Due to hands-on requirements, online wildlife education programs are only offered by a handful of schools. Online master's programs are the most common, and they're usually designed for professionals who already have professional experience in natural resources or wildlife management. Distance learners complete coursework by viewing lectures, doing assignments, and participating in class discussions in their school's virtual classroom.
These programs can typically be completed totally online, with the possible exception of having to give an on-campus final presentation before graduating. These programs take around one to two years to complete, depending on students' enrollment status each semester.
Below are two institutes of higher learning that offer online wildlife programs and classes. Students who don't wish to enroll in a college class can check with their state's Department of Natural Resources or Department of Fish and Wildlife for individual Web-based classes, which may cover wildlife topics such as aquatic and angler education, firearms safety, and outdoor survival skills.
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University's (TAMU) 'brick-and-mortar' campus is in College Station, Texas. Not only is it a physically large campus, sprawling 5,000 acres, but TAMU also has a large distance education selection, with over 30 graduate certificates and degree programs available.
- Graduate tuition and fees (2015-16): $8,656 in-state; $18,183 out-of-state
- School size: 63,813 (14,854 graduate)
Master of Wildlife Science
TAMU's online Master of Wildlife Science program can provide natural resource preservation professionals with an advanced understanding of the ecology and politics that affect wildlife. Applicants must hold at least a bachelor's degree before enrolling in this graduate program.
The Master of Wildlife Science program comprises 36 credit hours, 30 of which focus on wildlife and fisheries. Some of the required courses within the program include the following:
- Quantitative research
- Society and ecology
- Urban wildlife management
- Biology of fish
- Landscape analysis
- Rangeland resource management
- Forest watershed management
Students must also complete a professional paper on a research topic related to wildlife preservation in order to receive full credit for the online program. Although courses can be completed online, students may be required to pass a comprehensive exam with oral and written components.
The University of Idaho
Situated in the small city of Moscow, Idaho, the University of Idaho has a total enrollment of about 12,000 students. Students seeking online wildlife education can investigate the school's Master of Natural Resources (M.N.R) program or its graduate certificates. Non-degree students can take guided independent learning courses, provided they fulfill the prerequisites; these might include an undergraduate degree in a related field, like fisheries and wildlife or natural resources management.
- Graduate tuition and fees (2015-16): $8,222 in-state; $22,226 out-of-state
- School size: 11,372 (2,256 graduate)
Master of Natural Resources
The curriculum for the University of Idaho's M.N.R. program teaches students about ecological ideologies and provides them with opportunities to evaluate and interpret environmental conditions. Students must have a bachelor's degree to be eligible for admission. A main focus of this distance-learning program is to develop students' problem-solving skills so that they can logically calculate the consequences of natural resource management assessments and decisions. Ecology plays a vital role in the M.N.R. curriculum; a selection of the other online courses available to students in this program include:
- Habitat dynamics
- Integrated rangeland management
- Environmental politics
- Vegetation assessment
- Wetland restoration
Students in this program can take all their courses online, but the culminating experience requires completion of a case study analysis that must be orally presented and defended in the final semester.
Graduate Certificates in Natural Resources
The online graduate certificate programs at the university share many courses with the M.N.R. program and can be pursued concurrently to the degree, although they are also offered independently. Certificates are available in fire ecology and management and restoration ecology. The certificates require between 14-15 credits of coursework each and may be completed fully online. Depending on the certificate pursued, course topics may include the following:
- Prescribed burning
- Wetland restoration
- Management of recreational resources
- Fire ecology
- American wilderness
Independent Learning: Ecology
The University of Idaho also offers an online-guided independent learning course in ecology, which may be of interest to students pursuing an online wildlife education. The ecology course involves studies in how organisms interact with each other and their environment. Students also study the integration of systems ecology and the human influences on ecosystems. The course and all materials are entirely computer-based. Prerequisites include permission from the instructor or completion of college-level science courses, such as those in biology or zoology.
A handful of schools offer online wildlife education programs. Master's programs are the most common and are usually designed for professionals who already have experience in natural resource or wildlife management.