Difference Between Zoologist & Wildlife Biologist

Scientific research is the foundation of careers as zoologists and wildlife biologists. The specific tasks these professionals perform are explored in this article, as well as the particular focus of the work that they do and how they differ.

Comparing Zoologists to Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and wildlife biologists work in the same general field and share similar duties in their work. The key distinction between these professionals lies in what they concentrate on researching. Zoologists are more concerned with understanding specific species, while wildlife biologists specialize in understanding the relationship between a species and its habitat.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)** Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Zoologists Bachelor's Degree $54,163 4% (for zoologists and wildlife biologists)
Wildlife Biologists Bachelor's Degree $50,853 4% (for zoologists and wildlife biologists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com

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Responsibilities of Zoologists vs. Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and wildlife biologists perform many of the same responsibilities since their goals are similar. They determine what type of data they need to research a specific organism or environment and then perform the duties and tests accordingly. They typically use the conclusions from their research to identify issues affecting specific species or to make recommendations about how to prevent environmental damage to preserve wildlife. Due to the immense amount of time working in a variety of climates and weather conditions, these professions are physically demanding.


Zoologists study animals, and they may specialize in a number of different areas. Depending on their field of expertise or the focus of their research they may concentrate on specific types of mammals, sea life, reptiles, insects or other groups of living things. Zoologists can start their career with a bachelor's degree in zoology or a similar discipline, but a graduate degree is usually required to advance to positions in independent research or leadership roles. They are often employed by the government or may work for academic institutions. The ability to work alone is an asset, and zoologists may find that they spend a considerable amount of time working in laboratories.

Job responsibilities of a zoologist include:

  • Traveling to an organism's natural environment
  • Gathering samples
  • Observing the organism's behavior
  • Determining how human development is affecting organisms
  • Monitoring population levels

Wildlife Biologists

Wildlife biologists use their scientific expertise to help us understand more about animals and their environments. They concentrate on understanding how a species' environment may be affecting it. As part of their work they may travel to locations where they can assess wildlife in their natural environment, and they may work long hours during these trips. When they aren't traveling they typically spend their time in offices or laboratories. Entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree, but graduate studies in wildlife biology are required for many positions or for advancement.

Job responsibilities of a wildlife biologist include:

  • Studying population trends of different species
  • Identifying strategies to protect endangered species
  • Developing strategies to promote population growth
  • Monitoring illnesses affecting wildlife
  • Performing scientific tests

Related Careers

Zoologists and wildlife biologists share similar duties, so those considering either career may also be interested in becoming an animal scientist or agricultural scientist. Animal scientists and agricultural scientists both perform research to improve a species quality of life. However, these professionals spend significantly more time in the lab than zoologists, and they may specialize in their research, unlike wildlife biologists.

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