Wildlife biology as a career?

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JarrodTaylor in Colby, Kansas

42 months ago

Thank you very much for your reply. It was very helpful. Take care.

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Namuuya in Lusaka, Zambia

42 months ago

iam also a student in the field of wildlife biology at the copperbelt university in zambia, its a new program with the school of natural resources, my advise to those who are still wondering what is involved, its not all about working in the bush or game parks but u can also work as a conservation biologist, all you can work as a species and protected areas specialist thats if your major is in management or biology itself. am currently doing my attachments with the world wide fund for nature in lusaka and would love to still have an opportunity to work outside my country, would you be of help
thank you

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

42 months ago

I think it is something of a dream for many biologists to get out of their own country to experience some of the "exotic" wildlife and conservation challenges in other countries. Open positions in lots of countries can be found on many jobs boards, and some international non-profits have opportunities to work abroad. To get started, I would check out:
TAMU jobs board
Society for Conservation Biology
The Wildlife Society
The Nature Conservancy
World Wildlife Fund
Wildlife Conservation Society

Obviously there are many more, but these are the ones I'm most familiar with. If you have a specific country of interest, you could try searching for their wildlife bureau as well.

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Tigers2012 in Michigan

42 months ago

I graduated with a degree in wildlife and conservation biology in 2007. I went into college studying the one thing I have passion and a desire for and I couldnt think of anything else I would have wanted to do. Its 2012, and I am still looking for a permanent job in this field. I really dont mean to be negative and I have a love for this line of work, but I am gonna be honest. Since 2007 when I graduated I have had many temporary biology jobs typcially 4-5 months and then the grant money ends. I have interviewed for some permanent positions with state, federal, and other local agenices, but am always the "runner up". Sometimes this field just gets so discouraging. It seems like there are always plentiful temp. jobs in conservation, enviromental, and wildlife biology, but very few permanent positions. When I am able to apply and interview for permanent positions its EXTREMELY competitive. I have experience with the Nature Conservancy and Land Conservancies, but have a hard time finding permanent work. I guess whats so hard is how few and far between professional permanent positions their seems to be in this career field. I see most of my friends with decent entry level permanent positions and hear I am still "looking" for that permanent job. Ok so enough of the ranting!

I guess my advice for someone who really loves this type of work (Conservation, environmental, Wildlife...etc) would be to really think about your decision. Its a very competitive field, with few permanent positions compared to most other professional fields. There are tons of temp. seasonal positions, but much fewer long term ones. I think if I had to do it all over again, I would get a minor in biology and major in something that has higher job placement and growth. I cant imagine trying to raise a family and find a job in this field...it would be very tough.

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

42 months ago

I have to agree with previous poster. The competitiveness of the wildlife field can not be over stated. I came out of college in a relatively good job market, and it took me 6 years to land a permanent job. The situation has gotten much worse with the recession. When people get upset about government spending, wildlife is always one of the first things to get cut (both gov agency hiring and funding to other agencies or NGO's for wildlife programs) and the job market for the foreseeable future will continue to shrink. While the number of wildlife majors graduating continues to increase, almost all new grads are extremely naive about the long-term realities of finding a job in this field. Unfortunately, most wildlife programs give students zero education on what it's going to be like to find a job in the real world.

On the plus side, if you are getting interviews you must be a pretty good candidate or they wouldn't bother, especially when you consider the number of applicants that are likely applying. If you aren't selected, ask for feedback, learn from it and don't give up...

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Tigers2012 in Michigan

42 months ago

Thanks MontanaWildlife! I agree with you 100%. There is no counsel or advice for young people going into college about which degree fields have promise and high job placement for the future. Its really sad that academic counselors and others in the college relm do not inform young people like myself about degree fields that have next to no job placement. I love biology, but if someone would have just told me that this degree field has very few permanent jobs and you may want to reconsider a degree in something that you can make a living in. The worst part about it is college grads get out of school in high hopes that because of their degree they will get a job within reasonable time. Also, like Montana said, this type of field is the first thing to be cut and isn't viewed as an important economic field that drives our economy like many other professions.

To be honest from what I have experienced I can't point someone in the direction of this field if they wanted to make a living at it. I would not want to see someone else go through the struggle of finding a job in this field. Very few permanent jobs, low pay, and extremely competitive.

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lecycliste in Oakland, California

42 months ago

Sometimes you have to go with what you love.

I got a couple EE degrees from University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana, and had three job offers to choose from when I got out. I discovered over 25 years designing and managing engineers in the semiconductor industry that it was an extremely stressful way to develop someone else's neat electronic products.

Don't get me wrong, it was fun at times, but I'd rather do something that gets me out of a cubicle. That's why I'm almost done with a Park Management degree, and doing county park and USFWS internships now.

If you have desire and a good work ethic, something will open up eventually.

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

42 months ago

The irony of the timing of this post made me smile. Last night I was talking to a friend who is a biologist with a state agency. We were commiserating over the recent state of affairs in government work, and he said (no joke)"Sometimes it's fun, but I get so tired of the stress and being cooped up in the office all the time". Guess it's all relative...

