Wildlife Management Degree Program Summaries
Learn about wildlife management degree programs, which are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Read about coursework, career choices and the job outlook for professionals this field.
Wildlife management degree programs are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels, although doctoral programs are not as common as master's programs. Through studies in both classroom and field settings, students learn about the stewardship of wildlife and wilderness habitats. Graduate programs are generally more research-intensive than bachelor's programs.
Bachelor's Degree in Wildlife Management
Many schools have a regional focus in the wildlife management program, providing students access to more in-depth field studies. The program teaches students the necessity of biodiversity and how factors affecting the ecological balance can alter plants and animals native to a region. Some programs are taught from agricultural departments while others are based in the arts and science department, and at least one school has a stand-alone wildlife department. Conservation is a key focus in all programs.
Courses place heavy emphasis on plant and animal biology. Many classes also teach students how to communicate with the public to promote ecological awareness. Classes cover topics such as:
- Wildlife taxonomy
- Biology and conservation
- Biological science trends
- Wildlife conservation law
- Animal behaviorism studies
- Wetland and urban wildlife management
- Public persuasion
- Conflict management communication
The majority of positions available to those with bachelor's degrees, including research positions, require outdoor work. Many people with bachelor's degrees in wildlife management work in positions such as:
- Field biologist
- Game warden
- Wildlife educator
- Land acquisition specialist
Master of Science Degree in Wildlife Management
Students in these programs typically select a wildlife management or wildlife conservation focus. Most schools offer both terminal master's programs and a master's that leads to doctoral work. Students often have the option to write a master's thesis or to take additional courses without completing the thesis. Coursework gives students the tools to survey wildlife populations and analyze population data for planning and implementing wildlife management plans.
Courses focus on the relationships between regional flora and fauna. These classes then progress to teach the student how to create models for implementing conservation plans. Topics include:
- Wildlife and range sciences
- Agriculture and wildlife
- Wildlife population and ecology analytics
- Disease impact on wildlife
- Wildlife public relations
- Habitat management
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The majority of those with degrees in wildlife management or related fields find employment in state or federal government positions. Positions may also be available with nature conservation non-profits. Some wildlife scientists are employed as consultants in the private sector in land procurement positions with companies that own mineral rights contracts.
Most state and federal parks require a master's degree for environmental scientist four and above job titles. The mid-west and western states offer the most opportunities due to the increase in wildfire prevention awareness and more areas of federally protected lands. Competition is high for these positions and many prospective wildlife scientists take temporary or part-time positions as office support staff to gain an advantage in the hiring process.
While no accurate data is available specifically for the title of wildlife management, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) covers the comparable field of conservation scientist. The BLS data does not break salary projections down by degree; however, those with master's degrees may earn less than colleagues holding doctoral degrees. The employment projections were expected to increase by 5% from the years 2010 to 2020. Median annual wages were reported for the year 2012 as $61,100 (www.bls.gov).
Ph.D. in Wildlife Management
Admission to this program varies between schools. Some schools alter the number of students accepted in relation to how many projects they have funded for that academic year. Most colleges and universities require the student to choose an emphasis prior to enrollment. Thanks to conservation awareness in the United States, students travel from across the globe to take part in America's pioneering wildlife management programs.
Many of the courses will depend on the research project a student is involved with. Classes may cover such topics as:
- Vertebrate population applied sampling
- Fish ecology
- Dynamics of wildlife population
- Fishery and wildlife biology
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Those with doctorates in wildlife management will find competition for teaching positions fierce. Government agencies offer the best employment opportunities and those with doctorates are more likely to be chosen to run federally funded research projects. While no salary data is currently available for the specific title of wildlife manager, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) expects that zoologists and wildlife biologists may enjoy 7% job growth for the years 2010 through 2020. These workers made median annual wages of $57,710 in 2012.
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