Stress on the Earth's environment, including human development and disasters both man-made and natural, threatens the balance for wild ecosystems and the creatures that inhabit them. At the master's level, programs covering these threats may be offered in wildlife conservation or wildlife biology. Many schools operate extension programs allowing students to take part in real-world wildlife conservation services.
There are both thesis and non-thesis options. The programs are similar; however, a thesis is useful for those who want to earn a Ph.D. and work in research or academia. Graduates are prepared to deal with issues affecting wildlife and natural habitats and to help make wise decisions for the future.
Applicants need an undergraduate degree, preferably in natural science or an environmental field, and an acceptable GPA. Some schools require GRE or other standardized test scores.
In addition to advanced wildlife conservation topics, the coursework in this program may also include teaching, research and internships on the professional level. Here are some sample course titles:
- Wetland Wildlife
- Agriculture and Wildlife
- International Conservation
- Advanced Wetland Ecology
- Environmental Policy
- Conservation Biology
Job Outlook and Salary Information
Graduates of master's-level wildlife conservation programs might become conservation scientists or wildlife biologists. Those types of jobs typically require at least a bachelor's degree in a related area, but a master's degree is usually preferred. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), the 2015 average annual salary for wildlife biologists and zoologists was $64,230, and for conservation scientists it was $63,800.
Another job possibility is that of a curator at a zoo or other animal collection facility. A curator is responsible for overseeing and managing animal collections and typically has a bachelor's (but preferably a master's) degree in an animal science or wildlife management area. Also, zoos and aquariums employ research scientists, who usually have a master's or Ph.D. in zoology or wildlife management, to study how the animals are doing and how they can be helped in the wild.
For individuals who want to pursue research in wildlife conservation, holding a master's degree in the field is an essential step to pursuing a doctorate. A doctorate could also lead to a professor position at a major college or university.
A master's degree in wildlife conservation uses research and hands-on experience to prepare students for a career as a wildlife biologist or conservation scientist. Students gain the necessary background in ecology, wildlife, and conservation and can pursue a doctorate after completion of the program if they so choose.