Wildlife biology as a career?

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Career Changer in Mount Vernon, Ohio

44 months ago

Thanks Montana Wildlife for your reply, I checked out USAJOBs and found a Wildlife Biologist job in my area with the US Department of Fish and Wildlife. It listed a bachelors degree in Natural Resource Management as an acceptable basic requirement. A post for a natural resource specialist also list that degree as a basic requirement. I'm thinking of pursuing a graduate degree in Natural Resource Management designed for career changers like me.(approx 36 semester hrs) My undergrad degree is in Business Administration. If I earn a Masters in Natural Resource Management, will the absence of a science undergrad hurt my chances of landing a government job?

Also, I was encouraged when I read on the Wildlife Biologist posting that work in that field whether compensated or NOT would count as qualifying experience for the position. Does anyone know if it is standard practice to accept that kind of experience for similar government jobs?

Thanks for your help!

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UpNorth in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

44 months ago

I am in my mid-30's and am looking for some advice to change careers to enter in the field that is my true passion - wildlife and habitat conservation. I did not enter this field initially because I was concerned about the low pay and competitiveness of job prospects. But after several years working in the real world, I have realized that I need to be doing what I love, that is, to find a way to be working with wildlife, working with local communities, and being outside.

I have an undergrad degree in biology and environmental studies and have spent about 12 years working in academic research and environmental management. I have discovered a few things about working in the real world to help me refine my focus. This year I will be trying to volunteer with wildlife focused field work. I am also looking into getting GIS training on my own. I am looking for a career that involves the following and not sure the best way to go back go school for a graduate degree:
1) I DO NOT want to end up working for government (I cannot stand bureaucracy after working in it for several years) or the private sector (I do not want to be employed to help companies destroy the environment)
2) I am looking to work for a non-profit conservation type agency and willing to take the pay cut.
3) Aside from the animal focus, I want to also be involved in the people aspect of conservation (eg. community based conservation), because I view people participation as being integral, if not primary to habitat and wildlife conservation.
4) I don't want to just study and research the animal for the sake of itself. I want to work in a field that has direct applied results. I do not care for publications and academia (have no desire to do a PhD).

5) I want to be able to "work on the ground" in the field working with both people and animals, with some involvement (but not alot) in office work, reporting, analyses etc.

6) I do not care too much for policy and regulatory analyses, and do n

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UpNorth in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

44 months ago

cont from above...

6) I do not care too much for policy and regulatory analyses, and do not want to be doing work focused on this in an office (this is my current area of work), however I do recognize the importance of it. Instead, I really want to be doing direct applied work in the field and on the ground.

7) I am specifically interested in the linkages between biodiversity conservation and social issues (eg. poverty alleviation in the global south). But alot of the jobs in this area seem to focus on policy/regulatory type work and I am not sure how to incorporate working with wildlife in this area, and not sure if it is even possible? Does anyone know?

8) I am really interested in tropical biodiversity.

9) What exactly are the differences between a career in natural resource management, wildlife biology and conservation biology?

10) Does anyone have any other advice?

11) I am located in Canada so if anyone has any advice on good schools recognizing my interests above please do recommend.

I have done extensive research on the internet about this, but would be good to hear real life examples of what exactly each job/field does and especially the reality of the nature of each field. Thanks for any help!!!

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MKOC in Norton, Massachusetts

44 months ago

Flounder in Monroeville, Pennsylvania said: DO NOT MAJOR IN WILDLIFE!! I've got a PhD in wildlife and have been unemployed for over a year.

Only a year? Lucky you.... I got my Master's in 1996 and I have only had seasonal jobs. There are plenty of seasonal jobs and I have had a lot of amazing experiences all over the country but there extremely few full-time jobs. Your chances of becoming an employed biologist are as good as becoming a multi millioniare by playing the lottery. The majority of people that go into this field never get a full-time job. Reality is that the Federal government and State governments consider anything having to do with wildlife a luxury. How can they justify lots of money (tax money) to study a sparrow when people are losing their jobs, homes, and everything else? I know the importance of this is GREAT but it is a very hard sell especially to someone that can't tell the difference between one bird and another because their school lacked funding to give them a decent background in the natural sciences.

I assume you want to be a wildlife biologist because you care about the environment. The best way to achieve the results you want but still be able to have a life is to either become a science teacher and create a relationship between kids and the natural world so that they will appreciate it and take care of it when they grow up. Or have a career that makes a lot of money so that you can start a non-profit or fund your own research that will rock the world. Whatever you choose, DO NOT become a wildlife biologist but at the same time don't forget about the Earth and constantly look for ways to contribute.

