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Conservation Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Conservation science is a broad academic discipline that encompasses areas such as forestry and wildlife, marine ecosystems, fisheries ecology and environmental conservation. Conservation programs are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels.

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Students interested in formal education in conservation can find programs with majors in the field as well as programs that allow students to focus their studies on the conservation of a particular resource. Relevant programs are available at colleges and universities around the country.

10 Schools with Conservation Programs

The following is a list of 10 schools that offer conservation programs. Tuition is based on the 2015-2016 school year:

College/University Location Institution Type Degree Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)*
Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,158, in-state; $25,458, out-of-state
Ohio State University Columbus, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,037, in-state; $27,365, out-of-state
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,790, in-state; $22,210, out-of-state
Texas A & M University College Station, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,176, in-state; $28,768, out-of-state
Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,560, in-state; $36,360, out-of-state
Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $17,514, in-state; $31,346, out-of-state
University of Wisconsin - Madison Madison, WI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,415, in-state; $29,665, out-of-state
Purdue University West Lafayette, IN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,002, in-state; $28,804, out-of-state
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,856, in-state; $43,476, out-of-state
University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $11,403, in-state; $32,630, out-of-state

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics, Schools' websites

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School Selection Criteria

Students may want to consider the following factors when choosing a conservation school:

  • A prospective student's choice of school or college is largely dictated by the conservation degree he or she is interested in obtaining. Common concentration areas that a student can choose include environmental conservation, water resources, urban forestry, fisheries ecology and wildlife ecology and conservation.
  • Students may want to find out if the school facilitates internships with nonprofit organizations or government agencies involved in conservation efforts.
  • Prospective graduate students should find out if there are faculty at the school with whom they share research interests.
  • Because fieldwork can be a significant part of conservation programs, school location should play a role in the selection process; for instance, students who are interested in marine conservation may want to choose a school near the coast.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

At the bachelor's degree level, it is possible to choose a general major in conservation biology. These programs provide a basic introduction to ecology and natural resource management. Another general degree option is a major in natural resources, but students may be able to concentrate their studies in relevant topics such as wildlife conservation, conservation biology or fisheries conservation. There are also more specialized conservation-related majors available at some schools, such as fisheries, forestry, sustainable biomaterials and wildlife.

Master's Degree Programs

Graduate students can earn a science-based Master of Science (MS) degree in a conservation-related topic, such as natural resources, forestry, fisheries science or wildlife science. In these programs, students take advanced science courses and write a research-based thesis under the supervision of a university faculty member. An alternative master's-level option is a professional master's degree in a subject such as environmental conservation. These non-thesis programs can be completed in less than two years, and they may focus more heavily on the social and political aspects of conservation in addition to the fundamental scientific issues at stake.

Doctoral Degree Programs

Like MS programs, PhD programs allow students to conduct high-level research in conservation topics of interest. Most commonly, students do their research on a scientific topic, such as forest biology, wildlife science or aquatic science, but students may also choose to focus on natural resource social science. Prior to graduation, students must submit and defend a final dissertation.

Many schools across the nation offer conservation degrees at varying levels. Students should consider specialization options and available research topics when choosing between programs.

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