Wildlife biology as a career?

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Gone_Fishin in Des Moines, Iowa

18 months ago

biologynerd8 in Tucson, Arizona said:

So I would caution anybody looking to go into Wildlife as a career to realize that education, job experience, hard work, and rave work reviews will not guarantee you a job. And every job you apply for will have dozens of other applicants with your same qualifications. When I talked to advisers and biologists as a student, they said it would be difficult to get a real job but if you put in your hard work, it would happen. I don't know if that's true anymore. Though I love what I do, I think I would have majored in something else if I could do it all over. It's not like you can't volunteer with projects, professors, NGOs, hike, or camp even though you work in a non-related field.

My experience is similar. Got my Masters in wildlife biology in 2008, was told at the time by many people employed in wildlife biology it was a good time to get into this field as many people were retiring....then the economy tanked. There are so few positions and with so many well-qualified people competing for jobs in this field it is very difficult to obtain a interview, let alone an offer.

I am currently going back to school, I just hope this time the gamble pays off.

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Joe in Memphis, Tennessee

12 months ago

Biologist = Scientist....you have to think like a scientist to get hired as one and a Masters degree is the first step. More laborous jobs not requiring a Masters degree are available but you are still working next to the entry level biologists. The wildlife field is tough in that it takes blood sweat tears and grime to get established. You have to move, live off of pbj, live in campers surrounded by barbed wire fences; and depend on the very people you are competing against to maintain your sanity. They dont teach this in school and no one slams your passion till the work is completed. This field is tough, country boy tough, you need to understand its importance if you hope to become successful. Since when did scientists make that much money? Its not as much about wildlife as it is the search for truth and answers to the natural world...one every single living person should spend time doing.

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Colleen Leyrer in Houston, Texas

12 months ago

This forum has gotten me so down. I finally decided to go to college (graduated in class of '00) and thought i finally had it nailed down what I wanted to do. Now, i did read about how it can be hard to get a job, especially if you don't have any experience, so volunteering was a must. But I didn't know that you couldn't use the degree in anything else. Is a masters in wildlife/forestry conservation not transferable to teaching?

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

12 months ago

If you are talking about teaching wildlife or conservation at a college level, the answer is no. You would most certainly need a PhD for that. Otherwise, a wildlife degree is not going to be particularly useful if you want to teach.

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David in Washington, District of Columbia

12 months ago

I am very glad to have found this forum; it is an eye-opener.

I am 46 and I am looking to switch careers into Environmental Science/Wildlife Biology. I have a B.S. in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics from UCLA. For the past ten years I have been teaching Middle School science in inner city schools and developing STEM curriculum for my school district. However, I wanted a change and after spending ten years with 11-12 year old children, it would be nice to work with adults.

My plan is to complete a M.S in Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Environmental Sustainability and a Graduate Certificate in Fish and Wildlife Management. This combination of classes plus my prior B.S. courses would allow me to certify as a Associate Wildlife Biologist with the TWS.

My primary goal is get a Federal government job. My wife works for the State Department and we are currently overseas. There is a Executive Order program for spouses of Foriegn Service Officers that allow us to gain Non-Competitive Eligibilty in any civil service employment after working 365 days in a oversea federal posting. I am hoping that this program coupled with my military preferences will give me a boost in the Federal job market.

I want to work in an interesting field. Wildlife Biologt sounds fascinating but I am equally interested in Environmental Protection work or Environmental Policy.

I read on the forum that there is a bias for career-switchers and that is dicouraging. My question for the experts out there is what do you recommend? What more can I do make myself more competitive in the job market? What field should I be leaning towards? I selected my Masters Program in Environmental Science and Policy with a Graduate Certificate in Fish and Wildlife Management to cast a wide net so I am eligible for many career opportunities. Is this viable? Should I be looking at a different program?

I would appreciate any assistance.

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David in Washington, District of Columbia

12 months ago

I am very glad to have found this forum; it is an eye-opener.

I am 46 and I am looking to switch careers into Environmental Science/Wildlife Biology. I have a B.S. in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics from UCLA. For the past ten years I have been teaching Middle School science in inner city schools and developing STEM curriculum for my school district. However, I wanted a change and after spending ten years with 11-12 year old children, it would be nice to work with adults.

My plan is to complete a M.S in Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Environmental Sustainability and a Graduate Certificate in Fish and Wildlife Management. This combination of classes plus my prior B.S. courses would allow me to certify as a Associate Wildlife Biologist with the TWS.

