How to Become a Wildlife Biologist

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Wildlife biologists conserve and maintain wildlife populations. They carry out research to study the interaction of animals and plants and animals with their habitats, examine how human actions affect wildlife and advise policymakers on land use. Wildlife biologists can specialize in fields such as herpetology, cetology, botany and entomology, which focus on reptiles, marine mammals, plants and insects, respectively.

Obtain the Degree

  • A bachelor's degree is the minimum entry requirement for this career. Aspiring wildlife biologists must earn a degree in wildlife biology, ecology, wildlife conservation or a closely related field. Some of the common courses covered in these programs include wildlife management, plant and animal identification, soils and forestry. Since many universities accept credit transfers, wildlife technicians with an associate degree can join these programs halfway through and qualify as wildlife biologists upon completion.

Nurture the Skills

  • To perform their duties competently, wildlife biologists need strong observation, problem-solving, critical-thinking and outdoors skills. When studying whale behavior, for example, the marine biologist must be able to observe and note slight changes in the animal's response to various objects and situations, as well as draw accurate conclusions. Outdoor skills come in handy when working in harsh weather conditions. Wildlife biologists also require good written communication skills to write clear research reports, and the emotional resilience to adapt to stressful situations, such as studying injured animals.

Earn a Professional Certification

  • Wildlife biologists don’t need any job-specific license to practice. However, as the job sometimes involves extensive traveling, employers may require biologists to have a driver’s license. The Wildlife Society offers relevant certifications to biologists at different career levels. Beginning biologists with limited experience can obtain the Associate Wildlife Biologist Certification and those with vast experience can earn the Certified Wildlife Biologist Certification. Marine and aquatic biologists should obtain a scuba diving certification from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. These credentials prove competence, professionalism and enhance holders' chances of finding employment.

Find a Job and Get Ahead

  • Qualified wildlife biologists can work for government agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, conservation organizations, independent research centers and colleges and universities. Those who are looking to specialize in fields such as entomology or ecology can do so by completing a master's degree in these fields. Wildlife biologists who want to become wildlife managers, consultants or policy analysts must earn a master's degree and gain vast work experience. Aspiring college lecturers need a doctoral degree in wildlife biology.

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