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Become A Wildlife Biologist

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Working As A Wildlife Biologist

  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
  • Getting Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • $80,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Wildlife Biologist Do

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals and other wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems. They study the physical characteristics of animals, animal behaviors, and the impacts humans have on wildlife and natural habitats.

Duties

Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically do the following:

  • Develop and conduct experimental studies with animals in controlled or natural surroundings
  • Collect biological data and specimens for analysis
  • Study the characteristics of animals, such as their interactions with other species, reproduction, population dynamics, diseases, and movement patterns
  • Analyze the influence that human activity has on wildlife and their natural habitats
  • Research, initiate, and maintain ways of improving breeding programs that support healthy game animals, endangered species, or other wild populations of land or aquatic life
  • Estimate, monitor, and manage wildlife populations and invasive plants and animals
  • Write research papers, reports, and scholarly articles that explain their findings
  • Give presentations on research findings to academics and the general public
  • Develop conservation plans and make recommendations on wildlife conservation and management issues to policymakers and the general public

Zoologists and wildlife biologists perform a variety of scientific tests and experiments. For example, they take blood samples from animals to assess their levels of nutrition, check animals for disease and parasites, and tag animals in order to track them. Although the roles and abilities of zoologists and wildlife biologists often overlap, zoologists typically conduct scientific investigations and basic research on particular types of animals, such as birds or amphibians, whereas wildlife biologists are more likely to study specific ecosystems or animal populations, such as a particular at-risk species. Wildlife biologists also do applied work, such as that involving the conservation and management of wildlife populations.

Zoologists and wildlife biologists use geographic information systems (GIS), modeling software, and other computer programs to estimate wildlife populations and track the movements of animals. They also use these computer programs to forecast the spread of invasive species or diseases, project changes in the availability of habitat, and assess other potential threats to wildlife.

Zoologists and wildlife biologists conduct research for a variety of purposes. For example, many zoologists and wildlife biologists work to increase our knowledge and understanding of wildlife species. Traditionally, many wildlife biologists researched ways to encourage abundant game animal populations in order to increase recreational hunting and tourism. Today, many also work with public officials in conservation efforts that protect species from threats and help animal populations return to and remain at sustainable levels.

Most zoologists and wildlife biologists work on research teams with other scientists and technicians. For example, zoologists and wildlife biologists may work with environmental scientists and hydrologists to monitor water pollution and its effects on fish populations.

Zoologists generally specialize first in either vertebrates or invertebrates and then in specific species. Following are some examples of specialization by species:

  • Cetologists study marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins.
  • Entomologists study insects, such as beetles and butterflies.
  • Herpetologists study reptiles and amphibians, such as snakes and frogs.
  • Ichthyologists study wild fish, such as sharks and lungfish.
  • Mammalogists study mammals, such as monkeys and bears.
  • Ornithologists study birds, such as hawks and penguins.
  • Teuthologists study cephalopods, such as octopuses and cuttlefish.

Some zoologists and wildlife biologists specialize in studying wildlife according to the type of water or land where the wildlife lives. The following are examples of those who specialize by habitat:

  • Limnologists study organisms that live in freshwater.
  • Marine biologists study organisms that live in saltwater.
  • Terrestrial biologists study organisms that live on land, including plants and microbes.

Other zoologists and wildlife biologists are identified by the aspects of zoology and wildlife biology they study, such as evolution and animal behavior. Following are some examples:

  • Botanists study plants, including their growth, diseases, and structures. Agronomists study the particular plant science concerning crop production. For more information on agronomists, see the profile on agricultural and food scientists.
  • Ecologists study ecosystems, which include all relationships between organisms and the surrounding environments.
  • Evolutionary biologists study the origins of species and the changes in their inherited characteristics over generations.

Many people with a zoology and wildlife biology background become high school teachers or college or university professors. For more information, see the profiles on high school teachers and postsecondary teachers.

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How To Become A Wildlife Biologist

Zoologists and wildlife biologists need a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions; a master’s degree is often needed for higher level investigative or scientific work. A Ph.D. is necessary to lead independent research and for most university research positions.

Education

Zoologists and wildlife biologists need at least a bachelor’s degree. Many schools offer bachelor’s degree programs in zoology and wildlife biology or in a closely related field, such as ecology. An undergraduate degree in biology with coursework in zoology and wildlife biology also is good preparation for a career as a zoologist or wildlife biologist.

Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically need at least a master’s degree for higher level investigative or scientific work. A Ph.D. is necessary for the majority of independent research positions and for university research positions. Most Ph.D.-level researchers need to be familiar with computer programming and statistical software.

Students typically take zoology and wildlife biology courses in ecology, anatomy, wildlife management, and cellular biology. They also take courses that focus on a particular group of animals, such as herpetology (reptiles and amphibians) or ornithology (birds). Courses in botany, chemistry, and physics are important because zoologists and wildlife biologists must have a well-rounded scientific background. Wildlife biology programs may focus on applied techniques in habitat analysis and conservation. Students also should take courses in mathematics and statistics, given that zoologists and wildlife biologists must be able to do complex data analysis.

Knowledge of computer science is important because zoologists and wildlife biologists frequently use advanced computer software, such as geographic information systems (GIS) and modeling software, to do their work.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists write scientific papers and give talks to the public, policymakers, and academics.

Critical-thinking skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists need sound reasoning and judgment to draw conclusions from experimental results and scientific observations.

Emotional stamina and stability. Zoologists and wildlife biologists may need to endure long periods with little human contact. As with other occupations that deal with animals, emotional stability is important in working with injured or sick animals.

Interpersonal skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically work on teams. They must be able to work effectively with others to achieve their goals or to negotiate conflicting goals.

Observation skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists must be able to notice slight changes in an animal’s characteristics, such as changes in its behavior or appearance.

Outdoor skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists may need to chop firewood, swim in cold water, navigate rough terrain in poor weather, or perform other activities associated with life in remote areas.

Problem-solving skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists try to find the best possible solutions to threats that affect wildlife, such as disease and habitat loss.

Other Experience

Some zoologists and wildlife biologists may need to have well-rounded outdoor skills. They may need to be able to drive a tractor, use a generator, or provide for themselves in remote locations.

Many zoology and wildlife biology students gain practical experience through internships, volunteer work, or some other type of employment during college or soon after graduation.

Advancement

Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically receive greater responsibility and independence in their work as they gain experience. More education also can lead to greater responsibility. Zoologists and wildlife biologists with a Ph.D. usually lead independent research and control the direction and content of projects. In addition, they may be responsible for finding much of their own funding.

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Wildlife Biologist Jobs

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Do you work as a Wildlife Biologist?

Average Yearly Salary
$80,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$37,000
Min 10%
$80,000
Median 50%
$80,000
Median 50%
$80,000
Median 50%
$80,000
Median 50%
$80,000
Median 50%
$80,000
Median 50%
$80,000
Median 50%
$169,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
State of Hawaii
Highest Paying City
Lakewood, CO
Highest Paying State
North Dakota
Avg Experience Level
3.3 years
How much does a Wildlife Biologist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Wildlife Biologist in the United States is $80,180 per year or $39 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $37,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $169,000.

Real Wildlife Biologist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists World Wildlife Fund Washington, DC May 29, 2013 $96,200
Wildlife Biologists The Bhutan Foundation Washington, DC May 18, 2012 $96,200
Director of Field Programs/Wildlife Biologist Wildlife Habitat Council, Inc. Silver Spring, MD Aug 16, 2015 $86,337
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Shrimp Improvement Systems LLC Islamorada Village of Islands, FL Mar 25, 2013 $85,000
Senior Wildlife Biologist Hamer Environmental LP Portland, OR Oct 27, 2016 $84,760
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Portland, OR Jul 24, 2014 $84,614 -
$86,200
Director of Field Programs/Wildlife Biologist Wildlife Habitat Council, Inc. Silver Spring, MD Sep 10, 2014 $82,774
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists University of Florida Gainesville, FL Jul 02, 2013 $82,000
Zoologists and Widlife Biologists Wildlife Conservation Society New York, NY May 13, 2011 $77,000
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Post, Buckley, Schuh, & Jernigan, Inc. Austin, TX Dec 08, 2010 $70,401
Zoologists & Wildlife Biologists Symvcd Elk Grove, CA Mar 04, 2008 $67,632
Zoologists & Wildlife Biologists ECO Logical Research, Inc. Logan, UT Feb 08, 2012 $67,000
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Sitka Sound Science Center Sitka, AK Mar 14, 2014 $66,123
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Michigan State University Ann Arbor, MI Jan 24, 2013 $65,000
Zoologists & Wildlife Biologists Gulf of Maine Research Institute Portland, ME Jan 29, 2010 $65,000 -
$110,000
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Divendi Americas Inc. Doral, FL Aug 06, 2014 $63,190
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists El Terco AG LLC Lasara, TX Apr 05, 2013 $60,000
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Portland, OR Oct 15, 2007 $59,256
Wildlife Biologists, Zoologists Exotic Reef Imports El Segundo, CA Mar 13, 2008 $56,000
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Zion, IL Jun 17, 2008 $55,827 -
$64,618
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Drexel University Philadelphia, PA Oct 31, 2012 $51,979
Wildlife Biologist Santa Catalina Island Conservancy Avalon, CA Sep 14, 2009 $51,360
Wildlife Biologist Santa Catalina Island Conservancy Avalon, CA Aug 14, 2009 $51,360 -
$51,979
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Silvies Valley Ranch Seneca, OR Dec 02, 2011 $50,710
Wildlife Biologist Conservatech International, Inc. Miami, FL Jan 29, 2015 $49,442
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI Jan 20, 2010 $47,924
Wildlife Biologist Fellow Mortals, Inc. Lake Geneva, WI Jan 01, 2010 $46,039
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Shrimp Improvement Systems Islamorada Village of Islands, FL May 27, 2011 $45,000
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Bozeman, MT Mar 04, 2013 $44,477

