An undergraduate degree in wildlife management offers basic entry into the field. Not all colleges and universities offer a degree in wildlife management specifically, but related degrees in wildlife biology, ecology, mammalogy (study of mammals), ichthyology (study of fish) or zoology provide the fundamental education and skills needed for a career in wildlife management. College admissions counselors recommend that high school students have favorable grades in English, math, biology, chemistry and physics to place well into a college program. Most employers require a bachelor's degree or applicable work experience, so students in associate's programs should make sure their credits are transferable to a 4-year bachelor's program. Some programs are offered online.
The 2-year associate's degree program in wildlife management exposes students to topics such as conservation, hydrology (study of water systems), dendrology (science of woody plants), forestry, geology and ornithology (study of birds). Graduates of the associate's degree in wildlife management learn how to perform job duties like rescuing animals, operating a chainsaw, assembling devices to trap animals and managing animal populations, and work in land development and wetlands conservation.
Admission requires a high school diploma or equivalent, a minimum GPA, and strong communication and computer skills. Students are tested in basic computer operations, English, map reading, ecology, technical writing, verbal communications skills and algebra. Associate's programs in wildlife management also prepare students to transfer for a 4-year university to complete a bachelor's program and choose an area of concentration, such as fisheries, wildlife management or forestry.
A bachelor's degree in wildlife management program typically covers a range of science material, including animal science, wildlife biology, agronomy (study of plants), wildlife ecology and habitat management, genetics, field botany, vertebrate anatomy, aerial photography, forest soils and watersheds. The complexities of a career in wildlife management, such as environmental conditions, species, natural habitats, tools and behaviors, are usually covered in detail in the bachelor's degree program.
With an associate's degree, graduates may apply for positions at governmental agencies, parks and recreation areas or private organizations as a wildlife technician or park aide. An entry-level position as a wildlife technician is usually performed under supervision until the employee demonstrates judgment in field assignments. Once a technician is found capable to work independently, they gain responsibilities such as food counts for species, wildlife data, shelter construction and inspection of hunting areas.
Graduates with a bachelor's degree usually find a larger scope of job opportunities in positions, such as a wildlife biologist, conservationist, environmental consultant, game warden or wildlife manager. Wildlife managers evaluate the conditions of a natural resource location and make determinations about its maintenance and improvement. Employers typically want employees in these positions to have at least 1-2 years of experience before they can act independently to protect and manage wildlife.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Wildlife biologists and zoologists made an average of $66,350 annually as of May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs in these fields are expected to have a 4% growth between 2019-2029.
Individuals with a teaching or research interest should seek a graduate degree. Select universities offer advanced degrees in related wildlife management programs, wildlife conservation and natural resources. Continued education is also recommended for all professionals. The Botanical Society of America and the Animal Behavior Society provide conferences, discussion sessions and workshops on a range of current topics for wildlife management professionals, such as new advances in science or software demonstrations.
Licenses and Certifications
The Wildlife Society offers a voluntary Certified Wildlife Biologist program for graduates of a bachelor's degree program in a wildlife management field. In addition to undergraduate training, individuals must also have at least five years of experience in wildlife biology and submit personal references. A Wildlife Society membership is required after certification and recertification is required every five years with continuing education classes. Some state agencies require certification, while others only recommend it.
Students enrolled in an associate's or bachelor's degree program in wildlife management or a related field will be exposed to a wide variety of nature-related topics and experiences. Graduates can become wildlife technicians or biologists, or they can continue on to a master's degree program.