People who are passionate about animals and preserving their natural environment often decide to work in wildlife management. With a wildlife management degree, you may work as a wildlife manager or a related field and keep track of animal populations on lands and ensure that their habitat is suitable for animals in that area. Some who work in wildlife management also collect data and do research to help in critical decisions to properly manage wildlife populations.
What Is Wildlife Management?
The purpose of wildlife management is to balance the need of animals in the wild with the needs of people, using the best science available. Wildlife management may include wildlife conservation, gamekeeping and controlling of pests. Effective wildlife management draws upon many disciplines, including chemistry, mathematics, biology, ecology, climatology and geography.
There are two major types of wildlife management today:
- Manipulative management that acts on the population of animals by either changing numbers of animals by direct means, or by influencing their numbers indirectly by changing the habitat, food supply or amount of disease.
- Custodial management that is protective and preventive in nature. The idea is to minimize outside influences on the habitat and animal population.
Wildlife managers take the needed steps to keep various types of animal populations well maintained. If an animal type is being threatened, they will work to preserve the food supply and habitat. Also, being sure that hunting is being done in a healthy way is important to properly control the animal population.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS, the need for wildlife managers and related occupations will grow by 8% by 2026, which is about as fast as average when compared with other occupations. More wildlife professionals and zoologists are going to be needed in coming years to better study wildlife and human interactions as the world population gets bigger and development continues.
Population growth has a major effect on wildlife and their natural environments. As the human population increases across the country and world, wildlife will be more exposed to disease, invasive animals and insects, and general loss of habitat. More human activity near animal habitat can lead to pollution and climate change that affects wildlife. More wildlife managers, zoologists and wildlife biologists will be needed to get a better understanding of these critical factors.
More states will continue to offer jobs to wildlife managers to better manage their animal populations so they can attract more tourists so they can hunt game, sightsee and generally conserve the animal populations. Tourism is a major draw for many parts of the country with high wildlife populations, so it makes sense that state and local governments will try to keep tourist dollars coming in with hiring of wildlife management professionals.
As of 2017, wildlife managers, zoologists and wildlife biologists held approximately 20,000 jobs. The biggest employers in this growing field are:
- State government: 36%
- Federal government: 23%
- Management, scientific and technical consulting: 8%
- Colleges and universities: 7%
- Research and development in physical, engineering and life sciences: 7%
BLS reports the median salary for zoologists and wildlife biologists in 2017 was $62,290. The lowest 10% with less education and experience earned $39,600 and the top 10% earned more than $99,700 with the most education and experience.
Top employers in the field pay the following:
- Federal government: $76,200
- Management, scientific, and technical consulting: $69,600
- Research and development in engineering, physical and life sciences: $60,800
- Colleges and universities: $57,900
- State government: $56,200
Payscale.com reports the average salary for wildlife managers is $60,200 per year with a range between $32,000 and $122,000.
The majority of professionals who earn a degree in wildlife management will work as wildlife biologists in the field for state and federal natural resource agencies, such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game and the National Park Service. Others will work for conservations organizations, such as Wildlife Conservation Society, Ducks Unlimited or the Nature Conservancy.
Others may work for private ecological consulting companies, such as HT Harvey and Associates, or for private timber entities such as Green Diamond Resource Company. Still others may be employed by zoos or wildlife rehabilitation centers.
A review of job postings at Indeed.com for wildlife biologist shows the following employers hiring;
- WSP USA
- Student Conservation Association
- GAI Consultants
- State of Oregon
- State of Arizona
- Nuisance Wildlife Rangers
- Department of the Interior
- Wilderness Productions
- State of West Virginia
- State of Washington
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Earning a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management will prepare you with special techniques and concepts that are used to conserve and manage wildlife, as well as marine species and general protection of their habitats. Some of the common learning outcomes in a bachelor’s program are:
- Fundamental principles of wildlife and fish management
- Ability to assess how human activities affect survival and management of wildlife and fish populations
- Becoming familiar with policies, regulations and politics that affect how wildlife and fish are managed in the US
A master’s degree program in this field is a very rigorous program designed for experienced professionals in biology, ecological management, natural resource management and fisheries and wildlife who want to move into higher level management positions. Some who earn their master’s degree intend to eventually earn their Ph.D. and become professors.
Common admission requirements for a master’s degree in wildlife management are:
- Bachelor’s degree with a background in biology and ecology
- 0 GPA
- Two years of work experience in a wildlife management related position
- GRE scores may be required
- Three recommendations
- Writing samples
A sample curriculum of a bachelor’s program in wildlife management could include these courses:
- Orientation to Fisheries and Wildlife
- Field Sampling of Fish and Wildlife
- Applied Community and Ecosystem Ecology
- Animal Physiology
- Marine Conservation Biology
Earning your degree in wildlife management can be expensive, whether you are earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Below are some available scholarships and grants that can help you to pay for at least some of your education:
- Clarkston’s Scholars Program: $10,000
- CPS Energy SAFE Program: $5000
- Big Game Conservation Association Scholarship: $500
- ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Math and Science Scholarships: $5000
- Freehold Soil Conservation Scholarship: $2000
- Gloria Barron Wilderness Society Scholarship: $10,000
- New England Clean Energy Campus: $1000
- Norman S. Baldwin Fishery Science Scholarship: $3000
- The Science Ambassador Scholarship: Varies
The Wildlife Society has two certifications that can accelerate your career as a wildlife management professional:
- Associate Wildlife Biologist (AWB): Students who have completed tough academic standards and is judged by a panel of industry professionals as being able to represent the profession in a professional and ethical manner will earn the AWB designation for 10 years.
- Certified Wildlife Biologist (CWB): A student or professional with the proper educational background and work experience in the art and science of ecology application to management of wildlife and conservation and habitats will be given the CWB designation.
To get a better chance at obtaining a job in wildlife management, students may consider becoming involved with the following related associations:
- Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
- The Wildlife Society
- Wildlife Management Institute
- Wildlife Control Operators Association
The field of wildlife management is growing as human populations are growing in urban centers around the country and world. As our population grows, there will be more need for proper wildlife management so that our precious resources are not damaged over time.
- Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/zoologists-and-wildlife-biologists.htm#tab-5
- Wildlife Degree. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www2.humboldt.edu/wildlife/wildcareers.html
- Wildlife Management. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gamewarden.org/degree/wildlife-management