My primary goal is get a Federal government job. My wife works for the State Department and we are currently overseas. There is a Executive Order program for spouses of Foriegn Service Officers that allow us to gain Non-Competitive Eligibilty in any civil service employment after working 365 days in a oversea federal posting. I am hoping that this program coupled with my military preferences will give me a boost in the Federal job market.

I want to work in an interesting field. Wildlife Biologt sounds fascinating but I am equally interested in Environmental Protection work or Environmental Policy.

I read on the forum that there is a bias for career-switchers and that is dicouraging. My question for the experts out there is what do you recommend? What more can I do make myself more competitive in the job market? What field should I be leaning towards? I selected my Masters Program in Environmental Science and Policy with a Graduate Certificate in Fish and Wildlife Management to cast a wide net so I am eligible for many career opportunities. Is this viable? Should I be looking at a different program?

I would appreciate any assistance.

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MontanaWildlife in Bozeman, Montana

12 months ago

Hi David,
Lets get the bad news out of the way first, then get to more positive stuff. First, the sort of alarming trend for those of us in Federal employment is that biologist positions have been deemed "non-essential", and hiring has almost completely stopped. What is most worrisome is that many previously permanent, full time wildlife biologist positions are being reclassified as term jobs. Overall, I would say the job market for biologists in the federal government right now is poor. I know there are a lot of people already in the ranks who are looking to move, and there are almost no opportunities at the moment. Not sure how that trend will play out going forward. Second, I'm a little skeptical that the suite of education/experience you describe is going to make you very competitive for a wildlife biologist position per se. The current applicant pool is just too stacked with folks who have years in the game already, PhDs, Masters etc. Also the term "certificate" isn't generally satisfactory to many hiring officials when you're talking about biologist positions. Implies someone looked for an easier way out than completing research and defending a Master's thesis. Unfair maybe, but reality and something you should be aware of.
Ok, enough doom and gloom. The interests and education you describe above do sound like perhaps Environmental Protection might be a good fit. We see more and more issues with things like ag runoff, energy development, air quality, etc. For instance, EPA just opened a new office in North Dakota to deal with the drastic increase in complaints due to oil production in the Bakken, but they don't yet have the people to staff it. I think things like this will continue for the foreseeable future, and that might be the direction to go for both job availability and satisfaction. That, or helping guide policy for more effective provisions in things like Farm Bills or the like.

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David in Washington, District of Columbia

12 months ago

I appreciate your candor, Montana. After reading this thread, I am rethinking my whole education plan. When I look at USAJobs, there are quite a few Wildlife Biologist jobs. I would not have guessed that the job market is poor.

I am very interested in Environmental Policy but I do not know how to make myself competitive. I have done a good amount of internet research and I like the subject matter. I would like a field where I feel I am making a difference on a broad scale. However, unlike Wildlife Biology, there is no certification program like TWS and no "road map" to ensure I am not spending thousands of dollars needlessly on education that doesn't lead to employment. Does anyone know a good strategy for a career switcher to move into the environmental protection field?

I am overseas and have two years to take any online courses needed to create a new career. I thought I had a good game plan but now I feel a bit lost. Any advice?

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MontanaWildlife in Montana

12 months ago

I tend to think of wildlife jobs as being in one of the traditional "wildlife" agencies (BLM, USFWS,USGS, etc) and so my understanding of the current hiring limbo is from that perspective. Some of the other potential places that have biologist jobs would be like EPA, ACOE, APHIS...biologist positions in these would tend to be geared more towards environmental or human dimensions issues (either enviro/regulatory or nuisance/damage/disease) and less of the traditional "management" that most people think of (game species, etc) and perhaps those would be more closely suited to your interests? I don't have experience myself in enviro protection, but I have heard from some folks who do that it is very rewarding work. If I were in your shoes, I would start by researching the various agencies - very different missions will impact what the job will entail. Next, I would find qualifications for various positions at agencies that interest you (quals vary even for the same job title between different agencies). That will hopefully give you a roadmap of what coursework you will need. Specifically you need to know how many credits in what subjects are necessary - it can be very specific and will likely be a big factor in selecting a suitable course of study. In all honesty, having non-competitive status may not help as much as you'd think. You still have to be rated as "qualified" for the position (not to imply you think otherwise, but not everyone reading these posts understand how non-competitive status works) and usually the selecting official still has to agree to the appointment. The problem I think you will run into is that the basic qualifications of wildlife biology aren't generally met with a BS in another biology discipline, so you might find a lot of academic "backtracking" necessary to become qualified vs. Enviro specialist or another job series. Something to investigate...

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Muttsky in Dayton, Ohio

11 months ago

This has been a really useful thread.

I'm still sort of stuck, though. I'm doing my best to get info anywhere I can, so I figured I'd post here as well.

At the heart of it, I suppose, my problem is trying to figure out some specific job titles or careers that can be an ultimate goal for me. I don't know for SURE what exactly I want, so I no longer know how to get there.

At this point, I have a B.S, and I'm working on my Master's. My coursework up til now has me well covered for basic FWS requirements, though I'm missing about one class-worth of policy and of management credits for certification through The Wildlife Society.

The problem is I don't know what to do next. I'm fairly sure I don't want to stay in academia as a career, but I'm really limited around here as far as finding out what agency work is actually like. The replies here seem to suggest that it's a ton of desk work and data analysis, which... frankly also sounds pretty unappealing. I know that I want to remain involved in actual research and/or management, but beyond that, it's just really hard to know what kind of work I want to be doing on a daily basis. And it's hard to get a picture of what the available careers are like on a daily basis.

I'll be attending a conference in October that has a lot of non-academic folks as well as a career-information panel one of the days. I'm hoping that will be helpful for networking and finding something that sounds like a great career for me. But in the meantime I'm panicking a little and it's getting to be time to start applying to PhD programs if that's the next step.

Problem being, of course, I don't know whether that's the best next step. I am afraid that I may prefer higher-level biologist jobs for which a PhD will be preferred or even necessary. But I'm getting some VERY mixed information about whether it's a good, bad, or neutral idea to work on a PhD right out of your Master's.

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Muttsky in Dayton, Ohio

11 months ago

(continued)

So, I guess I'm asking for advice. Any advice would be really appreciated, but these things in particular would probably help:
- Advice on figuring out exactly what career you want (I'm leaning agency vs academia, but how do I narrow it down more than that when I have really limited opportunities to speak and meet with people within these systems?)
- Advice regarding PhDs and wildlife careers - will going for a PhD now if a good opportunity presents itself only hurt me? How do the sorts of jobs people with PhDs have differ from those without?
- Advice for if I decide to try to get my foot in the door somewhere. I'm in a very long-term relationship, so while traveling for tech jobs and things isn't outside the realm of possibility, it's not a lifestyle I think I could maintain for super long.

Thanks in advance. It's pretty scary; I've been pretty competitive academically up to this point, but the sudden realization that continuing the academic career might not be preferable for me has left me full of fears and doubts. It's kind of terrifying to suddenly be faced with huge choices and absurd competition no matter what I decide.

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MontanaWildlife in Montana

11 months ago

Hello muttsky. Sounds like you are in a bit of a pickle. Hopefully being able to work through in discussion will help you sort it out. First, the question of whether to pursue a PhD right away is sort of putting the cart before the horse. For many jobs it isn't necessary, and we wildlife folk aren't generally raking in the dough so it might actually be a very poor move financially. If you want to be a biologist or manager for an agency, a PhD probably isn't necessary. These would be the jobs that are most likely to include at least some outside work some of the time. If you are more interested in doing research a PhD would probably behoove you. But keep in mind that"research" and "fieldwork" are not necessarily the same thing. Ironically enough most research gets done in academia so you might want to rethink that stance. As far as knowing what different "titles" do on a daily basis, that depends on so many things. It depends on the agency, regional and agency culture and priorities and lots of other things. There is no standard answer. Experience in the real wildlife world is the key to figuring that out. Yes, you need to get experience to build your skill set, but it is also in those entry level jobs where you learn about the variety of jobs that are out there and what they entail. I would get a better idea of the possibilities before I jumped into a PhD.

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Muttsky in Dayton, Ohio

11 months ago

Thank you so much for the response.

I will post again if I can think of more specific or relevant questions.

It's nerve-wracking to try to figure out what I should be looking for next, if not a PhD program. Up til this point it's been a pretty straight shot through academic levels. So I'm kind of changing track and am worried it will be difficult to really find work and get experience. Figuring out the direction I want to go is so tricky, and the intense competition of pretty much any position is daunting.

I appreciate you taking the time to reply.

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Muttsky in Dayton, Ohio

11 months ago

Well, it looks like I have one formal offer of a PhD position, and another position that seems fairly likely to be an option.

These are likely nice positions doing research I would probably at least mostly enjoy.

But it's a huge commitment to make if it is totally unnecessary for agency work or might even hurt my chances in the long term.

I guess the questions that occur to me are these: can I get the same sorts of jobs with a PhD as I can with a Master's? What will ultimately be the difference? Is it really going to be a detriment, or can I use the extra years in academia to build my skill set in things like GIS as well as network?