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FoxFolk in Los Angeles, California

41 months ago

I'm determined to get a job in a Biology department. All I need help on is exactly what classes and what sort of things I have to do. I know volunteering and internship is a great way to help but I want to know what classes and which colleges could help me out in that area. I want to work in either a wildlife refuge or anything that could help with wildlife. I'm only a tenth grader and really have that ambition in doing this. Please help and give information. Thank you. By the way, I'm only a tenth grader.

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ocelotocelot in Austin, Texas

38 months ago

Having read through this post it sounds as if experience may be preferred over advanced degrees. So to make sure I understand this correctly, I hope someone can answer this for me: if the wildlife biology form asks if I have A. One year experience or B. A Masters or higher and I have a PhD that included over one year of field based research, than which is the preferred answer-A or B? Also, my PhD is in a "related field" that on the surface may not sound all that related until you see what my dissertation was on and what my coursework background was in-do the recruiters take the time to look past that or do they simply look at the "major"? Many thanks!

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

38 months ago

I wouldn't say experience is preferred over advanced degrees. It's just that if you've only got one or the other you probably aren't going to be a really strong candidate. It's actually pretty easy to meet the necessary qualifications detailed in a job ad. The trick is to meet the qualifications being presented by the rest of the applicant pool. There are certainly hiring officials out there who view "related degrees" less favorably than Wildlife degrees. Some employers are really concerned about what field or area of emphasis a degree was in, and some aren't. Some will look past the major at the coursework, but not all of them will. In your case, I would select the option that you are qualified based on education, since the advanced degree is usually a very specific trigger point at which applicants get thrown out. But if your degree is in a related field, your resume is going to need to really play up your relevant experience.

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sadeq in Rafsanjan, Iran, Islamic Republic of

37 months ago

i read all comments about the topic. that was interesting. it seems finding a job in the field of wildlife biology is alike in all countries around the world. finally a graduated person desperates and just surf on the web and check his facebook on a daily basis.
:(

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sadeq in Rafsanjan, Iran, Islamic Republic of

37 months ago

i forgot to say about our problem, that is government's fault in my country. although our environment really needs wildlife biologists. really needs but...... irrelevant to your topic. sorry.

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GrizzlyDreamer in Jacksonville, Florida

37 months ago

I would like to bring up something that might be helpful for those young dreamers (13-25) that are really interested in animals or know for an almost fact that you really want to grow up and help the environment in some way, I recommend checking out a program I went on 2 summers ago called EPI(Ecology Program International). They go to about 5-6 different locations in the world and one of them was Yellowstone. On this program I had the opportunity to help multiple people that are being paid to do what I want to do for a living. Check out the program. It was awesome and validated what I want to do for the rest of my life.
www.ecologyproject.org

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DavidB in Jacksonville, Florida

37 months ago

test comment (having issues posting here)

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DavidB in Jacksonville, Florida

37 months ago

GrizzlyDreamer, welcome! I've seen a few Jax folks on here, we're inordinately well represented here, all things considered. That program sounds great - I have seen another similar one and agree that they're great experience.

MontanaWildlife, we talked a bit before, probably a few pages back or so. I am a "non-traditional" student who returned to college in my 30's to embark upon a wildlife career. I was looking at becoming a veterinarian but wanted to get into wildlife. One issue with it was the ratio of the student debt incurred vs the prospects for newly minted vets. I also want to be out in the field. Always was going for an undergraduate degree in wildlife, but things have changed somewhat. Basically vet school was the goal and wildlife was a potential specialization or fallback option, but now wildlife is the focus and vet school is a "maybe later".

Long story short, I've been accepted at the University of Florida, UW in Laramie, and MSU in Bozeman. UF was my focus before (has a vet school too), but in terms of the experience I'm after and where I want to live and work, it was not a good fit. Going to attend MSU - accepted fall 2012 but can (and will need to) defer starting (they allow up to a year). Everyone there as been wonderful and I've been very impressed. Will have to rent or sell our home, got a wife and her autistic brother who lives with us, several pets... lots to do/overcome. But I'm coming, and when I get there I'd be honored if we could get together some time and chat about all of this.

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GrizzlyDreamer in Jacksonville, Florida

37 months ago

This feed of posts brought me into a weird depression yesterday, after realizing some cold hard facts about this degree. My husband is suggesting that I go into teaching as a major degree and have wildlife biology as a minor. Its upsetting and kinda heartbreaking now. Its difficult thinking that my childhood dreams may never be reachable. I'm ok with the fact that most research is done in the peak season where there's the most animal activity and "easiest to survive out in the wilderness". I'm upset that just like the zoo program I was in, that no matter how hard I try in succeeding, even after I succeed in a degree, the reward afterward may never come. In actuality, zookeepers would have more success and more stable jobs than wildlife researchers. All I want to do is continue what Frank and John Craighead George started in Yellowstone long ago and continue monitoring the ecosystem while monitoring the birth/death rate and human interaction of the grizzly bears.

Sorry for venting. As many people that talk on this forum, I am also frustrated. How does a FL girl succeed in a territory that is a completely different ecosystem and have a job researching while there are perfectly intelligent, experienced "natives" individuals fighting for the same dream? ARG!

