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How to Become a Certified Wildlife Biologist

As a wildlife biologist, you could spend your life helping wild animal populations thrive, or ensuring that animals in captivity enjoy healthy, invigorating lives.

You could derive satisfaction from educating the public and helping them understand why protecting wild animals is important. You could influence policymakers, making the world safer for wild fish and mammals.

Before you can do any of that, however, you will need a solid education.

Wildlife research is a highly competitive field. Becoming a wildlife biologist requires rigorous study and a commitment to continued education. To succeed in this field, you will need to possess a thorough understanding of the scientific method and be skilled in gathering and analyzing data. You may also need to be well-versed in the social sciences and possess strong communication skills.

Before you choose a degree program, you should know what the wildlife biologist education requirements are so that you can determine whether the program you are considering will help you meet those requirements.

Wildlife Biology Bachelor’s Degree: What Should You Major In?

Helping wildlife is a worthy goal that requires a solid foundation in biological and environmental sciences. If you want to know how to become a wildlife biologist, the first step is to research your education options.

Wildlife biologists start by earning degrees in areas such as Wildlife Biology, Wildlife and Fisheries Management, Captive Wildlife Care and Education, and Wildlife Conservation.

Wildlife Biology

Monitoring Maine black bears, collecting information from wood duck nest boxes, and surveilling disease in wild turkeys are just a few examples of the types of activities you can take part in as an undergraduate studying Wildlife Biology.

This course of study involves a significant amount of outdoor study and hands-on experience. If you are passionate about ensuring the survival of wild animals and love working outdoors, this degree program may be the right choice for you.

Wildlife and Fisheries Management

This degree program combines ecology and biology studies with the social sciences. Students pursuing this major enjoy a great deal of experiential learning and spend a significant percentage of their time outdoors.

Hands-on courses will allow you to gain the skills needed to be a wildlife biologist.

Captive Wildlife Care and Education

Students who aim to work in zoos, wildlife rehabilitation clinics, or aquariums need to earn degrees in Captive Wildlife Care and Education. In this degree program, you will gain hands-on experience in animal training, handling, and health.

You will also learn how to create exhibit spaces that provide stimulation and enrichment for captive animals. You will gain the knowledge you need to effectively educate the public and help people understand how they can protect wild animals.

Wildlife Conservation

To earn a degree in Wildlife Conservation, you will need to study conservation biology, wildlife conservation genetics, population management for wildlife and fisheries, habitat management, and more.

You will also need to study some of the social aspects of conservation, such as environmental justice and communication.

Minors

To make the most of your education, choosing the right area of concentration for your minor is extremely important. If you are planning to become a wildlife researcher, consider minoring in an area such as applied math and statistics.

If your aim is to educate the public about wildlife, then you should consider minoring in psychology or environmental interpretation and education.

Other areas, such as zoology, geoscience, and botany are also excellent choices that will not only help you gain the skills needed to be a wildlife biologist, but also allow you to immerse yourself in fascinating areas of study while you earn your degree.

Other Degree Programs

For those interested in working with aquatic animals, a bachelor’s degree in marine biology with a minor in zoology is an excellent place to start. This course of study includes coral ecology and management, marine fisheries, oceanography, and more.

Job Outlook for Animal Lovers

As of 2016, people in these jobs worked for government organizations, scientific or technical organizations, higher education, and a smattering of “other” organizations.

The job is one that will allow you to fill your days doing what you love, similar to careers in marine biology, the job market for would-be wildlife biologists is very competitive.

Job growth is considered “average” through 2026, which means just 1,900 new jobs will become available in that timespan.

job outlook for wildlife biology majors

Associate Wildlife Biologist Certification

The most successful wildlife biologists continue their education after earning their bachelor’s degrees. The Wildlife Society not only provides Continuing Education Unit but also offers certification to individuals who qualify.

Professional certification as an associate wildlife biologist can help you stand out among peers and attract the attention of highly desirable employers.

Should You Pursue an Advanced Degree in Wildlife Biology?

Gaining experience as a wildlife biologist can be difficult. For many organizations, the barriers to entry are quite high. However, many employers consider advanced degrees to be the equivalent of real-world experience. A master’s degree is equal to one year of experience, while a doctorate is equal to two years.

Committing to continuing your education beyond a bachelor’s degree can help you get that much closer to landing your dream job. If you are interested in a wildlife research position, you will need to pursue a master’s and Ph.D.

Other ways to gain the experience you will need include working for a state or federal agency as a wildlife biologist. You may need to work on a volunteer basis, which although difficult financially, could pay dividends in relevant experience and help you gain the skills you need to become a professional wildlife biologist.

Check with the National Parks Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service or your state’s environmental or wildlife agency to see whether they offer unpaid volunteer or paid positions to wildlife biologists.

Should You Get Certified as a Certified Wildlife Biologist?

Associate Wildlife Biologist Certification is a great start, but to truly succeed in this competitive field, you will need to become a Certified Wildlife Biologist. Like Associate certification, Certified Wildlife Biologist certification is available through The Wildlife Society.

Once you receive your certification, it will remain valid for five years.  To make a real impact on the world and its wildlife populations, you will need to make politicians sit up and take notice. As a Certified Wildlife Biologist, you will have the kind of credibility necessary for influencing policymakers and leaders.

For an animal lover, a career helping animals as a wildlife biologist is a smart choice. Understanding how to become a wildlife biologist is an important first step toward this highly challenging yet rewarding career.

Next steps…

Learn more about how you can turn your passion into a career – with a degree from Unity College.

Take the Green Careers Quiz or reach out to admissions today. 

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