I don't want to lock myself into being "overqualified" and overlooked for biologist-type positions that I'd really enjoy, and only considered for higher, management types of positions that I might not prefer. But if the PhD might ultimately help give me some more years of experience and make me more competitive, might it be a good move?

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MontanaWildlife in Montana

11 months ago

I think the rub is that for a general biologist position, the master's with a wider breadth of experience would be preferable to a PhD. (As always, I'm generalizing here). If you are interested in being a manager of some sort, a PhD will not help in most cases. You need to be getting experience with the gamesmanship and politics that go into making the big decisions, which really have very little to do with biology unfortunately. If your interest is with something more specialized (you want to be a habitat modeler or something), the PhD will probably pay off. The more specialized you are, the more of a niche market you are trying to get into, if that makes sense. Do you want to work all day every day on that one thing? That is sort of what the PhD sets you up for. If you want more variety, you might consider diving into the workforce. In general in the agency I work for things go like this: managers have bachelor's. Biologists have master's. Researchers have PhDs. I think this is fairly standard for the feds. There are lots of managers, a moderate number of biologists and a few researchers. Maybe that helps you weigh your options?

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Muttsky in Dayton, Ohio

11 months ago

Wow, thank you so much for the response.

I guess what I need to try to figure out now (in a painfully short time), is whether, if I want to shoot for agency work, I want to do more of the general biologist work or specialized researcher stuff. I know it varies a lot by agency and by regions, but I'd love to hear more about what these jobs are like in yours, how they differ.

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amandala in Denver, Colorado

7 months ago

Hey guys! This forum seems to have some knowledgeable people, so let's see if anyone can offer me some help. I graduated with a bachelor's in wildlife and fisheries management in 2012, and have never been able to get a job in the field. At first, I was really picky because I was easily making $20/hr at a restaurant, and wildlife positions offered much less. I then stared trying for volunteer positions and almost-volunteer positions with no luck. It's been almost 3 years since I graduated and I've never had a job in the field. Do I have any hope of salvaging this degree? Any pointers?

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MontanaWildlife in Montana

7 months ago

There are tough questions you need to ask yourself before you can answer that. Any hope of salvaging your degree depends on you. The first question is what do you want out of a career? If your metric for success is based on earnings (and that is one of many valid metrics), then maybe wildlife isn't for you because you are right - lots of things pay better out of the gate. Second, how badly do you want the job? To really be successful in building a career in wildlife, you can't do it halfway. If you go for years between jobs, few employers are going to take you seriously because we see it all the time. There are thousands of building inspectors, loan officers, car salesmen etc who have wildlife degrees. It all sounded cool and fun in college, but when they got out and faced the realities of wildlife work they found it took more commitment and sacrifice than they were willing to give. So that's the third question - how much are you willing to give? There is no way around the seasonal/low pay/volunteer/rejection gauntlet, and the longer you wait to start, the longer and more painful/frustrating that period is going to be.

You've stacked the deck against yourself, and recovering from that is going to require a Herculean effort on your part. You no longer have the option of most student or intern positions since you are 3 years out of school, so some really good experiential opportunities have been lost. You are technically qualified for most entry level seasonal jobs but you'll have to compete with all the other folks with bachelor's degrees (and higher) so you are at a severe disadvantage having no experience. Volunteering, building a network and getting some references or applying for jobs that are "less desireable" appear to be your current options. So what are you willing to do? Announcements have been flying for the last month already for the upcoming field season. If you want to try to build a career, you better get started!

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lecycliste in Albuquerque, New Mexico

7 months ago

My experience comes from the park management field. Here's one way to get employment in an outdoor career.

I have two degrees in electrical engineering and spent 25 years designing integrated circuits in Silicon Valley. When I got tired of getting beaten up for missing unreasonable product schedules, I tried working as a freelance wildlife photographer (sold prints and got a couple published articles), had more success ($$) as a freelance technology writer, and finally took a two-year degree in park management.

I got seasonal jobs taking money and then working maintenance (read: cleaning toilets, emptying trash and BBQ pits, and clearing trails) for Santa Clara County, California parks. When we moved to Albuquerque in June 2013, I began volunteering at Petroglyph National Monument right away.

I was offered an emergency hire in May 2014 as an interpretive ranger at Petroglyph (National Park Service). That lasted 60 days and paid $15 / hour (GS 5 step 1). In addition to answering questions at the visitor center, I also presented interpretive programs to groups in the field, installed new signs around the visitor center grounds (something I'd done as an intern in California), and installed a ceiling-mounted projector in a conference room. I also gave Windows computer help to interpretive park staff.

