A Comprehensive Guide on How To Become a Wildlife Biologist
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated September 7, 2022 | Published August 17, 2021
Updated September 7, 2022
Published August 17, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Wildlife biologists study wild animals in various settings and record their findings. If you're passionate about wildlife and the environment, you can consider a career as a wildlife biologist. Understanding how to become a wildlife biologist can help you determine whether you are suitable for this role. In this article, we discuss what a wildlife biologist is, examine the skills you need and explore how to become a wildlife biologist.
How to become a wildlife biologist
If you want to learn how to become a wildlife biologist, here are some steps you can follow:
1. Complete your bachelor's degree
The first step to becoming a wildlife biologist is to complete a bachelor's degree. You generally need a high school diploma with subjects like biology and English to apply for a degree, though this varies according to the institution. You can then opt for a degree in wildlife biology, wildlife conservation, zoology, biology or ecology.
You can research the undergraduate requirements for the master's program of your choice. If you plan to pursue additional certification with The Wildlife Society (TWS), review the educational requirements and ensure your undergraduate curriculum contains the courses you need.
2. Obtain advanced education
While a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for some wildlife biologist careers, like being a wildlife technician, many wildlife biologists obtain a master's degree. If you intend to become a research scientist, a master's degree can make your job application more competitive. Similarly, wildlife biologists that intend to work as academic researchers or lecturers generally require a doctorate in wildlife biology. A master's degree typically takes between two to three years to complete, while a PhD usually takes four to five years to complete.
3. Complete all necessary registrations
To practice as a wildlife biologist, complying with provincial and territorial registration requirements is important. You can research your province or territory's requirements through their websites. For example, in Alberta, the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB) is the regulatory body for biologists. While registration with the ASPB is optional to practice, certain titles like professional biologist and biologist in training are exclusive to ASPB members. Similarly, in British Columbia, the College of Applied Biology regulates the profession and has exclusive titles.
4. Gain field experience
Gaining field experience is a great way to enhance your resume and increase your chances of securing an entry-level job. You can gain field experience through internships or by working as a research assistant. In addition, many educational institutions offer internships to interested candidates. You can also do volunteer work related to wildlife conservation or work with agencies like World Animal Protection.
5. Consider additional certification
While additional certification is optional, it shows employers you meet a certain professional standard and increases your access to professional opportunities. You can apply for exclusive titles like professional biologist or registered biology technologist in provinces or territories where available. Prestigious institutions like TWS also offer certifications such as:
Associate Wildlife Biologist (AWB)
This certification is for individuals who satisfy all educational requirements but don't have five years of experience within the last 10 years to qualify as a certified wildlife biologist (CWB). The Associate Wildlife Biologist certification is valid for 10 years, within which TWS expects individuals to upgrade to a CWB certification. You can usually apply to extend your AWB membership for three years by explaining how you intend to achieve CWB status within that time. To qualify for an AWB certification, you need some qualifications, including credits in wildlife management, botany, zoology and general ecology, among other subjects.
Certified Wildlife Biologist (CWB)
This certification is for individuals who meet the educational requirements for an AWB certification and have five years of field experience within the last 10 years. You can either upgrade from an AWB certification to a CWB after completing the required years of field experience or directly apply for CWB certification if you already have the necessary experience. If you have 20 years of field experience as a biologist, you can apply directly for a CWB and use your experience in place of the educational requirements. The CWB certification lasts for five years and is renewable for another five years.
Professional Development Certificate
This certification is for individuals that have fulfilled a minimum of 150 hours of continuous education. The certification attests to the holder's commitment to professional development. This certification is valid for five years, and you can renew it by demonstrating your engagement in professional development activities.
6. Apply for a job
As a wildlife biologist, you can work with government agencies, colleges or universities, zoos, environmental consultancy firms, natural resources companies, conservation agencies and non-governmental wildlife organizations. Your qualifications also give you access to other career paths like:
Wildlife manager: These professionals manage the wildlife in a particular ecosystem. Their duties include observation of species, data tracking and compilation, and risk management.
Park ranger: Park rangers supervise and patrol parks to ensure visitors follow regulations. They also intercept trespassers and ensure the safety of visitors.
Wildlife technicians: They assist wildlife biologists and other researchers. They also gather data on animals and design management plans for conservation areas.
Science communicator: Science communicators educate the public on wildlife, environmental protection and other science-related issues. They also conduct awareness and advocacy campaigns for these issues.
Wildlife law enforcement officers: Also known as wildlife officers, these professionals investigate reports of poaching and arrest offenders. They also educate the public about hunting policies by hosting seminars and signing up as guest speakers.
What is a wildlife biologist?
A wildlife biologist is an animal expert who studies and records information about wildlife's behaviours, habitats and biology. Wildlife biologists typically perform their duties to aid wildlife conservation. They track and monitor data regarding the population of various species to preserve biodiversity. The duties of a wildlife biologist also include:
Retrieving animal samples and conducting research
Preparing and presenting research papers
Contributing to the formulation of wildlife policies and conservation systems
Capturing and handling wild animals for research
Tracking data about the status of wildlife populations
Educating others, including members of the general public, about conservation, biodiversity and other topics that can engage their audience
Foundational skills for wildlife biologists
Consider developing or enhancing these skills to succeed as a wildlife biologist:
One of the primary functions of wildlife biologists is conducting research and improving existing knowledge of wildlife and nature. Wildlife biologists often go on long expeditions to remote locations to observe and record information about different species. A wildlife biologist needs research skills and knowledge of best research practices to provide accurate information to their peers and the public.
Read more: Research Skills: Definitions and Examples
When carrying out research, wildlife biologists observe animal behavioural patterns. They form hypotheses to offer likely explanations for these behaviours. To make reasonable deductions, they need analytical skills to assess the data, and they often use their findings in research papers or presentations.
Read more: Analytical Skills Defined and Explained
Wildlife biologists often spend long hours outdoors or sitting in vehicles observing wildlife. They set up cameras and other devices for observation. Wildlife biologists need excellent observation skills to ensure they note all relevant details. Even the slightest observations can disrupt existing knowledge, so their high attention to detail can make an impact on the field and help educate other wildlife professionals.
Wildlife biologists can find themselves in dangerous situations with wild animals. For example, they can become separated from the rest of the team or cornered by a dangerous animal. In such instances, wildlife biologists require composure to prevent escalation. Composure can help wildlife biologists escape such encounters without injury to themselves or the animal.
Wildlife biologists often collaborate with park rangers, wildlife officers, technicians and other wildlife biologists on field trips. Good communication skills can help them express their needs to their colleagues and understand the rules of engagement for each wildlife facility. These skills also help to communicate their findings, either through oral or written communication.
Please note that none of the companies or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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