Wildlife biologists study all aspects of wild animals, from their mating habits and migratory patterns to the dietary needs specific to their species. Most wildlife biologists are employed by state and federal government agencies, colleges and universities, and research and development firms. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that an estimated 18,650 wildlife biologists were employed in the United States as of 2012.
An entry-level position in wildlife biology requires a bachelor's degree in zoology, wildlife biology, ecology or a closely related science. A master's degree can help wildlife biologists advance into positions with greater responsibility, such as supervisory roles. However, those who want to conduct their own independent research projects should plan on getting a Ph.D, which will also allow aspiring wildlife biologists to pursue teaching careers at the college level.
Wildlife biology jobs can encompass a variety of responsibilities. Those who direct independent research delegate tasks to other biologists and biological science technicians and compile, analyze and report their findings. Others conduct research themselves. This can take many forms, such as capturing and marking animals to count populations, or taking and analyzing water and soil samples to examine the effects of pollution. Wildlife biologists tend to spend a lot of their time outdoors. However, they also spend time in laboratories and in offices. Many wildlife biologists specialize in the study of a specific type of animal group, or specialize in the study of animals living in a specific environment.
Average Salary Information
As of 2012, wildlife biologists and zoologists reported an average salary of $62,500 per year, according to the BLS. Those working for federal government agencies reported one of the highest average salaries for wildlife biologists, at $78,540 per year. Those who worked for state government agencies reported one of the lowest average salaries at $52,550. Among the states and the District of Columbia, D.C. ranked first in average pay at $102,980 per year. The lowest, Oklahoma, reported an average salary of $48,860.
According to the BLS, the number of jobs for wildlife biologists and zoologists is expected to increase by 7 percent between 2010 and 2020, a net gain of 1,500 new jobs. This is roughly half the projected growth rate for all occupations. Demand for zoologists and wildlife biologists in government agencies will depend on budgets for the agencies.
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