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MKOC in Norton, Massachusetts

44 months ago

To those of you considering a career in Wildlife Biology, Conservation Biology, Natural Resources, Fisheries, Marine Biology, Entomology, Ecology, or any combination of the above with GIS, a Master's degree is not enough if you want to do anything other than seasonal work. This field is so tough that you MUST have a PhD to have a chance at getting a full-time job. Many of the job postings only a require a B.S but your competition has PhDs. Heck, it has gotten so bad that the PhDs are competing for the seasonal positions too. This is a brutal field. I laugh when the government says that there are 5 people competing for every job. In this field there can be over 200 people competing for every full-time position. At least that is the way it was when I graduated, now it is worse.

All I am saying is that if you really care about the environment becoming a wildlife biologist is NOT the way to create change. The BEST way to save the Earth is to become an Environmental Economist. By becoming an Environmental Economist you get people's attention by showing them the monetary worth of the natural world and how that anything that they can create is worth far less (close to nothing) long term. Being an Economist is not as fun or immediately rewarding as running around the woods but if you are truly serious about making a difference, this is they way to go. If you are saying to yourself, 'but I don't want to be an economist' then perhaps you are not as serious about making a difference as you thought you were.

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AC in Stockton, California

43 months ago

I believe the former poster has some valid points that a Environmental economist may be overall more transformational for the future, but most wildlife degree people want to work at least part of there lives with animals directly. I know as you move up in the wildlife field you do less of that but, personally I would rather work 5 years as a temp working with animals than as an economist. So maybe I am being selfish on some level. I am willing to deal with that.

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AC in Stockton, California

43 months ago

Just to let you know I know two people that have B.S. degree's in wildlife and have permanent full time jobs in the federal government. Not MS or PhD's so that should not discourage people, but you might have to work a few more years before you get the job. The line "it's not who you are it's who you know" rings true in most jobs I believe, and a lot of people are bitter over that truth.

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

42 months ago

Lots of activity since I left for fieldwork. To answer a few of the previous questions-
Carreer Changer- The actual title of your degree is not going to be nearly as important as the classes you took. Every applicant for a biologist job in the Fed gov must submit college transcripts demonstrating that you meet the basic requirements for the position. For a biologist with the USFWS, this includes 9 credits of plant classes, so many credits in wildlife techniques, so many in zoology or related (ornithology, etc.)...I can't remember all the specific requirements but they are readily available online. If you can demonstrate that you meet those, you are "qualified". You can also be qualified based on experience, but you would need many years of varied experience to end up with the equivalent qualifications. When applying for jobs, volunteer experience is perfectly acceptable but it will be rated on the same merits as paid work would be.

To UpNorth- ruling out government and private sector jobs unfortunately eliminates about 90% of job opportunities but I know that's a choice you make based on your principles. There are lots of grass roots organizations (land trusts, joint ventures) that might be what you're looking for. Try researching those and see what you find- I'm not really familiar with non-profit entities in Canada. You will find, however, that policy is inextricably intertwined with conservation, even more so in the non-profit sector. Human dimensions of wildlife is a growing area of emphasis and I believe some schools are beginning to offer this as an area of study- might be worth checking out.

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

42 months ago

Regarding the discussion about job opportunities- the fact that there are far more graduates than jobs is nothing new, but at least in the short term that situation is going to get worse. The federal government is hearing rumors of a hiring freeze, and many state agencies are also trying to reduce personnel costs. I think over the next couple of years at least, opportunities in wildlife will be extremely limited.

Having an advanced degree will never guarantee you a permanent job in this field- there are just too many people trying to get in. Not having an advanced degree will never guarantee you can't get a permanent job, but your promotion potential and job security will likely not be the same as someone with more education. And having a permanent job doesn't necessarily equal job security- even in government. You are subject to the whims of Washington, and wildlife is one of the first things to get cut when times are bad. Across the board, funding for wildlife is fickle. So in some ways, you just have to be comfortable with some level of uncertainty to survive in this field no matter how you look at it or who you work for.

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abbie in Troy, Texas

42 months ago

I really love the wildlife and I am looking foward to becoming a wildlife biologist does any body have any pointers I can use to become a wildlifwe biologist? I plan on going to a&m when i get out of high school I heard that it was the best place to go to become a wildlife biologist so if anyone that is a wildlife biologist can I please have some help can you please give me some pointers? Thanks!

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wildlifechick101 in Troy, Texas

42 months ago

I wildlife and new some help on pick a school anyone got any pointers????

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SummerD in Arlington, Texas

41 months ago

Hi, I am graduating highschool next May, and have plans to enroll at West Texas A&M University and major in Wildlife Biology. I thought I was sure of my plan to work my way up to PhD, get a starter job as wildlife technician, and then try to get a job as a wildlife biologist. I have had a lot of trouble getting clear information on what route to take with a Wildlife Career. I'm very interested in traveling with research teams; I would be willing to do other types of jobs in wildlife, I just am not sure what all the options involve. After reading all these different views, I am so confused.
What should I do? Any thoughts?

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

41 months ago

SummerD- That's the only problem with opinions- everyone's is different and sometimes they just make you more confused! The first question you need to consider is what is your ultimate goal? The answer to that will guide the rest of your decisions. A little help with what different jobs would entail:
A biologist would generally be more involved in on-the-ground wildlife management, helping with research study design, carrying out research projects, and providing science-based recommendations to managers and higher-ups. In general, a Master's degree would be necessary here. A PhD may work either for you or against you for a biologist job, depending on who you want to work for.
A research position would typically mean you oversee study design to ensure valid results, identify study questions, and sometimes carry out research projects, and often manage your own program. A PhD is necessary for most research oriented jobs, which are generally farther removed from actual field work.

I would certainly not wait to get a starter technician job until after you got a PhD. You should be getting summer tech jobs while you are still an undergrad (or volunteering at the very least). Most advisors want field experience before you attempt a graduate (MS or PhD) program.
By the time you get a PhD, you are usually considered vastly overqualified for tech jobs.

I wouldn't get too freaked out just yet. Once you start school, you'll start building a network and learning about opportunities and a path will emerge. There isn't one right or wrong way to do it. The best things you can do are get involved in student wildlife organizations, go to meetings, meet people, and try to get seasonal jobs in the summers. Those are the best ways to learn about all the options and find opportunities for graduate work and beyond.

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SummerD in Arlington, Texas

41 months ago

Thank you so much! I really appreciate that you took the time to help me out. This helped me a great deal!!! I will be keeping your advice in mind while I figure out what to do. Hopefully it will all fall into place eventually :)
Again, many thanks!
~Summer

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Goodaggie CWB in Flower Mound, Texas

41 months ago

bob in houson tx in Houston, Texas said: hey im in houston tx ...and i was wondering if the univesity of houston is a good school to go to be a wildlife bioligist......is it possible to get my degree to be wildlife bioligist there? need help

You are just 60 miles for the school that leads that is the leader in the wildlife field (and many agricultural fields)the State if not in the country, Texas A&M.
"if you don't know where your going, any road will get you there."

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Birdman in Syracuse, New York

41 months ago

Wow this forum is incredible. I want to encourage all of you pursuing a career in wildlife conservation to keep it up and don't be discouraged.

I got a B.S. in Wildlife Science in 2007 and worked as a seasonal technician for NY state for 2.5 years. After gaining a lot of great experience I realized that advancement was very difficult and so I started a grad program in Conservation Biology.

During this past summer break (2010) I worked as a GS-5 with the Forest Service to build more experience. And now that I am about to graduate in May, I have applied to nearly a hundred jobs both permanent and seasonal and got positive feedback from very few. I have managed to land another seasonal GS-5 tech job with USFS, but I was really hoping for a GS-7.
Even with what I considered a fairly strong resume in terms of experience and education, it is not easy.
I too am like others who have posted to this thread and wish not to work for private environmental consulting firms. Although they pay the best, they pay for you to help industry destroy. So, to get in with the government or NGO's instead takes a lot of perseverance and dedication.

The bottom line is: For those of you who know you want to get into wildlife biology, be aware that you will not get rich and that you will have to start at the bottom and stay there for a while.
But I know that I would much rather do this than anything else.
This is an incredibly rewarding career, and for some of us, is worth much more than money and stability can buy.

For those in the Northeast, I highly recommend the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF). Also, keep track of your courses so you can become certified by The Wildlife Society.

Cheers and Good Luck!

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buckslayer

41 months ago

i want to know is there any schools in florida that offer a wildlife biology majior

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buckslayer

41 months ago

i want to know is there any schools in florida that offer a wildlife biology majior

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Mark B in Hayward, California

41 months ago

I have BSEE and MSEE degrees (U of I in Urbana-Champaign) plus 25 years of design engineering and management experience. After leaving the semiconductor industry in 2003, I became a published but broke wildlife photographer, and wrote marketing copy for high tech clients.

Last year I realized I was very sick of high tech, and decided to go outdoors for my next career. I used to bicycle 80-100 weekly miles and occasionally cross-country ski race, and I’m still pretty fit at age 55.

