Wildlife management programs focus on the conservation of regional wildlife and biodiversity. Educational tracks in this field are offered at undergraduate and graduate levels. Bachelor's programs integrate general education curriculum with biology and conservation major coursework. Master's and doctoral degree programs are generally more research-intensive and involve more in-depth study and fieldwork, possibly requiring a thesis.
Bachelor's Degree in Wildlife Management
Bachelor's degree programs in wildlife management usually have a regional focus on wildlife and plants specific to that area, providing students access to more in-depth field studies. These programs teach students the necessity of biodiversity and how factors affecting the ecological balance can alter plants and animals native to a region. In addition to general education requirements, major-specific courses place heavy emphasis on plant and animal biology. Many classes also teach students how to communicate with the public to promote ecological awareness and conflict management resolution. Classes cover topics such as:
- Wildlife taxonomy
- Biology and conservation
- Biological science trends
- Wildlife conservation law
- Animal behaviorism studies
- Wetland and urban wildlife management
Master of Science Degree in Wildlife Management
Students in master's degree programs typically select a wildlife management or wildlife conservation focus. Most schools offer both terminal master's programs and a master's that leads to doctoral work. Students often have the option to write a master's thesis or to take additional courses without completing the thesis. Coursework gives students the tools to survey wildlife populations and analyze population data for planning and implementing wildlife management plans. Relationships between regional flora and fauna are also examined. Classes then progress into developing and implementing conservation plans. Topics include:
- Wildlife and range sciences
- Agriculture and wildlife
- Wildlife population and ecology analytics
- Disease impact on wildlife
- Wildlife public relations
- Habitat management
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Ph.D. in Wildlife Management
Admission allowances for wildlife management doctoral programs vary between schools. Some schools must alter the number of students accepted in relation to how many projects they have funded for that academic year. Most colleges and universities require students to choose an emphasis prior to enrollment. Due to conservation awareness in the United States, students travel from across the globe to take part in America's pioneering wildlife management programs. Many of the courses in a Ph.D. program will depend on a student's specific research project. Classes may cover such topics as:
- Vertebrate population applied sampling
- Fish ecology
- Dynamics of wildlife population
- Fishery and wildlife biology
The majority of those with degrees in wildlife management or related fields find employment in state or federal government positions. Positions may also be available with nature conservation non-profits. Some wildlife scientists are employed as consultants in the private sector in land procurement positions with companies that own mineral rights contracts. Most state and federal parks require a master's degree for environmental scientist four and above job titles. The midwest and western states offer the most opportunities due to the increase in wildfire prevention awareness and more areas of federally protected lands. Competition is high for these positions and many prospective wildlife scientists take temporary or part-time positions as office support staff to gain an advantage in the hiring process. Most positions available to those with bachelor's degrees, including research positions, require outdoor work. Many people with bachelor's degrees in wildlife management work in positions such as:
- Field biologist
- Game warden
- Wildlife educator
- Land acquisition specialist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
While no accurate data is available specifically for the title of wildlife management, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) covers the comparable field of conservation scientist. The BLS data does not break salary projections down by degree, however, those with master's degrees may earn less than colleagues holding doctoral degrees. The employment projections were expected to increase by 7% from the years 2014 to 2024. Median annual wages were reported for the year 2015 as $61,110 (www.bls.gov).
Those with doctorates in wildlife management will find competition for teaching positions fierce. Government agencies offer the best employment opportunities and those with doctorates are more likely to be chosen to run federally funded research projects. While no salary data is currently available for the specific title of wildlife manager, the BLS expects that zoologists and wildlife biologists may enjoy 4% job growth through the years 2014-2024. These workers made median annual wages of $59,680 in 2015.
Conservation is the primary aim of most wildlife management programs. Students carry out research to learn how to best plan and implement effective wildlife conservation efforts.