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Top Skills for A Wildlife Biologist

  1. Habitat
  2. Invasive Species
  3. Natural Resources
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Conducted wildlife habitat investigations on state forest lands, and developed forest treatment proposals for implementation of wildlife habitat management projects.
  • Report year-end accomplishments for invasive species control and habitat improvement using ArcGIS and federal database programs.
  • Provide policy analysis and recommendations relating to activities affecting natural resources; particularly, land expansion and military training activities.
  • Prepared and updated wildlife management plans.
  • Provided detailed GPS photo-point documentation of a Cherokee National Forest habitat project.

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Top 10 Best States for Wildlife Biologists

  1. District of Columbia
  2. Alaska
  3. North Dakota
  4. Delaware
  5. Louisiana
  6. Massachusetts
  7. Oregon
  8. Idaho
  9. Maryland
  10. Arkansas
  • (5 jobs)
  • (7 jobs)
  • (2 jobs)
  • (1 jobs)
  • (6 jobs)
  • (4 jobs)
  • (8 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)
  • (15 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)

Wildlife Biologist Demographics

Gender

Male

57.5%

Female

36.3%

Unknown

6.3%
Ethnicity

White

65.2%

Hispanic or Latino

13.8%

Black or African American

10.0%

Asian

6.9%

Unknown

4.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

43.5%

French

17.4%

Chinese

8.7%

Swedish

4.3%

Portuguese

4.3%

Yoruba

4.3%

Japanese

4.3%

Mandarin

4.3%

Arabic

4.3%

Italian

4.3%
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Wildlife Biologist Education

Schools

Humboldt State University

10.7%

Oregon State University

7.1%

Texas A&M University

7.1%

Utah State University

5.3%

Arizona State University

4.7%

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

4.7%

University of Arizona

4.7%

Stephen F Austin State University

4.7%

University of Wyoming

4.7%

University of California - Davis

4.7%

Auburn University

4.7%

Colorado State University

4.7%

Northern Arizona University

4.1%

Texas State University

4.1%

University of Idaho

4.1%

Coastal Carolina University

4.1%

Clemson University

4.1%

University of Georgia

4.1%

Texas Tech University

3.6%

Ohio State University

3.6%
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Majors

Biology

27.2%

Wildlife Management

17.1%

Environmental Science

14.6%

Zoology

12.4%

Ecology, Population Biology, And Epidemiology

11.7%

Forestry

1.9%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

1.7%

Natural Resources Management

1.6%

Management

1.4%

Marine Sciences

1.2%

Geography

1.2%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.0%

Business

1.0%

Agriculture

1.0%

Geology

0.9%

Elementary Education

0.9%

Human Resources Management

0.9%

Animal Science

0.9%

Law

0.7%

Medical Technician

0.7%
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Degrees

Bachelors

51.7%

Masters

32.2%

Other

7.9%

Doctorate

4.5%

Associate

2.1%

Certificate

1.2%

License

0.3%
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