Online wildlife master's degree programs are available in the fields of wildlife administration, wildlife science, natural resources management, fisheries and environmental sciences. They may be offered fully online or in blended formats that include short on-campus residencies and internships. Students may also be required to pass comprehensive exams or submit final papers prior to graduation.
These programs are typically designed for students already working in the field who have a bachelor's degree in a relevant field of study. The programs seek to advance students' scientific knowledge, in addition to educating them on the economic, social and administrative considerations involved in wildlife or environmental science.
Students in an online wildlife master's degree program generally take expansive core classes in areas such as biology, ecology and advanced mathematics, as well as more focused classes, like ecological fundamentals, wildlife habitats, population ecology and conservation. Most colleges and universities also incorporate interdisciplinary studies in economics, culture and policy into their core curriculum in order to examine natural resource management issues in a wider focus.
Requirements for distance education programs, in addition to science-related classes, usually include more business courses if the degree to be awarded is in wildlife administration or management. This could include online classes in the following:
- Environmental law
- Conflict management
- Politics and science
- Technical writing
The coursework in online wildlife master's degree programs are usually designed to mirror that of on-campus classes. Students use online content management systems to access virtual discussion boards, lecture materials or videos. Video conferencing technology may allow students and professors to communicate in real time and, if incorporated into a particular class, would require students to attend online at a set time.
Although schools do offer coursework for distance education wildlife master's programs fully online, they may require that students complete on-site experiences as well. On-campus residencies could be a necessity; however, some schools may allow students who work full-time in the field to waive this program requirement. Other programs require internships, which could also be fulfilled through approved experiences at students' current places of employment (provided the agencies are directly involved in the wildlife field). Programs that culminate with a professional paper presentation or comprehensive exam (written or oral) may also require students to come to campus.
An advanced degree in the wildlife field can provide the knowledge and skills needed to build a career in a variety of occupations, including wildlife biologist, land management consultant or conservation officer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of wildlife biologists and zoologists will increase by four percent in the 2014-2024 decade, which is considered slower than average (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, the mean annual salary for zoologists and wildlife biologists was $64,230, according to the BLS.
The most common employers in wildlife ecology, natural resource management and similar areas tend to be state and federal agencies, consulting and project management firms or natural resources nonprofit organizations. Budgets for government agencies vary each year and impact the number of jobs available for wildlife and/or conservation workers.
Online master's degree programs in wildlife administration include interdisciplinary coursework that accounts for both the biological aspects and societal issues surrounding wildlife management and environmental conservation. Online instruction is generally provided through lectures and videos, and students can also expect to participate in virtual class discussions.