Becoming a wildlife biologist can be one of the most interesting and rewarding of career choices for those who love animals or love the outdoors. However, many may not be familiar with the educational path that can lead to this lifetime career. Understanding what is required in wildlife biologist work and getting the appropriate education to develop those skills is crucial for anyone embarking on this career path.
The first thing an aspiring wildlife biologist needs to understand is that science is important. Of course, it is assumed that all types of biology classes will be beneficial to the choice of career. However, classes in ecology, Earth science, wildlife management and zoology could also be very important. Together, these classes will provide the educational foundation to continue pursing various wildlife biologist careers.
At some point, the student will likely need to decide which type of wildlife biology field he or she may be interested in. For example, some may be interested in how to manage wildlife in a forest. Others may think marine biology is the career for them. While many of the basic classes will remain the same no matter what is chosen, eventually there will need to be some further direction and specialization chosen.
Wildlife biologist jobs can be very specialized and while a formal education is good, it is often just the beginning. Those in college, or perhaps even high school, should get as much practical experience as possible. A state may offer internships in a Department of Natural Resources, Fish & Game Commission, or similar agency. These provide some good opportunities not only to put that book knowledge to work with some practical applications, but also network with others so that when the time comes to graduate, valuable contacts are already in place.
Another thing to consider is moving into a field where there is not a lot of competition. For example, many people may want to work with mammals; however, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects are another aspect of the job that can often be overlooked. Choosing a niche other people may want to avoid can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to find a job.
Also, many wildlife biologists receive advanced degrees, such as a Master's degree or Doctorate degree. This further enhances their value to an employer and instantly raises them above others in competition for the same positions. In fact, some wildlife biologist careers may require an advanced degree. Therefore, understand going into college the time commitment may be more than four years.