, use their findings to help further preserve wildlife. Here we explore a wildlife biologist career in more detail, including what they do, required education, and salary.
Wildlife Biologist Job Description
|Degree Required||Bachelor's degree|
|Average Annual Salary (2018)*||$67,760 (for zoologists and wildlife biologists)|
|Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)*||5% (for zoologists and wildlife biologists)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
As mentioned, wildlife biologists study different kinds of wildlife to learn about their physical and social characteristics, as well as how they interact with their environment. This is typically done through research projects and experiments conducted in the field, which may require travel. They may also spend time in an office or laboratory analyzing data and preparing their results. Wildlife biologists may be responsible for:
- Collecting specimens and/or biological data
- Observing animal behavior, movement patterns, and more
- Developing breeding and conservation programs
- Monitoring species populations
- Examining the effects of human activity
- Writing scientific papers and articles with their findings
- Presenting findings to the scientific community
Wildlife biology degree programs are available at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Wildlife biologists generally need at least a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions in the field. Typically, aspiring wildlife biologists will major in wildlife biology or another closely related field, such as wildlife management or wildlife ecology and conservation. Very few, if any, of these programs are available in fully online formats.
Wildlife biologists usually need a master's degree to perform more advanced research and a PhD in the field to conduct independent research and/or teach at the postsecondary level. Graduate-level programs in wildlife biology or zoology typically allow students to begin to specialize with particular animal groups, such as birds or reptiles, and/or species and include extensive research and fieldwork. It is important for wildlife biologists to have coursework in subjects like:
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Wildlife Biologist Job Outlook
The BLS reported that the job outlook for zoologists and wildlife biologists for 2018 to 2028 was 5%. This is as fast as the national average and may be attributed to the balance of the need for wildlife biologists to examine the interactions of humans and wildlife and the lack of funding for scientific research in the field.
Wildlife Biologist Salary
PayScale.com reported that the median annual salary for a wildlife biologist in August 2019 was $51,476. This median salary was expected to increase with work experience, as wildlife biologists with 10 to 19 years of experience reported a median salary of $58,789.
The BLS also reported that the average annual salary for zoologists and wildlife biologists in May 2018 was $67,760. At this time, most of these scientists worked in state governments, excluding schools and hospitals, and made an average annual salary of $58,120. Zoologists and wildlife biologists made the most money, with an average of $95,580, working in computer systems design and related services.