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HerpinAintEasy in Eureka, California

37 months ago

Hello,
I just want to give some light to this thread.
There is always hope out there. Wildlife is not an impossible field to get into. Especially if you are willing to take advantage of all aspects of wildlife conservation (research, management, policy, activism, etc.)
It is true that you need to start small, build and diversify your experience, and often relocate. If relocating is impossible, do not give up, volunteer everywhere you can as often as you can, this is great on your resume and can lead to job opportunities.
I am a perfect case example. I landed a near-permanent wildlife tech job in my home state (east coast) shortly after undergrad (lucky, and directly because of an internship I had). I decided to leave this position after a couple years for grad school. On summer break and also for 6 months after graduation I worked as a seasonal wildlife tech in western states. I then spent a few months unemployed, volunteered on a wildlife job in Mexico, and low and behold I caught a big break and got a permanent Wildlife Biologist position out West.
I tell this story to show that a career in wildlife can be frustrating, can be a struggle, but, if you keep at it, you can catch a break. I was getting discouraged, and losing faith during my few months of unemployment that I'd be a seasonal tech forever, but, it all worked out.
So, the moral of the story, if Wildlife is your passion, never give up. If you are from Florida and want to work in Wyoming, you can! You might have to volunteer, or do an internship to get experience and build a network of connections, and have some doors open, you might have to be poor for a while, but you can do it!
Best of luck.
Conservation isn't just a career, it's a calling.

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

37 months ago

DavidB, glad things are working out for you! Unfortunately we just left the Bozeman area...the hubby accepted a biologist position in eastern MT, so I've had to make the difficult decision to leave my permanent job and rejoin the ranks of the seasonal masses. Did I ever mention that being married to another wildlifer is a whole 'nother ballgame? So it turns out that even the permanent jobs aren't always permanent and many of us find ourselves still battling to find something "permanent" far later into our careers than we had hoped. But we keep plugging away at it because we can't bear the thought of doing anything else! Like Herpin said (fabulous name by the way!), you have to be prepared to do what it takes and not give up. So, here's hoping the search for a permanent job works out, again!

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ocelotocelot in Cochranton, Pennsylvania

37 months ago

HI Montana Wildlife, thanks for your reply.
I have both the degree and the 1 year of G11/12 equivalent experience-my dissertation was field intensive (over a year in the field actually) so I have designed and implemented a field study/supervised assistants/dealt with logistics/collected and analyzed data unsupervised/published. That surely should count as one year of experience as they require? What I don't get is they require an advanced degree-yet get so hung up on general courses. Like 9 credits on plants-my undergrad Un. did not even have 3 plant classes to take, and as a grad student you would only take 3 plant classes if your dissertation was somehow on plants. (and the job posting wont be something on plants, just labeled as an "ecologist" or "wildlife biologist" position). So does the fact that I taught General Biology count? What about me having to know the plants in my study areas? Does my independent study on carnivore behavior ecology and evolution and the class I took on primate ecology count towards the "zoology/mammalogy ect" course requirements? The point of graduate school is you are able to learn this stuff on your own, not have to be spoon fed it, so how do you explain that you have the background and does mentioning of all of this in a cover letter (provided they let you upload one) even matter if you are clicking "no" for the Q: "I have taken 9 credits in botany and..."? USA jobs is so frustrating:(

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

37 months ago

The federal hiring process is the most ridiculous system I've ever encountered. To be honest, it doesn't matter what you put because your application won't be reviewed by the selecting official, who is the person actually in a position to know how well your experience and education qualify you for the job in question. Your application gets reviewed by someone in HR with a degree in who-knows-what who will count the widgets (the announcement says 9 credits of botany? Check!) and the selecting official will only see the names of the three or so people who finish with the most widgets. They will check your answers to the questions against transcripts and resumes, so supposedly if you answer yes to the botany credit question but it isn't reflected in your transcript, you would be thrown out. However, I've seen people who were shoe-ins not even be referred to the selecting official, and I've seen people who are ridiculously underqualified and lied in their application rank out among the top candidates. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it sometimes, and it is equally frustrating for the folks on the other end who are trying to hire good people into these positions. Bottom line for you though would be that if you don't have specific credits listed, you'll have to qualify based on experience and education and outline how those meet the requirements in your resume. They do tend to be sticklers on the credits thing - essentially it's their set of basic standards that folks in that job series should have an understanding of to be "well rounded".

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GraniteState in Contoocook, New Hampshire

37 months ago

Hahaha, "They tend to leave out the time spent being cussed out by the public." Too true, good sir, too true.