I'll finish a 2-year A.S. degree in Park Management next year. It has included some GIS experience with ESRI's ArcGIS. I've also done some programming in C and Python over the years. I can run SPICE circuit simulations too, but that probably isn’t very useful.

I'd like to work in environmental / natural resource management or wildlife biology.

I'm looking at a Masters program, and remedying my deficiencies in biology and possibly organic chemistry, to make myself more employable. -I already have an assistant naturalist's job for a city agency, but I’d like to get out of the San Francisco Bay Area.

** What educational path should I pursue for a job with a federal agency or environmental consultancy? I'd like to spend at least some time outside.

** I also have considered a path to archeology for a government agency or consultancy, but suspect there are more opportunities with living resources.

** What entry-level jobs could I reasonably expect to get in the environmental management field? What would my job duties be?

Thanks from a guy who grew up in Missoula MT and Winnetka IL.

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Rach86 in Naples

39 months ago

Does anyone know of a university offering a master's program in wildlife conservation with GIS emphasis?

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Tony Montana in Oxnard, California

38 months ago

To every experienced person on this forum:

What type of "hands on" experience would I need?

Why learn GIS and how will it benefit this field?

What are some GIS programs and how can I learn this stuff at home?

Does wildlife biology have anything to do with zoology? Can someone be kind enough to explain the two?

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

38 months ago

Types of hands-on experience will depend on what your area of interest is, but the basics are pretty much the same for all wildlife folks in the beginning. Most of us start out with field tech jobs that will demonstrate a few of the following to a potential employer:
- Work ethic and your ability to get the job done. We have to weed through more and more people who just want to sit on their butts and enjoy the scenery instead of work. Believe me, word gets around about who's a hard worker, and who isn't...wildlife is a very small world.
- That you are able to function outside. Seriously- you'd be amazed at how many people who want to work in wildlife are terrified/incompetent when it comes to being in the woods. Sometimes you will work in remote locations by yourself, out of cell range. You better be able to deal.
- Your ability to understand and apply basic concepts of biology, ecology, and the scientific method when making decisions.

From there, hands on experience can vary widely. It sounds like you might be interested in GIS and remote sensing. As with any other field, technological advances are constantly changing how we do our jobs. GIS is pretty much a standard at this point- I don't know many biologists who don't how to use it. Spatial analysis and mapping are useful tools when you consider the sheer size of the habitats and areas we work in. From mapping GPS collar locations habitat use and suitability, forage quality, weed and invasive species management, human/wildlife interactions- there aren't many areas where spatial analysis isn't useful. ArcGIS is the only program I'm aware of, and it isn't the kind of software you learn at home (or really a single class for that matter). I would strongly suggest you look into classes if this is something you are interested in. It's also a very spendy piece of software. ESRI doesn't publish prices- you'd have to call for a quote but I suspect it might be in the 4 digits by now.

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

38 months ago

Oh, and biology/zoology:
Zoology is more organismal- essentially it is the study of animals.

Wildlife biology is a combination of zoology and ecology- study of animals and their environment. Habitat, ecosystems, population dynamics, and management techniques are all part of wildlife biology.

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Tony Montana in Los Angeles, California

38 months ago

Thank you so much for the information my friend. When did you start studying biology/wildlife biology etc. and when did you start working in the field?

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

38 months ago

Glad to help- I always had a hard time getting good information when I was starting out, so I try to help as much as I can. I grew up fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, became interested in wildlife as a vocation in high school, finished college in 2001 and have worked in wildlife ever since.

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Floridaboy in Paw Paw, Michigan

38 months ago

I dont mean to be negative towards this field, but I have had nothing but discouragement and very little job opportunities. I am still looking for a permanent job in this field and its been over 4 years since I graduated from college. I have a decent amount of volunteer experience, but have only had about 5 months of actually doing something remotely similar to wildlife management. Everytime I get an interview, im always the runner up, or the "top 3", but who cares if you dont get the job! There always seems to be someone that has more experience, better education, or a combination of the both. I have applied to state agencies for years and have only had a handful of interviews with most saying "We were really impressed, but this person has more field experience". This field just doesnt seem to have enough jobs to support the amount of people that have degrees.

I love biology and wildlife management, but if I had to do it all over again I would do something else and save the heartache, discouragement, lack of employment.