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lecycliste in Albuquerque, New Mexico

7 months ago

Several points here -
1. Outdoor careers won't make you rich. But if you value what you're doing, where you do it, and who you do it with, they can be very satisfying. The Petroglyph interp ranger position was one of the best jobs I've ever had.

2. Be willing to work on anything, especially tasks outside the job description. Let prospective employers know about ALL your related skills. That could make you preferable to other candidates, and have you working on additional fun stuff.

3. There is no age limit on internships. I was 56 when I interned with rangers at Santa Clara County Parks and Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. At age 55, I completed an interpretive program and presented it (Wildlife Photography for Beginners) as an intern for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

4. Take a couple classes from a local college near a place you'd like to work. This gives you access to the school's internship program, and also connects you to the local career community. It will help you find out who's working on what, and choose agencies you'd like to work for.

5. Volunteering is one of your best options as a path to a job. Most agencies are grossly understaffed, and need all the qualified help they can get. It doesn't have to be full-time either, leaving you time for a paying job. *Do great work* and you'll get top consideration when there's a need for a paid position.

6. Continue volunteering when the seasonal job ends. That gets you considered for another job the following season.

In the NPS, veterans get first consideration for all advertised seasonal positions. That's where the volunteer route may be the best way in.

There are always backdoor paths into any agency - the trick is to get to know someone already inside.

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katelynml in Katy, Texas

7 months ago

This thread has been very interesting.
I am currently a junior in college getting a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science at Texas A&M. I am still trying to decide if I should pursue a Graduate degree or not. It sounds like it might be a good idea in order to make me more competitive, but it won't necessarily guarantee me employment in the field. I've always wanted to work in animal husbandry (like a zoo or sanctuary type setting) but the pay is not very good so I was looking into research, which I would also enjoy. I guess my biggest concern is spending the time and money on a graduate degree that I may not use. I have a little bit of experience with research/animal care but could definitely use some more.
Any advice would be helpful!

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chrisb in Arcata, California

7 months ago

I recently got offered my dream job as a permanent wildlife biologist for the Forest Service. I've been working towards this position for ten years, since receiving my BS in biology. I've taken work wherever I could get it. I've been a seasonal technician all over the country; a Peace Corps volunteer; a Master's student. To make ends meet, I've taken side jobs as a ski liftie, a bank teller, and a minimum wage server, and I've been forced to live out of my car for several months. I have never been able to afford medical insurance, and I've never lived in one place for more than two years.

Here are some lessons I've learned about succeeding in this field, both personally and from observation:

1) It's who you know. Really. You may be brilliant in the field, or a great scientific mind, but unless you impress the right people you will have a hard time landing a year-round job. The number one reason I have a permanent job is that I had former supervisors that went an extra mile to advocate on my behalf.

2) Love the computer as much as the field. Today's land managers *must* have skills in GIS software and database management to do their jobs effectively. When in the field, I am constantly thinking about how the data I'm collecting can be expressed and summarized geospatially.

3) Enjoy the adventure. You're going to live and work in some incredibly beautiful places. If years of financial insecurity and transience depress you, this profession probably won't suit you.

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DimeADozen in Elyria, Ohio

6 months ago

From this forum I have learned that the seasonal tech jobs would suit me better for a couple reasons:
1. I am willing and would actually prefer to travel
2. I would rather work in the field than in the office even for less money
3. After years of pursuing a degree I am not interested [BS in health science], I want to get out there as fast as possible and the field tech requires less schooling.

What amount of schooling is usually acceptable for these positions. I have basic biology, microbiology, and even a environmental science class but should I grab an AS in wildlife management to give me some credibility? I am starting to look into volunteer options of course.
I'm in the Cleveland area so hopefully not too difficult.

After reading this forum my dreams of working with wildlife aren't crushed. Instead, I actually feel less pressure in my decision to make wildlife work a hobby-- scanning biotech postings daily and gaining experience while I work as a histotechnologist. I am just beginning the 2 year histo program and wondering if I should do a 2 year wildlife program in conjunction.

After reading this I wonder if merging these 2 fields is a viable option as well. Perhaps studying tissues samples of wildlife specimens for a wildlife veterinarian or research purposes?

I enjoy studying indeed forums. Thank you all for your time and thoughts.

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MontanaWildlife in Montana

6 months ago

I'm really confused about your plan. You want to work seasonal tech jobs as a hobby while you also work as a histotechnologist? This does not seem very practical, or I'm completely misunderstanding what you want to do. People who do wildlife work as a hobby are usually volunteers, in which case it doesn't matter what education you have. If you are looking to do full time paid work, you will not be very competitive with an AS.

