Wildlife Biology Graduate Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Dec 04, 2019

Programs in wildlife biology allow students to study wild animals and the habitats, environments and ecosystems that they occupy. The field encompasses a broad range of specialties, such as conservation studies, fish and animal biology, which students may choose when entering graduate level degree programs.

Master's and doctoral degree programs are available in wildlife biology through the fish and wildlife departments of many 4-year universities and colleges; at times, a school will offer programs through a conservation department. Some schools offer a standard curriculum for graduate students, while others offer a wide variety of concentration areas, such as ecology, nutrition, endangered species biology and aquatic toxicology.

10 Plant and Animal Science Schools in the U.S.

Here are several public and private schools that offer master's and doctoral degrees in wildlife biology or a closely related field:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition 2018-2019*
Cornell University Ithaca, New York 4-year, Private Master's, doctorate $29,500
University of California--Davis Davis, California 4-year, Public Master's, doctorate In-state tuition $11,442 Out-of-state tuition $26,544
University of California--Berkeley Berkeley, California 4-year, Public Doctorate In-state tuition $11,442 Out-of-state tuition $26,544
Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts 4-year, Private Doctorate $46,384
University of Florida Gainesville, Florida 4-year, Public Master's, doctorate In-state tuition $10,770 Out-of-state tuition $27,335
University of California--Riverside Riverside, California 4-year, Public Master's, doctorate In-state tuition $11,442 Out-of-state tuition $26,544
Michigan State University East Lansing, Michigan 4-year, Public Master's, doctorate In-state tuition $18,132 Out-of-state tuition $35,628
University of Wisconsin--Madison Madison, Wisconsin 4-year, Public Master's, doctorate In-state tuition $10,728 Out-of-state tuition $24,054
Duke University Durham, North Carolina 4-year, Private Master's, doctorate, certificate $53,540
University of Minnesota--Twin Cities Minneapolis, Minnesota 4-year, Public Master's, doctorate In-state tuition $17,064 Out-of-state tuition $26,412

*Source: National Center for Educational Statistics

School Selection Criteria

When selecting a program in wildlife science, students should consider the following:

  • School location is an important factor when choosing a program because different schools offer different climates, environments and ecosystems for study. Students interested in marine life may choose a school near an ocean, while students with an interest in plains and forest animals may choose a school in the middle of the country near a wildlife conservation organization.
  • Depending on whether they intend to pursue careers as hands-on conservationists or as research scientists, students should evaluate programs for their relative emphasis on fieldwork, coursework and original research.
  • Some programs offer non-thesis options for professionals currently working in the field, such as wildlife administrators and supervisors who wish to enhance their credentials through extended academic study.

Master's Degree in Wildlife Biology

Commonly offered as an M.S. in Wildlife Biology, master's degree programs are typically offered in combination with a second area of study, such as fisheries or conservation. Internships are not generally required, but some form of real-world experience is mandatory in most cases. A thesis is almost always required, along with written or oral examinations.

Ph.D. in Wildlife Biology

A Ph.D. in Wildlife Biology is a research-based degree program that is designed to prepare students for positions as professors and research scientists. Students are required to complete a dissertation, and may also need to complete written and oral examinations. Some schools may offer specialization areas, such as the study of fisheries or a biology concentration, but specializations are typically specific to the degree program and integrated into the curriculum.

Not all programs require students to hold a master's degree in order to apply for the Ph.D. program, and in some cases, field experience and select prerequisite classes could outweigh academic study. As a general rule, experience in the field prior to graduate school application is recommended and could be advantageous to prospective graduate students.

When selecting a program in wildlife biology, students should look into specific environmental climates and research opportunities. In these programs, students will learn about animal environments and systems.

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