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

38 months ago

Unfortunately, your situation isn't unique. You are absolutely right about there being many, many more wildlife graduates than jobs. You don't say what degree you received- I'm going to guess a bachelor's and it is getting closer and closer to impossible to land a permanent job with a BS. The disparity between graduates and jobs is going to get worse over the next few years as state and federal government budgets tighten.I know of at least two instances where vacant biologist positions are not being re-filled due to budget issues. The last two biologist jobs advertised in my area each drew over 300 applicants. The statistics for wildlife graduates are pretty grim. About 80% of the people I went to school with who got a wildlife degree were doing something else 5-10 years after graduation. Grad school increases your chances, but even that isn't a guarantee. One of my coworkers went to grad school, then worked seasonal jobs and waited tables for 9 years before she even landed a term position. And if you go through school, get your wildlife degree, and then decide the hassles are too much or it isn't for you, your degree is too specialized to transfer to another profession very well. Something for all of the aspiring wildlife folks to consider before taking the plunge...

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David B in Jacksonville, Florida

38 months ago

MontanaWildlife, your input on this topic has been exceptional. Would like to start by telling you a bit about myself...

I am a non-traditional student, 35 yrs old, who returned to college after a decade away it. My goal has been a career in veterinary medicine. I am attending community college and taking everything I can that will transfer to the University of Florida. There are 3 pre-professional baccalaureate tracks offered at UF that are designed to prepare students for vet school, one being wildlife ecology and conservation (they also offer a MS in wildlife management). My plan has been to get a bachelor's in wildlife ecology/conservation and apply to vet school. Students pursuing the wildlife major can also become certified by TWS as an assistant wildlife biologist in the process.

I am increasingly finding myself more drawn to wildlife studies as an objective rather than a means to an ends or fall-back measure. I am also very interested in living in your neck of the woods and have been studying up on that pretty extensively. I am less interested in an office job and more interested in hands-on outdoor work, and passion for the job matters more than getting rich.

I am also very interested in living in your neck of the woods (MT and WY) for a host of reasons (not simply on a whim) and have been studying up on that. I am quite interested in the Livingston/Bozeman vicinity. Ideally I would like to get the education and then relocate, raise my kids there, etc.

Saw a Sheridan, WY job listing that required previous experience/local wildlife familiarity (ID, MT, WY, ND). How critical would it be to have local experience to be competitive? My father grew up in ND and owns the home he grew up in, so I could possibly live there, network with folks and gain experience in related work if (big if, I know) a wildlife job opened up around there, then work on transitioning a bit further west.

Any advice would be most appreciated

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David B in Jacksonville, Florida

38 months ago

Floridaboy, if you are consistently a runner-up or in the top few candidates, I'd feel pretty good about that considering the number of applications these jobs seem to draw. If it's truly your passion, stick it out and keep working on building that resume, because you CAN do it.

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

38 months ago

David B- right off the bat your post jumps out at me because I've been working in the wildlife disease realm for most of my career. Instead of choosing one or the other, have you considered combining your interests? The area of wildlife disease has seen significant growth in the past decade or so and continues to be an area of growth for most wildlife agencies as we learn more about the dynamics of wildlife disease, the impacts on wildlife health due to climate change and anthropogenic factors, and the impact wildlife health has on domestic animal and human health. It's a fascinating area to specialize in and most agencies have wildlife health programs at this point. There are several schools that offer coursework and programs in wildlife disease specifically. Something to think about.
As far as your experience question- depends on the job but I'd say in general that is true to some extent. Most bird jobs do require experience in the local area, or at least familiarity with the local species (i.e. know the field marks and the calls). If it's a cool job, lasts longer than a couple of months, or pays decent, you'll probably need experience because I guarantee there will be experienced applicants in the pool. That's the tough part about MT especially- this is nirvana for most wildlife people, who are more than happy to earn peanuts just to be here. It's a bit of a joke around here that we get paid really well, it's just that half our salary is paid in scenery (maybe more than half here in Bozeman).

I would suggest getting some experience that will transfer to what you eventually want to do- that's how most people break in. And btw, I wouldn't count out Colorado as a place to work. I spent 6 years there and loved it, and the pay was way better than MT/WY.
Hope this helps!

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James in Chalfont, Pennsylvania

38 months ago

shame all of the budget cuts, I was going to major in wildlife conservation and biology but it seems too risky, with no stable job security

im with David B, my ultimate goal was veterinary medicine also with the biology career as a fallback option.......

but i may try some other science major that's more marketable like CLS or microbiology

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David B in Jacksonville, Florida

38 months ago

Thanks for your reply! I'm all about combining interests and being well-rounded. I love aviation and have entertained the idea of doing wildlife management and then get some more flight school and try to use it in the wildlife job to aid in studying wildlife populations. I've noticed many agencies do mention that job seekers may be asked to act as observers from aircraft, so maybe that's not all that far-fetched.