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Nicole0701 in Wilmington, Delaware

35 months ago

I must say after reading through this thread I am somewhat depressed! I am 28 years old and after over ten years in the banking and corporate world I realize that only working for money is not for me. I was recently unemployed and it made me start thinking about what I really want to do with the rest of my life. I have always had a passion for animals and the environment and it seemed to only make sense to go back to school to work in a field relating to that. I have been going to the local community college just to get used to going back to school and have been doing very well and was planning on starting school at the University of Delaware for Wildlife Conservation or Wildlife Ecology in the spring. I never expected to be rich entering into this field. I am also willing to travel or move depending on where I can get a job. I had been planning on getting as much volunteer and internship experience that I could since I will be in school for another 4 years. As if starting college at 28 wasn't scary enough, I am now starting to question things after looking at the job outlook for this field and after reading through this thread. I feel like a lot of different things interest me such as research positions, wildlife management, naturalist, wildlife biologist, and also environmental issues and maintaining habitats. I had thought it was maybe a good thing I was open to what I want to specialize in, but now I am not so sure. Again, I do not want to be rich, but I do want to survive. Is it a wise idea to maybe look at other majors while I still can? I really don't want to and want to actually do what matters to me, but definitely second guessing myself. Any words of advice out there?

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HerpinAintEasy in Medford, Oregon

35 months ago

Nicole,
You seem exactly like the kind of person that succeeds in the wildlife field. You don't care about getting rich, you're versatile, and you have a passion for the environment. Volunteering and interning while in school, combined with your ten years of finance experience should help you out a lot. One of the greatest challenges in the environmental field is funding, with many programs being grant funded, and you have a leg up on how the system works.
Best of luck and live the dream!

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lecycliste in Hayward, California

35 months ago

Nicole:
It's never too late.

After a 25-year career designing chips, a couple years as a pro wildlife photographer, and 4 more as a technology writer, I went back to school for an A.S. in Park Management. I'm now employed in parks by Santa Clara County, CA.

I'm also 56.

I was a part-time naturalist for the City of Palo Alto last year, but that position didn't work out for a variety of reasons, mostly involving personalities.

So it is possible to go back to school and re-invent yourself several times, especially in your 20s and onwards.

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rfassettkelly in Mentor, Ohio

35 months ago

Hi, reading though this post I didn't notice if the question as to what a good minor would be if majoring in wildlife biology, anyone have any suggestions? I am considering going to Oregon State University and would like to know.

Thanks!

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JT in Stevens Point, Wisconsin

34 months ago

I am very interested in wildlife and I know that I would do well as a wildlife biologist. I love working with animals and learning about animal behavior and species interactions. However, because of the competitiveness of this field, I am also considering becoming a veterinarian.
I am currently double majoring in Biology and Wildlife Ecology, but my fear is that once I graduate from college I'm not going to find a job as a wildlife biologist. I also don't really know what to expect in this career. I am concerned that if I do become a wildlife biologist, I might be disappointed with the work that I am doing because it might not be what I was expecting. I am trying to get hands-on experience so I know what a wildlife biologist actually does, but my attempts have been unsuccessful so far. I am involved in The Wildlife Society and I aid in research projects to gain familiarity with how the research process works.
Some days I feel that becoming a wildlife biologist is a perfect career choice for me, but other days I question myself and I wonder if this career path is right for me. Although becoming a vet requires more schooling and is more demanding academically, there is a greater chance of getting a job in this career.
I realize that vets make more money than wildlife biologists, however, I am not too concerned about salary; I can work with whatever I make. My main goal is to have a job that I look forward to going to every day. My philosophy has been that good jobs will come to good people and that if you want it bad enough, you will get it.
I guess my main concern is that if I continue with wildlife biology and I end up not liking it, then my past 4+ years have been wasted. I don't know if I should be spending my time now working towards wildlife ecology or towards veterinary science. I know that this situation is tough to give advice for so I won't be disappointed if no one replies to this. Thanks for reading.

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Northstarr in Edmonton, Alberta

34 months ago

Hello,

I have a bachelors degree already and 10+ years work experience in molecular biology and the environmental field. I want to switch to a career in conservation and wildlife rehabilitation/biology, and looking to go back to school to get some skills.

I have worked in policy and research for so and sitting on a computer all day - I want to change my career focus entirely. I want to be doing more work with my hands, working directly with animals, and moving around outside. My goal is to work with ngo's and non-profit organizations.

Through my work experience I have discovered that I really don't care for academic research at all and have tried looking for course based master's degree in Canada in this field and they don't exist here. I am really not excited to spend 2 years of my life researching one thing and focusing only on theory, and so I have been thinking about going to do a technical diploma in renewable resources. Also, my grades are not that stellar to apply for most masters degrees on the west coast.

I don't care to be a manager, nor am I really caring about making tons of money. I really just want to get out there. I have noticed though over the years how technicians make much less than masters/PhD's, and are treated differently like more inferior. Is this an accurate perception?

In the real world do employers even distinguish the difference between diploma's and master's? (Again I already have a bachelors degree).

Which one is better for what I want to do? diploma vs. graduate degree?

Any help is most appreciated!!! Thank you..

