Difference Between Naturalist & Ecologist

There are some key differences between those who study various species closely (naturalists) and those who aim to fix environmental issues (ecologists), including how much money they make, expected job growth, and their assigned duties. This article attempts to look closely at those differences, as well as some similarities.

Comparing Naturalists to Ecologists

Those who study our natural world are pivotal in building our understanding of the environment around us. In fact, naturalists and ecologists not only try to understand the plants and animals that make up various ecosystems, but they also try to help us preserve them for future generations. Though these careers have much in common, there are some differences, including their primary place of work and the focus of that work.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Naturalists Bachelor's Degree $60,610 7% (Conservation Scientists and Foresters)
Ecologists Bachelor's Degree $60,520 4% (Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Naturalists vs. Ecologists

Though naturalists and ecologists are interested in protecting our natural resources, there are some key differences between the two. One example of this is that naturalists work primarily in parks, where they are able to track animals and engage visitors with this habitat. Ecologists, on the other hand, work for various organizations to ensure the conservation of land, water, and air. Despite these differences, educating the public is key for those in both of these professions.


Whether in a controlled laboratory or a natural habitat, naturalists study plants and animals. By collecting biological specimen, such as blood and stool, these scientists are able to study the health of wildlife. Additionally, they observe and note the reproduction and movement habits of species, while also keeping a close eye on invasive species. As naturalists study the ways in which human activity influences wildlife and habitats, they also lead tours of parks to inform people on how to conserve nature.

Job responsibilities of a naturalist include:

  • Planting new trees and measuring maturing trees to gauge the health of the habitat
  • Scheduling and training seasonal workers and volunteers at national and state parks
  • Organizing fund raising events to earn money for cleanup efforts
  • Scouting grounds for new trees to be planted


Ecologists are concerned about the balance between using resources and polluting our environment. It is their job to study flora and fauna populations and behaviors to determine if our activities are influencing them. They look at what occurred to cause a polluted ecosystem and make plans for the most effective clean up procedure. By studying precipitation, temperature shifts, and fading ecosystems, ecologists determine the ill effects of industrialization.

Job responsibilities of an ecologist include:

  • Developing breeding plans to encourage the growth of endangered populations
  • Collecting air, water, and soil samples to analyze for signs of contaminants
  • Writing technical reports on findings to share with governments and other scientists
  • Using computers to build models that show the effects of changes in ecosystems

Related Careers

As someone curious about becoming a naturalist, it may interest you to also look into a career as an environmental engineer, because both of these positions aim to protect the environment. If, on the other hand, a job as an ecologist excites you, you may want to research a career as an agricultural scientist, because these careers both attempt to improve our use of land.

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