I would absolutely be interested in wildlife disease. I always figured that wildlife management would naturally include some work with disease, but I guess that is not necessarily so? For example, brucellosis in bison and efforts to keep it from affecting cattle and so forth (and apparently dogs and people can get it too). What schools do you know of with such programs? I will look into it, but if you could point me in the right direction that would be great. It doesn't appear that my intended course of study (minimum of a bachelor's in wildlife ecology/conservation) really gets into it all that much, though I could be wrong. I mean I'm sure it does, but I see no undergrad courses wholly devoted to it. Vet school would get into some of it - though I'm uncertain how much it would also apply to wildlife. The first year is geared toward the normal animal, then second year focused on the abnormal animal and would get into it (third and fourth year this continues and you are also placed on clinical rotations).

I mentioned ND was because I did see a job listing that considered familiarity (2 yrs field experience I think) with the flora and fauna of ND, ID or MT as suitable for a WY wildlife biologist position. I am one of those peanuts people, but still need to afford the basics and want to have a family.

I would ideally like to do my undergrad work here in FL because out-of-state tuition is so expensive. CSU has a great vet school, oddly enough not known for having one of the stronger wildlife programs, though (I think oncology is their thing).

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

37 months ago

Wildlife work increasingly deals with health/disease issues, but most wildlife graduates have zero coursework on the subject. The wildlife field is becoming more specialized- there are degree specialties in more and more subjects and wildlife disease is one of those areas. But specialized coursework is typically obtained in a graduate program.
U of Georgia is the big one in your area, but Michigan State and U of Nebraska have wildlife/disease related programs. I think they are mostly grad programs.
It was always assumed that when it came to health and disease, dynamics in wildlife were the same as they are in domestic animals and we are learning that is far from true. Historically, there have been regular vets who could tell us about the diseases but couldn't tell us how ecological factors were playing into the scenario, and wildlife people who understood the ecological factors but didn't understand how they affected health and disease. The key is to have folks who are trained not only as disease specialists but ecologists as well, who can put together all the pieces and help managers make the most informed decisions possible.

Also, most states and feds have at least a few pilot/biologist positions. It's a niche market, but I don't think there are many folks with those specific qualifications.

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Joe in Forsyth, Georgia

37 months ago

Hello everyone this is my second attempt to post here so if I duplicate something then I am sorry.

I am a senior at oregon state in the natural resources program with the fish and wildlife concentration. I have been going part time for several years trying to complete my degree. For the last 20 years I have been working in a totally unrelated field supporting my family. However I have a personal relationship with nature in my heart is in a career that involves wildlife. With 4 children to support I have to work 6 days a week and have found it difficult to find time to do internships for volunteer. I have read all of these posts in this forum and have came to the understanding that it will be extremely difficult for me to acquire employment in this field straight out of college, and impossible for me to find something that is permanent full time and a living wage to allow me to support my family.

I guess my point is I hope I have not wasted many years of hard work and money in getting a degree that was useless to me. Even though it is something that I love and want to do, it is worthless if I can not support my family. The more I learn about the wildlife field I feel that I have made a mistake. Based on the fact that you have to work years in temporary and seasonal employment and very low wages before you can work up to leave in a living wage.

My father used to tell me the old cliche that if you do something you love you will never have to work again. And that the more you love your job the more money you make. I guess this is not true for everything.

Any advice would be appreciated...... thank you.

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

37 months ago

I wish I could tell you everything will work out, but I think you are finding out that this field might not be for you. I try not to crush people's dreams on here, but I also don't think pretending everything will be peachy is doing you any favors either.
I've already given all of the advice I know for how to be successful in previous posts. Unfortunately, it comes down to whether you are able or willing to do those things. If not, you really are fighting an uphill battle and the odds are not in your favor.
I might reevaluate my position if I were you. Have you considered working in areas that are tangentially related to wildlife (other natural resource disciplines)? Perhaps the skills you already have for your current work could be utilized by a wildlife agency, where you would still be contributing to the conservation mission?

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Hannah in San Diego, California

37 months ago

Im slightly annoyed because all my life i wanted to work with wolves horses big cats, WILDLIFE but...its like impossible...like who hires you, how do u know your going to get a job how do you get a job all i see is national geographic and animal planet and i want to be like them but how...it kinda feels impossible since i dont know how to become a biologist and i dont want to work for the zoo or something like as a janitor... (sigh)

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joe in Denver, Colorado

37 months ago

Yeah it is annoying. I agree. Just get really good grades and become a vet then?