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

34 months ago

Yet again, I feel the need to reiterate that just because you go into the wildlife field does not mean you are going to work outside most of the time or get to put your hands on animals. I've worked in wildlife for 12+ years and guess what? Most days I'm on the computer... all day. This is true for almost all folks in professional positions that I know (biologists, managers, etc.). The only ones who actually spend much time outside are the seasonal technicians who are working the lower paid temporary jobs. While I wouldn't say techs are inferior, they are a dime a dozen...everyone wants to work outside so there are often large pools of people begging for these jobs. Just a fact of life. People with advanced degrees usually want a "real" (meaning permanent) position, so they end up taking biologist or manager jobs where they...wait for it....work on a computer all day. To be honest, having an advanced degree probably hastens your ascension to a computer-bound position. Maybe life at an ngo would be different, but I imagine the need to hustle money would result in significant computer time as well. My fear is that you are heading into wildlife with a vision in your head of a job that really doesn't exist. Or maybe I'm getting jaded. Anyone else have some perspective?

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Northstarr in Edmonton, Alberta

34 months ago

To JT - I also struggled with your dilemma, as I think most people do who are figuring out a way to incorporate a career working with animals. The veterinarian route and wildlife biologist route are two completely different things, with their own realities attached to them. Veterinarians deal with blood, surgeries and diagnosing disease, prescribing medications, working long hours, the pay is considered low when you factor in the amount of hours you work and debt, incurring very high debt, and struggling with customers who often are not willing to pay for proper treatment for their pets or who have waited too long and it is the animal that ends up suffering in the end. I saw this firsthand while working in a veterinary clinic. I thought I wanted to go to vet school and actually working in it convinced me that it wasn't for me.

There are lots of forums online - just type in something like realities of being a veterinarian and you will get the same thing. I suggest that you just get out there and volunteer/work as much as possible in both fields so you can see what is a better match for you. As MontanaWildlife said the realities of being a wildlife biologist are just as daunting.

To MontanaWildlife - Thanks for your response, especially the comment that an advanced degree would just hasten a track back to the computer. I already know of the irony of professional biologists being bound to a computer all day, and I noticed this and it seems so backwards to me.

For me at least, I still believe that working with animals in conservation/rehabilitation at ngo's is possible. Again, I am totally not interested in research, management positions, buracreacy, or office bound positions.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on whether or not it matters what type of degree I should pursue for this - diploma vs. master's? I know conservation in practice and rehabilitation are also two very different things, and I am leaning towards rehabilitation.

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nanxzy121 in Baltimore, Maryland

32 months ago

Hi everyone, I stumbled upon this forum while trying to get more information about careers in wildlife biology. So my situation is unique, I am a chemical engineer by training and my boyfriend is a wildlife researcher specializing on reptiles and amphibians. His research work requires him to travel to remote third world countries for most part of the year. He suggests that the only way the two of us can be really together is if I switch my field to wildlife biology. I am an ardent nature lover, accepted but I don't have any experience whatsoever studying and doing research on wildlife, I have no clue if it will guarantee me financial security and I don't know if I can really tolerate an extreme lifestyle which involves constant shifting and traveling to remote countries. Can I get opinions from people who have made a switch from a different field to wildlife biology? How easy/difficult was it? Hoping for some clarity and advice.

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Megan in Torrance, California

32 months ago

Nanxzy121
I don't mean to be harsh but just to be with your bf is not a good reason to start a wildlife career. Given the financial uncertainty and tough job market associated with this line of work, you really need to love what you do, be willing to live with very little money, move every 5-6 months anywhere in the country. Even then, its very hard.
If you have the financial resources to help you out while you are working these minimum wage jobs to get the experience, then you might be OK. But if you are self supporting, forget about it. You need to leave a relatively high paying job to take a very low wage, temporary job every 6 months in different locations.

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hyark89 in Gaithersburg, Maryland

30 months ago

Hi all, I read through this entire forum but I was hoping to get some advice on my specific situation. I majored in mechanical engineering but realized after I graduated that I really wanted to work with wildlife biology/ecology. The problem is, I have no relevant experience coming from a completely unrelated field, so right now I am working an engineering job while taking evening classes at community college to knock out the basics like principles of biology, environmental biology, etc. I'm also looking for any volunteer work, and so far the only thing I found is monitoring bluebird nests. I have no idea if I'm going about this the right way...should I be pursuing another undergraduate degree, or try to apply for graduate school after I finish taking my basic classes? Or should I focus on getting more experience from volunteer work first so that when I do apply for grad school, they will know I am serious? I'm just a bit lost on how to break into this field, having been in engineering all my life (but knowing now that its definitely NOT what I want to do). Any advice would be really appreciated! Thanks

Oh and also if anyone knows of any good volunteer opportunities near Rockville MD, or even DC area, please let me know!

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Northstarr in Edmonton, Alberta

30 months ago

Hyark89,

I went through the same thing as you where I tried to break into doing grad school in wildlife conservation after coming from a molecular biology and environmental background where I graduated from over 10 years ago. I already had a biology background and spent several years volunteering in the field, spending lots of time and energy doing this in addition to my full-time day job. I did not take undergraduate courses to upgrade because of time constants/finances. After spending years of doing this learning about the reality of the field, I applied several times to grad schools going this route. Suffice to say, I did not get in and decided to change my career focus away from this field altogether.

