If you've heard a scientist on the news talking about endangered animals, chances are that the scientist is a wildlife biologist; they often spearhead efforts to protect wildlife. Wildlife biologists study entire animal life cycles, including behavior and disease. Wildlife biologists typically have at least a master's degree. Those with bachelor's degrees find mostly nonscientist positions and those with Ph.Ds typically lead research efforts and teach. Salaries depend on education, experience, location and industry.
Median Annual Wage
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics groups zoologists and wildlife biologists together in its salary data. In 2010, the mean annual salary of zoologists and wildlife biologists was $61,660, according to the bureau. The BLS said 17,440 people were employed as either a zoologist or wildlife biologist.
In 2009, beginning salary offers for recent graduates with bachelor's degrees in biological and life sciences averaged $33,254 a year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. In 2010, people with a bachelor's degree in environmental sciences working in wildlife biology were offered an average starting salary of $31,037, according to the association. In 2011, master's degree recipients in biology received starting salaries of $50,158.
According to the BLS, in 2010 the top-five industries for pay were the federal government, with an annual mean salary of $77,030; scientific, research and development services at $72,410; architectural, engineering and related services at $68,060; local governments at $58,710; and management, scientific and technical consulting services at $55,130
In 2010, the top-paying states or districts for zoologists and wildlife biologists were the District of Columbia, with a mean annual salary of $106,540; Maryland, at $97,370; Massachusetts, at $88,550; Hawaii, at $74,700; and Connecticut, at $73,140, according to the BLS. The top-paying metropolitan areas were Barnstable Town, Massachusetts, with a mean annual salary of $115,160; Bethesda-Frederick-Gaithersburg, Maryland, metropolitan division, with a mean annual salary or $105,250; Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, District of Columbia-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia, metropolitan division, at $96,200; Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California, at $93,150; and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California, at $86,290.
A variety of jobs exist for wildlife biologists, but many more people seek this career than there are jobs available Employment for zoologists and wildlife biologists is expected to increase by 13 percent, or by 2,500 positions, between 2008 and 2018, according to the BLS. The U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net OnLine reports that most of these positions require a master's degree and some require a Ph.D.