I think you are just seeing that you don;t like how capitalism dictates what jobs make money. Sadly they only jobs right now seem to be in healthcare. Go socialism!

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David B in Jacksonville, Florida

37 months ago

It's not that hard to be a biologist, lots of people do it. But there are lots of biology majors who aren't working in that field and don't have fulfilling careers. The more you want it, the more likely you are to get it. You have to be a "glass is half full" person. Most of the time the reason people don't get where they want to go isn't because of outside limitations, it is the limitations they place upon themselves. How bad do you want it? It's like they say about love - are you just in love with the idea of being in love, or are you really in love? There are lots of people who romanticize working with animals, and it's not like that. Think becoming a vet is a walk in the park? It will test even the most driven of people.

If you want to make lots of money or have relatively good job security, you have to be in a position that helps other people get what they want (usually that means make money). Most people aren't hit in their wallets by the plight of wildlife. That said, conservation is the art of making people see the value in something. What does it do for them? Some times it creates unlikely alliances. You may not like people hunting cougars, but if people want to pay to do it, it does mean you have to have cougars.

I've heard it said that the U.S. Coast Guard draws people with a good dose of compassion. It's often said to be the forgotten armed force. It lacks the prestige of being a Marine. But their primary mission is not to kill people and break things, it is to save lives. By its very nature, it tends to draw the proper sort of people for its mission.

I know it's hard to get into working with wildlife and the pay may not be what we'd like it to be, but I also think that's not necessarily a bad thing. Nobody does it for the money, they do it because they really believe in it and have a passion for it, and that's precisely the sort of people we need doing it.

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joe in Denver, Colorado

37 months ago

The reason I mentioned being a vet above is that there is a clear path to it. If you complete those course and get into vet school you will actually become a vet. If you complete all the courses to be a wildlife biologist you still may never be a wildlife biologist. It seems to me (in my unprofessional opinion)...

However, if you want it like nothing else then I think anything is possible.

The other side of the coin that I think people need to look at is "what is the job of wildlife biologist". I think they imagine the best thing int he world, and hey it might be, but I think most jobs are "jobs". Meaning they will all be a pain in the butt, maybe, unless you get lucky.

The reason you see older people with jobs as professors and stuff is because there were tons more jobs for wildlife biologists in the 50's, 60's and 70's. Now we in capitalism made it so most of the jobs are at walmart and other service sector jobs.

National geographic specials sure do get us though aye?

In any case I am curious myself about this. Did anyone out there actually get into wildlife biologiy recently and has the good and bad advice together? It seems like you either have people who say how hard it is or people who had a wonderful career and are completely oblivious to the current job market.

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

37 months ago

I think David B is right on. There is tons of advice on this forum about how best to approach a career in wildlife. People keep asking the same questions, hoping to get a different answer. You either take the necessary steps to achieve the goal, or you don't. It's that simple. This is a great, very rewarding career. But if you go into it thinking being a biologist is just like what you see on Animal Planet, you are going to be in for a HUGE disappointment. Don't get me wrong, I love all of the shows, mostly because we don't actually get to do all of those things so it's like living vicariously through television. Those shows don't reflect the actual working life of any biologist I've ever known. They depict an edited version of the life of a biologist with a TV deal. They tend to leave out the time spent being cussed out by the public, the months you spend analyzing data and writing reports, the hours spent answering emails every day. Like any job, there are times when it's not fun and certainly not glamorous. Being covered in poop while being eaten alive by mosquitoes as you bake in your chest waders at 100 degrees and try to count cattails is what qualifies as great day doing fieldwork, and if you're lucky you might get to do it two days in a row. But for some of us its worth it because in the end, we are contributing to the understanding and conservation of something that we love and want to keep around for the kids and grandkids to enjoy.

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Joe in Denver, Colorado

37 months ago

It would be nice to see some statistics about available jobs in wildlife biology and which of those jobs actually pay a living wage.

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Dove Rogoza in Bonner Springs, Kansas

37 months ago

Hi i am do a paper on Fish and Wildlife Management and would like to know what they have a future outlook for? If you could reply that would be great. Thank you!:)

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Alex in Hollywood, Florida

34 months ago

I dont know if anyone is still reading this, but I'm just curious if anyone knows where I can get a degree in wildlife biology in the state of Florida, or if I will absolutely need to move to where most schools are located in the midwest

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

34 months ago

I don't know about Florida specifically, but I think most states have at least one school that offers a wildlife or equivalent degree. You might have to search various departments at each school though to figure it out since different schools put wildlife in different departments. Biology departments are a good bet, but look for ecology, zoology, forestry or similar to see if wildlife degree programs are lumped in with those.