I also learned about what being a wildlife biologist is from actually volunteering in so many places. The majority of wildlife biology jobs require a graduate degree. The reality is that you actually spend the majority of time in an office on a computer looking at data and writing reports. You are either working in government on boring things like policies and legislation and fighting with aboriginal groups about resources, or you are working for private industry helping to destroy the very environment that you thought you went to school for to help. If you decide you want to work with feel good non-profits, which is the route I thought I wanted to take, then you definitely will not be out in the field and you will be instead fighting with both governments and industry in an office behind a computer working on changing policies and legislation. Or you can spend your career in academia and deal with having to compete all the time for publications, grants, the constant insecurity and instability of acquiring tenureship and the status of your reputation.

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Northstarr in Edmonton, Alberta

30 months ago

If any of these sounds like your cup of tea than go for it, but if you really want to work with actual wildlife and be outside for your career you are better off settling for much less pay and being a wildlife technician, wildlife rehabilitator or environmental educator, all of which you do not need to go to grad school for. I’m sorry to say but many people have an idealized version of what wildlife biology/conservation is that is far from the actual reality of it.

To give you some advice, in academia they don't really care really about volunteer work so much as your grades. It’s all about the grades. They also don't care about the quality and depth of your life experience, nor the fact that you bring other qualities from your previous experience, nor if you are a mature adult with other life responsibilities and hardships that people in their 20's don't have a clue about yet. As a graduate student in science academia they just want machine drones that can spew out high grades as your living wages equate to just above the poverty level, and how well you can stifle your own creative dreams to work as cheap labor to fulfill your PI's (principle investigator) goals. After figuring out the system, I decided I don't want to play in it anymore.

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Northstarr in Edmonton, Alberta

30 months ago

My advice to you is to quit your day job and go take a full year or 2 of upper level undergraduate courses, and all the required prerequisites for those. For graduate school you will need uni and not college courses. Or you can keep your day job and spend 2-3 years taking part-time undergraduate university courses, then apply to grad school. Definitely spend some time to volunteer to see if you really are interested in this field. Volunteer with varied sources so you get a good picture, with non-profits, academic research and government. Don’t be naïve about it. Get to know the system of how things work in reality, meaning the relationship between academia, government and industry regarding environmental matters and wildlife. There is a relationship where government supports industry and industry supports academia, so often the work that really needs to be done to “save” or “help” the environment is often left up to the non-profits. Graduate school looks at volunteer work and depth of life experience as a bonus outside of your grades. So I would say just be sure you really know what you are getting into, get ready to give up having a well balanced life for awhile, and focus on just getting high grades in your uni undercourses and getting good academic references.

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hyark89 in Gaithersburg, Maryland

30 months ago

Northstarr, thank you so much for that in depth response! It was very helpful, and something of a wake up call. Although I'm still pretty sure it is what I want to do even from all the downsides you described, I agree that I probably need to probe a bit more to see for myself what this field is really about. So based on your advice I think I'll continue my plan in taking courses as a part-time student while volunteering.
Thanks!

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

30 months ago

I whole-heartedly agree with Northstarr's comments. As you can see from my previous posts, I am constantly concerned that people think they really want to get into wildlife and have an incredibly distorted idea of what the wildlife profession entails. The realities of wildlife work in the US as I've experienced them are pretty much exactly as Northstarr described. Technician positions do not require an advanced degree, but just know that many of your competitors do have them, along with several years of experience (and even at that it's very hard to land a job).

I've been involved in hiring committees for a few years, and in general the process has been the same for almost every technician position...Those with little or no relevant education are tossed out right off the top, closely followed by those with little or no experience. The first folks considered are those with the most experience or education, and there is usually quite a number of those to choose from. Another factor to consider if you are contemplating an actual career change is that many hiring officials have a negative view of folks trying to switch careers to wildlife from something else. In general, I think the perception is that it's yet another "animal lover" who's just looking for something fun to do. Fair or not, it's a reality. Lots of instances where someone previously established in another career applies for a tech job that doesn't require an advanced degree, then doesn't transition well to following directions and doing the menial jobs as a technician. People who didn't come up through the wildlife ranks sometimes think having a wildlife job makes them a "biologist" and I've seen lots of personnel issues arise because of it. So it's definitely a red flag for many supervisors. Not saying you would be a personnel issue....Just that you'd certainly want to be conscious of that stigma as another hurdle to making the transition and be prepared to address it with potential employers.

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Megan in Pasadena, California

29 months ago

Hyark 89
Same situation here. I majored in engineering with a graduate degree, but realized my true passion for wildlife conservation. I would have to disagree with quitting your job to take classes. Classes will NOT get you a job in this field. I got my 2nd BS in wildlife while working full time in engineering. Was tough but I did it. I was very proactive, went to a number of conferences, talked to a number of professionals and professors. The reality is that with a BS, you are looked at as cheap labor both by the employers and professors. Its not about what you can bring to this field, its about getting their work done for cheap. With a BS, you are a tech working in the field for next to minimum wage, no benefits and also temporary. Sometimes I think employers in this field down right take advantage of people's desire to contribute to the environment and conservation of wildlife. I don't wanna be a billionaire doing this, but I mean who the heck can afford to volunteer for a living? or work a minimum wage job for 4-5 years? its costs money to go to school, live, and breathe. Now, if you accumulate enough experience for a professor to consider you for a graduate position (that's a big IF), then you have another 2 years of working for nothing ahead of you to get a grad degree. Once you have a grad degree and enough experience, then you start to shift into management positions, sitting at a computer and dealing with people and politics.
All together, my experience has been that if you are self supporting and want a semi-stable life, look for something else or get used to eating mac and cheese and living in the ghetto for a while. Sorry to sound jaded, but there is no way to sugar coat this. If you love conservation, the environment and animals, do it on the side. If you love helping sick animals, become a vet.