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big mike 19 in Lexington, South Carolina

5 months ago

Alex in Hollywood, Florida said: 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

If i mistaken check university of florida or university of florida state i know for sure university of florida has a marnine biology bachelors program

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big mike 19 in Lexington, South Carolina

5 months ago

lecycliste in Albuquerque, New Mexico said: Several points here -
1. Outdoor careers won't make you rich. But if you value what you're doing, where you do it, and who you do it with, they can be very satisfying. The Petroglyph interp ranger position was one of the best jobs I've ever had.

2. Be willing to work on anything, especially tasks outside the job description. Let prospective employers know about ALL your related skills. That could make you preferable to other candidates, and have you working on additional fun stuff.

3. There is no age limit on internships. I was 56 when I interned with rangers at Santa Clara County Parks and Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. At age 55, I completed an interpretive program and presented it (Wildlife Photography for Beginners) as an intern for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

4. Take a couple classes from a local college near a place you'd like to work. This gives you access to the school's internship program, and also connects you to the local career community . It will help you find out who's working on what, and choose agencies you'd like to work for.

5. Volunteering is one of your best options as a path to a job. Most agencies are grossly understaffed, and need all the qualified help they can get. It doesn't have to be full-time either, leaving you time for a paying job. *Do great work* and you'll get top consideration when there's a need for a paid position.

6. Continue volunteering when the seasonal job ends. That gets you considered for another job the following season.

In the NPS, veterans get first consideration for all advertised seasonal positions. That's where the volunteer route may be the best way in.

There are always backdoor paths into any agency - the trick is to get to know someone already inside.


I have personal talked to a park ranger i know two ways volunteer going through seasonal park ranger classes at temple i heard if you takes these classes it helps

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Kdiner in Newport News, Virginia

4 months ago

Hello everybody!

There is a lot of fascinating information on this forum and I am looking for some advice or some guidance on how to maintain a stable career in this field. I have always been intrigued by animals and nature and love the outdoors and hiking, I am currently transferring to Virginia Tech and am interested in a Wildlife Conservation major. While I am aware that this is very diverse and competitive field I feel that I could be successful at it if given the chance. While I do not know what it fully takes to become a wildlife biologist, I am fascinated by nature and animals and know that I want to do something along the lines of this field. I understand money will be slim, that is something I am aware of and okay with. But can I get a range for how much, with these "experience gaining jobs/opportunities", would pay with a bachelors after college?

I'd love to be able to talk to someone who has been successful or knows what it takes to reach my dream job. I want to study wildlife in mountainous regions, but I know I have to be open minded to be successful in this field. ANY advice or criticism will help!

I'm just a curious 19 year old, hungry for life, nature, and adventure!

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MontanaWildlife in Montana

4 months ago

The range of salaries you can "expect" is going to vary depending on who you work for. The federal agencies use the GS pay scale, which can be found here:
www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/2015/general-schedule/
Look at the charts for "Rest of U.S.". Most typical seasonal jobs are filled as GS 3, 4, or 5, step 1. So, hourly you'd be looking at something between $12.19 to $15.31 (or about $25K to $32K per year). These are usually 6 months or less duration, so do the math to figure out what you'd make in a season. While you would technicially be "qualified" for these jobs upon receiving a bachelors degree, there are lots of people with Masters degrees applying for these positions as well. GS 6 or 7 positions require more experience and/or at least some graduate level coursework. State jobs will often pay slightly less. In comparison, most full performance level biologist jobs in federal service have been GS-11 (so about $58K). But lately it seems like many of those positions are being downgraded to GS 7 or 9 to save money.
The best advice is to get experience, and don't be picky. Those who are too picky about the pay, duties, location, etc. end up sitting on the sidelines and getting passed by the go-getters who do what it takes to get where they want to be. And supervisors tend to reward hard workers with more and better opportunities.

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Kdiner in Newport News, Virginia

4 months ago

MontanaWildlife in Montana said: The range of salaries you can "expect" is going to vary depending on who you work for. The federal agencies use the GS pay scale, which can be found here:
www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/2015/general-schedule/
Look at the charts for "Rest of U.S.". Most typical seasonal jobs are filled as GS 3, 4, or 5, step 1. So, hourly you'd be looking at something between $12.19 to $15.31 (or about $25K to $32K per year). These are usually 6 months or less duration, so do the math to figure out what you'd make in a season. While you would technicially be "qualified" for these jobs upon receiving a bachelors degree, there are lots of people with Masters degrees applying for these positions as well. GS 6 or 7 positions require more experience and/or at least some graduate level coursework. State jobs will often pay slightly less. In comparison, most full performance level biologist jobs in federal service have been GS-11 (so about $58K). But lately it seems like many of those positions are being downgraded to GS 7 or 9 to save money.
The best advice is to get experience, and don't be picky. Those who are too picky about the pay, duties, location, etc. end up sitting on the sidelines and getting passed by the go-getters who do what it takes to get where they want to be. And supervisors tend to reward hard workers with more and better opportunities.