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Tiffany in Poway, California

34 months ago

Hi im wanting to go into college and be a wildlife biologist :)
1. First i want to know if to become a wildlife biologist to i have to major in wildlife biology or can i in like ecology and nature resource???
2. Is it a good job? i want to make sure it is what i think which is i work with tracting animals, help/protecting them, exc. not sitting at a desk all day
3. do you take hard class's in college to become this and is it hard to find jobs in this feild
I believev that is it THANK YOU!!!!

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

34 months ago

To answer Tiffany's questions:
1: The actual title of your major is less important than the courses you take. For most wildlife biologist jobs, you will need to be able to show (on transcripts) that you've had coursework in ecology, genetics, plants, zoology classes, etc. Requirements depend on the agency you would be working for.
2: Permanent biologist jobs generally involve more office work than field work. You spend significant amounts of time attending meetings, writing reports and management plans, analyzing data, responding to requests for information, emailing, etc. Fieldwork is usually more limited than people think, and fieldwork actually handling animals is rare. They are wildlife after all, so ideally we want to harass them as little as possible!
3: Most biologist jobs require a Master's degree these days, so the coursework is generally fairly challenging by the time you are done. Lots of biology and math are essential- calculus, statistics, advanced biology/zoology classes and some habitat courses would be pretty standard.

There are lots of people who are attracted to the idea of working with wildlife and being outside, so it is usually very competitive to get a permanent job. To have a good chance of success, you need to do well in school, be willing to volunteer and get experience any way you can- the sooner you start, the better!

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Tiffany in Poway, California

34 months ago

Tahnks so much!!! it helped alot you have no idea :) .... one more thing do you know of any good california state colleges for this feild? if not its ok :)

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wildbiologist in Foster City, California

34 months ago

There's a great place to start your search if you're interested in becoming a wildlife biologist - www.degreesfinder.com/online/engineering/wild-life-biology.html Find good schools and programs that fit your needs, and do your best to ensure you see all your options! Good luck

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LMVM in Fayetteville, Arkansas

32 months ago

I've always wanted to go into wildlife, particularly wildlife disease. Due to health issues that started when I was 18 and only recently dissipated, I've been attending school locally. Unfortunately the wildlife courses are rarely offered and overlap in schedules. I've spoken with teachers and the department head and they kind of blew me off. I have secondary interests in physical geography, writing, and plants, but I don't want to give up on wildlife disease or anything else wildlife oriented. There's a chance that I'll only be taking wildlife management techniques and maybe mammalogy. If I go for an extra semester I might get in ornithology or herpetology, assuming they're offered again (few students take them and the classes sometimes wait another two years before being offered again). Non-wildlife electives would be entomology, plant ecology, conservation of natural resources, disease of livestock, GIS, and maybe a few related courses pending schedule overlap.

Whether I go for an extra semester or not, would I be okay for getting into a graduate wildlife program elsewhere or get a job with this background? Or is it worth the risk to transfer (and have a lot of credits to make up do to curriculum differences, not to mention financial set backs of moving out of state)? Thanks!

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LMVM in Fayetteville, Arkansas

32 months ago

Whew! I've finally read through this entire thread (I think) and there's so much more here than other sites! I especially noticed how David B mentions wanting to get into vet school but also wants to get into wildlife biology. I am of similar mind and about a year ago I was so determined to combine the two and found an employee's page on the USGS Wildlife Health page and look at backgrounds of wildlife disease specialists. It's a healthy mix of vets, biologists, and biologists with either general biology or wildlife science backgrounds (although most grad degrees are wildlife biology or pathology). I am familiar with UNL and Michigan State's wildlife disease options and would love to mimic them. Unfortunately I'm not at a good school for this and wonder if it's not too late to transfer, or if it'd be worth transferring any way (starting 5 semester). I'm hoping going out of state for two years is doable financially (low income family).

My big concern other than IF I get a job after graduating, is what is better? Should I stay "generalized" trying to get as many wildlife biology courses possible (they tend to get canceled at my school) or take more disease-type courses? My school does have an animal science program, and I'll be taking Diseases of Livestock next semester. There's Parasitology, but from an ecological standpoint I wonder if Entomology is better? Some people seem to get a DVM and an MS, but I'm curious about another's opinion, as well as other ways to have an edge for wildlife disease specifically, like gear more towards vet clinics, wildlife rehab, or wildlife mgt agencies for work experience?

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