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NicoleH in Wilmington, Delaware

29 months ago

Wow this thread is still just as depressing as ever! I'm starting at a new college in the fall for a bs in wildlife conservation and refuse to accept that I am not going to find a job doing SOMETHING. It may not be like what you see on the discovery channel but it HAS to be better than working in a cubicle all day.

I am actually just curious if anyone on here can clarify specifically what the differences are between a wildlife biologist and an ecologist? There is an ecology major at the school I am transferring to and it seems very interesting to me also, but I am honestly not very clear on what an ecologist would actually do on a daily basis as oppose to a wildlife biologist? Also, are ecologists in any more demand or is the outlook still just as grim?

Thanks for any info :)

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Northstarr in Edmonton, Alberta

29 months ago

hi Nicole,

You would basically be doing the same sorts of activities. Sorry, but the reality of the field is that no - you will end up working in a cubicle ALL DAY. That is the whole point of this thread is for people to see the reality of it. You will be in the field for a few weeks at a time during your masters and possibly if you are lucky, in your full-time job if you get one, after you graduate. The irony is that the most interesting, exciting positions where you are in the field all day actually working with wildlife, are the most lowest paid jobs ever if that, most of them are volunteer. Actual biologist/ecologist jobs are mostly office work, being on a computer all day, endless data analysis using statistical software, writing reports, and writing funding proposals to further your research. All the cool national geographic photo spreads and discovery channel documentaries are just smoke and mirrors to make people think that those types of jobs are so exciting, when in reality it just reflects maybe a few days or weeks of that type of work compared to a whole year of inane drudgery. You are always vying for funds, your job security is pretty low, and the more money you make the less time you are actually outside. If that sounds like your bag then go for it. See my above post a few weeks ago for more details.

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NicoleH in Wilmington, Delaware

29 months ago

Thanks for such a quick response. To clarify when I say working in a cubicle I am mainly referring to my previous jobs working for banks and lawyers. It's not the desk I have a problem with...to be completely honest I am quite comfortable at my desk a lot of the time. It's working at a desk for countless hours for something I do not believe in or even really care about that is the problem. To be honest I am not even hoping to enter the field to be outdoors all the time or have some glamorous job like you see on tv. So the idea of working at a desk all day does not deter me at all. I would like to think that my previous experience would actually just help with some of the things you mentioned above. I do appreciate you being very honest with your responses. This thread has definitely been very informative and it is nice to actually hear how things really are from someone with experience in the field.

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backcountry in Denver, Colorado

28 months ago

Hi everyone,

I have a BS in Wildlife Biology. I've worked several seasonal tech jobs and now have a FT job with an NGO. It's not exactly what I want to do, but its a job and I get out in the field a bit. For the last several years, I've questioned if I made the right "degree path" as I have learned through this process that moving around for jobs isn't what I really want. I love traveling, but not by myself. I'd rather have my partner there to experience it with me. So I'm in a situation now, where I still have to travel for work (during field season) when I'd rather be working in one area. ( I currently travel to several different states). I can't say I got much help during my undergrad for advise (years back). And I'm considering a different path/career change. I'm wondering if there is much hope for me to find a wildlife biology job that keeps me in my current city/surrounding area, and allows me to work with and study terrestrial mammals? Any advice?

My other career choice is my DVM. But that's in Fort Collins and I just bought a house... Isn't life grand? ;)
A Masters might get me more options in my current field, but I want to be near home. And I question if that's the wrong direction if I'm less willing to travel now?? Advice?

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

28 months ago

The one thing I really remember my advisor telling me in school is that wildlife degrees don't give you many fall-back options. You either do wildlife, or get a different degree and do something else. That has stuck with me because it turns out to be pretty true. I guess the real question is what specifically is it that you want to do? If it's work near Denver in a job that lets you be outside most of the time studying terrestrial mammals, how many such positions really exist (maybe you've looked into this, maybe not?) I'm going to venture a guess that it's not many. Take it a step further...that sounds like a pretty sweet job. How many folks with Master's degrees or higher would apply for said job if it did come open? I'm going to guess that this would be a very difficult job to land. If it's less computer time, less travel time, more hands-on time you are looking for, a DVM might not be a bad option. Given the current job outlook for wildlife positions (particularly for Gov agencies), it probably has better prospects for work in the forseeable future. Who knows... you could always be a wildlife vet :)

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mlund95 in Denver, Colorado

28 months ago

hello everyone! I am currently a high school senior and I am looking between two different schools to go to. One offers a Bachelor's of Arts in "Ecology and Evolutionary Biology" and the other offers a Bachelor's of Science in "Biology".
I aspire to be a wildlife biologist or something along those lines in the future, which school should i go to just looking at the facts above? Which of those two degrees would be best for my career? Thanks!