Thanks for the reply! What kind of jobs are "seasonable post graduate jobs"? Are these park ranger jobs? I would like to get an understanding of what kind of work I would have to do after I graduate and what kind of lifestyle I would most likely be living (I do not mind travel or getting out of the state I grew up in). I am just trying to get an better concept of what kind of work I would be doing for the 5-10 years after graduation (which this forum seems to be saying will mostly likely happen before I can get a steady job).

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lecycliste in Albuquerque, New Mexico

4 months ago

I worked as a seasonal interpretive ranger at Petroglyph National Monument last summer. While this is a cultural resource park (wildlife natural resources aren't the main focus), the procedure and career track are similar.

I was a GS 5 step 1. Starting pay was $18 per hour, and there are no benefits. That means no medical insurance, no paid time off, nothing. There's no guarantee of a re-hire this summer either, though I've been in contact with my boss and it looks like it might happen.

Work involved giving interpretive programs to visitors, summer camp groups, and school classes. I also worked the visitor center desk, giving directions and on-the-spot interpretation to visitors. I also installed a ceiling-mounted projector in a conference room, replaced interpretive signs, and took photographs to document trail reconstruction and special visitor events. And I did informal IT work to help with computer programs and Windows machines.

As I'd worked seasonal park maintenance for Santa Clara County Parks in California, as a professional wildlife and architectural photographer, and had a 25-year career as a Silicon Valley engineer previously, I did things outside the regular job description.

*** The main point is this - if you want to work for a government agency, be ready to work outside your job description for little money and no benefits.

*** Without military veteran's preference, you're unlikely to get a permanent job in any federal agency. A PhD in the right field who walks on water might be able to overcome a lack of military service. But all things being equal, a similarly-qualified veteran will beat you out every time.

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MontanaWildlife in Montana

4 months ago

Duties for biotech positions can be extremely varied. There is usually a lot of maintenance type work - repairing equipment, placing signs, fixing fence, groundskeeping, doing various wildlife or habitat surveys, entering data, helping with public outreach. It depends on where you work and what the main missions of the agency are. General biotech jobs give you a lot of exposure to a broad range of things, which makes them very good resume builders! Lecycliste makes some very good points as well. With shrinking budgets and "cost savings" being achieved through leaving positions vacant, government employees are required to do a lot more work that is outside their job descriptions. Lots of us are now collateral duty wildland firefighters/maintenance/visitor services in addition to our regular biological duties. It's what we have to do to keep things running, so we do it. But it can be challenging and frustrating at times because in the end, the resource suffers for it. The point about veteran's preference is also spot on. At least in the agency I work for, when hiring officials get their list of applicants from HR, they are required to offer the position to veterans first. This makes it really tough for young people who did not go the military route to get hired in some cases. It's policy, nothing we can do about about it but not ideal.

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AZbioguy in Temecula, California

2 months ago

Hello,

I am not sure anyone reads this anymore but I have been in the wildlife field for ten years and I still have problems. I did not get any real education on the job market in college. I would have gotten my masters but I work with too many people doing the same jobs as me with a masters.
I actually wrote a book about my experience and it has gotten good reviews from my fellow biologist of all experience levels. It's called "Tents, Tortoises, and Tailgates" . It should be read by anyone thinking of getting into this career. You all would find the section on environmental consulting interesting as it is a career branch rarely mentioned. Check it out. I think it will help yall!

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antaeus1229 in Astoria, New York

1 month ago

This thread has been very eye opening for me and if anyone can answer a few questions that I have I'd be extremely appreciative. I was very interested in pursuing a ms in wildlife management from OSU, but now I'm not so sure. I am nearly finished with a bachelor's in environmental studies. Yeah, I know I should have gone for a bs in a more marketable major, but that being said, I will end up with around 60-70 credits of math and science course work including classes in stats, geology, GIS, and ecology including wildlife diseases, wildlife behavior, plant pathology, ecological restoration, etc. My question is this: are there any jobs out there that are similar to wildlife management but with more job stability and just more jobs in general. I'm not afraid of putting in the work, but the uncertainty is scary. Also, is there anything else I can do to increase my chances of finding a job? Are there specific courses that are deemed necessary that I should take before I graduate? Are there any certifications I can get that would help? I've heard a hazwoper certification is helpful for environmental majors. Are there any skills that would benefit me, like specific GIS skills or knowledge of R. I understand that experience is key. Unfortunately, since I must work during the day, I probably cannot do any internships at this point, so I am relying on volunteer experience. For the past two months I've been volunteering with the Bronx River Alliance doing water quality testing at the Bronx river and I hope to do some volunteer work at the Botanical gardens in the future. I'm just not sure what direction I should be heading or what I should get my masters in. I enjoy science, especially biology, but I'm not sure what's marketable. I'm not overly concerned with making a lot money, but I do want to be able to find a job.

