A wildlife biologist is a scientist who studies the origins, behavior, life processes, and other characteristics of animals.
Wildlife biologists gather and analyze data involving the health and well-being of animals, including how certain activities and circumstances may affect them. They may do independent research or work as part of a team, and often specialize further in career paths such as ornithology (birds), mammology (mammals), and ichthyology (fish).
All positions require a bachelor’s degree, and some may require a doctorate as well.
A bachelor’s degree in biology or a related science is usually required to work in this field, although for independent research, especially in academia, a master’s or doctorate degree is a must.
In addition to biology, degree programs include subjects such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, and engineering. Advanced degree programs allow students to choose a specialization in areas such as botany and microbiology. Completion of a master’s or doctorate degree often requires class, field, and laboratory work as well as a written thesis or dissertation.
Salaries of wildlife biologists vary by the level of education obtained; those with bachelor’s degrees are usually on the lower end of the pay scale. Still, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that the median annual wages of wildlife biologists were $55,290; the highest 10 percent make more than $90,850 per year.
Working in the federal government can be particularly lucrative for those with the highest levels of education with annual salaries around $116,908. Wildlife biologists in the federal government work mainly with the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Defense, and Interior.
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts “much faster than average” growth in employment of biological scientists, which include wildlife biologists. This increase reflects the upsurge in the biotechnology industry, and although that boom is slowing down, the discoveries that have been made, particularly involving the environment, require further study, which is where job growth is expected.
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics