Although natural resources fields tend to be competitive, once you have your master’s degree you’ll have a number of career options. The master’s degree is the entry-level requirement for many of these careers and you can expect opportunities in private industry, conservation organizations or various state and federal agencies. Among the choices are those of wildlife biologist, forester, educator and fish and game warden.
Many wildlife biologists are researchers who conduct animal studies on topics such as reproduction, diseases or the animals' interactions with other species, including humans. Wildlife biologists might spend time in field studies, collecting specimens such as blood samples or other data. In addition, they could study human encroachment on animal habitat or estimate the population of a particular species. Once the research is complete, biologists write reports on their findings to publish in journals, or give presentations on their findings. They also might work with public officials to develop conservation or wildlife management plans or with other scientists who study environmental aspects of wildlife management. Wildlife biologists earned an average annual salary of $62,500 in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Foresters spend their days working to improve, manage and protect timber and forest lands. They may supervise other workers in the industry, develop plans for forest management, develop new planting sites and negotiate with timber harvesters to determine what areas should be harvested. They also may work on fire suppression or collaborate with farmers and ranchers who use forest lands for grazing livestock. After a forest fire, the forester might be involved in cleanup, replanting or erosion control activities. Some foresters actually manage trees in large urban areas, dealing with issues such as air quality, shade and storm water run-off. Foresters earned an average of $57,140 in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Fish and Game Warden
Fish and game wardens are law enforcement officers whose focus is the enforcement of fishing, hunting and boating laws. They also may work with wildlife biologists who study fish or wildlife to help ensure populations are sufficient for hunting and fishing. Wardens spend much of their time interfacing with the public, both in enforcement activities and in educating the public about wildlife management, hunting and fishing. Some wardens also teach hunter education courses, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Game wardens spend much of their time out in the field, supervising hunting and fishing activities or investigating poaching. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports game wardens earned an average of $49,400 in 2012.
Your master’s degree also offers you the opportunity to teach at the high school level and in some community colleges, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Depending on the school, you might focus on teaching biology or teach other subjects as well. Teachers develop lesson plans, give lectures, prepare and grade tests and counsel students on academic issues. Some teachers also work in research, especially in postsecondary schools, although those with master's degrees are usually members of a research team rather than guiding the research. High school teachers earned an average of $57,710 in 2012 and biology teachers at the postsecondary level earned $87,060. The postsecondary salary figure includes both teachers with master's degrees and those with Ph.D.s, however.
- University of Montana: Wildlife Biology
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2012 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Conservation Scientists and Foresters
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Police and Detectives
- Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation: Facts about Oklahoma Game Wardens for Young Outdoor Enthusiasts
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Post-Secondary Teachers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: High School Teachers
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