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MontanaWildlife in Montana

27 days ago

I think environmental studies will likely give you a wider selection of potential employers than wildlife bio will. Because of our North American model of wildlife management, those jobs are mainly limited to government agencies. Environmental science, however, is more broadly relevant not only to fed, state, and local governments, but also many industries which makes the job market somewhat larger. Where I live, we have a lot of oil and gas development going on and a lot of the oil companies employ environmental scientists, there are numerous consulting companies (both international and smaller organizations) that employ environmental scientists, and then the various governmental agencies as well. The specific coursework and volunteer work you've mentioned above makes it sound like this might be something that aligns with your interests? I think the fact that environmental science tends to focus on things that can directly impact public safety and health, the funding and thus job availability/stability may be better than wildlife. Unfortunately the trends for wildlife budgets right now are in free-fall and the already tight job market just keeps shrinking.
As for extra trainings, you can never go wrong with GIS - private or government, contractor or consultant, I know hardly anyone who does not use it. Hazwoper would also be a good move if you want to go the environmental science route - probably would be a requirement. I'm sure there are some wildlifers out there who took and use hazwoper, but in my experience it is not something most biologists have or need.

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Jbaughman5 in Fort Worth, Texas

17 days ago

Wow, I am amazed at the amount of information that you all have compiled throughout these comments. It is amazingly helpful, and gives a good idea of what this field is like. I gotta tell ya, I am at the end of my 2nd year in community college and I have been killing brain cells forcefully trying to decide whether or not I want to go into nutrition or wildlife / environmental Biology. Being in the environment and around animals has always been the love of my life and nutrition has been a newer love affair for the last 7 years or so. If I go into nutrition and end up not getting a dietetic internship (which only 50 percent of the graduates get one at the school I'd be attending) then my time will be wasted....can't become a dietitian without an internship.... Anyhow, there an environmental science degree with an emphasis in fisheries and wildlife science that could allow me to become certified as an associate wildlife biologist by the wildlife society. The whole degree is online, so I figure that would be helpful and give me more time for volunteering and finding internships while enrolled. But, maybe i could be wrong, maybe it will harder to find internships because schools that aren't online based will many times make internships part of the students degree. I don't live near a school with a wildlife program that I can afford. The closest ones that I can't afford (lol)are at least 3 or 4 hours away. So if I were to go that route with the online degree, do you think it will be very difficult for me to find an internship? Also, from what I have read from most people, you can expect to work technician jobs for years until you either your hard work pays off and someone notices or you get lucky and know the right people. That's not too much of an issue for me, what I'd like to know is how hard it would be to land a temp or seasonal tech job straight out of college with a bachelors. I would be open to applying to basically any area in U.S. Thanks for any input.

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lecycliste in Albuquerque, New Mexico

17 days ago

Internships come from programs at bricks-and-mortar colleges. I interned with different park agencies while completing an A.S. in park management at Saratoga, CA's West Valley College.

My wife got a degree in food science from UC Berkeley. A guidance counselor made her aware of opportunities outside dietitian positions, specifically as a food technologist / developer. That started her on a 25-year career developing new food products for Golden Grain, Kellog's and others.

In park management, you can work as a volunteer for many agencies - they all need people. I was hired as a seasonal interpretive ranger by NPS last summer after volunteering at Petroglyph National Monument for about a year. Of course, I had also worked in park maintenance for Santa Clara County Parks and directed the City of Palo Alto's Bay Camp summer program.

For wildlife biology, I think you can expect to need an advanced degree, unless you know someone or attract attention through volunteer work. Seasonal ranger jobs with any federal agency are tough to get without military service / veteran's preference. It's only a little easier at the county and city levels. State park jobs are disappearing because of lack of funding.

You need to ask yourself how badly you want the job. Most permanent rangers I know are relying on pensions for retirement, since they don't make enough to save from park jobs. Unless you're able and willing to move into a management position, you won't get rich.

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lecycliste in Albuquerque, New Mexico

17 days ago

The situation is similar for park agency archaeologist and biologist jobs.

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