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JessAbby in Wilmington, Delaware

28 months ago

I am currently a sophomore and working on a b.s. in ecology, however, I am starting to question whether or not I have chosen the correct path. I know it's what I love and am passionate about, but I do not know if I am willing to make the personal sacrifices to do what I really want to do. As much as I love to travel, I am not sure I want to be away from my own animals and family all of the time, or be stuck living in temporary housing working seasonal jobs. Is this pretty much inevitable for this field? I feel like I don't want to give up on my dreams quite yet, but after reading this forum, I am almost more convinced I should think about another path.......just not sure what....sigh

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SquirrelBait in Austin, Texas

28 months ago

So, this forum is actually really helpful.

I've determined that if you want to work in wildlife conservation, etc. you need the following:

* a whole bunch of classes in science and math
* GIS knowledge
* data collection and analysis knowledge
* field experience
* low paying tech job experience
* volunteer expereince
* policy knowledge
* fundraising and grant writing experience
* a masters degree in something related

Anything else I should add to my list?

I'm 27. I have a degree in government and experience working on political campaigns and for non profits. Currently I have four squirrels living in my spare room (in a cage), almost ready to release. Other than that, I'm starting at the bottom. Even though I have a lot of work to do, I'm not discouraged. I have the rest of my life to learn and gain experiences. Sure it will be hard, but at least I'll spend my life doing things that interest me. Everything on my list above interests me, so I think I'm in good shape.

I also want to say that if everyone on this forum worked together we'd be unstoppable. Maybe some of us should think about opening our own businesses/nonprofits and including each other in the process...

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Anne5 in Chicago, Illinois

27 months ago

First, I want to say how helpful this forum is. Second, how refreshing it is to find everyone, with differing opinions and experiences, so respectful on an internet forum. I'm feeling all ya'll's frustrations and aspirations. I've been a seasonal biological science technician with the National Park Service for 4 seasons @ 2 National Parks. They were not ideal, but they were where I could get a job living the places I was at (my husband is an academic so I've been following him around, a whole 'nother story and situation). So I kinda "fell" into being a seasonal biotech, in not so ideal gemstone parks, in metropolitan areas. The work has exposed me to a lot that I wouldn't have experienced had I pursued what I most wanted to do. Previous to being a biotech, I dabbled in sustainable ag, environmental education, environmental restoration, poverty work, fundraising for an international environmental org, etc. I started out in the very beginning as a full-time volunteer at another National Park because I couldn't find a job. The NPS offered me housing (better than any place I've ever actually paid $ for), food stipend, amazing friends, and an experience that was unlike any other (sea turtle work on volcanic beaches). That set me up to be paid part-time the next year from the state. Not much pay at all, but I had no student loans, no credit card bills, no partner and no children, and best of all, no expectations. I know this is not the situation for most when they graduate from college, I was pretty lucky and most all of us have major bills to pay. I know it all sounds very bleak at times through this thread but between then (1996 or so) and now, I do believe the situation for wildlife professionals is much better. One big plus is the internet. We used to go to the library and comb through hardcopy newspapers and newsletters and look through the classifieds and send hardcopy applications through the mail! Nowadays, the listings for environmental and wildlife job opportuni

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Anne5 in Chicago, Illinois

27 months ago

...opportunities abound on the internet, in real-time too and you find out about more job opportunities more quickly. This may mean more competition, of course. Plus, there is way more awareness of wildlife and environmental issues, so practically every issue has a "green" or sustainable side to it, whether it's politics, business, agriculture, media, news, products, education, etc. Wildlife awareness is much more permeated into our US culture, it's in the news, it's on the internet, it's in our backyards, politics, global and local crime, etc. All this translates to more opportunities to work with wildlife, or at least interact with, wildlife and/or wildlife issues either directly or indirectly. The number of wildlife programs at universities and colleges have also exploded. When I was in school, it was just "natural resources" and if there was any wildlife classes, it was in "game". So yes, the competition is huge, but think of how that is a plus for wildlife conservation in general: more interest, more diverse professionals, more citizen scientists, more awareness. You can now find others who share in your awe of flying squirrels or caddisflies and probably find a conference to go to annually. The ground upon which we build our professional scaffolding shifts constantly, what is woefully underfunded these few years may get a boost in the next five, and then it varies from state to state, agency with agency, taxa to taxa, administration to administration. All I can say is don't lose hope or be discouraged, if it's what you really want to do then do it. And I'll be right there alongside forging my way through as well. Best of luck to all and enjoy yourself!

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KSS Careers in Yorktown, Virginia

27 months ago

I am glad I found this forum. I am a recruiter for Kokua Support Services.

I am trying to fill a position at Fort Hunter Liggett, CA. The position is a Range and Training Land Assessment Coordinator that is responsible for management, data collection and assessment of the plants and animals on the ranges used by the Army on the base. I am looking for someone with 3-5 years of experience doing similar field work. KSS is a great company with competitive salary and benefits. Full details are available at www.kokuasupportservices/careers.

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