Careers Options for Working with Wildlife

Beekeeper checking honey on beehive frame in field full of flowers
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There are many career options for those who want to work with wildlife (either native or exotic species). Here are 15 possibilities:

1. Wildlife Veterinarian

Wildlife veterinarians are qualified to treat a variety of species including reptiles, birds, and mammals. Becoming a licensed wildlife veterinarian requires a significant educational commitment, but the average salary for veterinarians was a healthy $82,040 in 2011.

Board certified practitioners earn much greater salaries.

2. Zoo Keeper

Zookeepers are responsible for the daily care of a zoo’s animal collection. Regular duties include feeding, giving medications, cleaning enclosures, and reporting behavioral changes. Most zookeepers have at least a two-year degree, and salary generally ranges from $20,000 to $30,000.

3. Marine Mammal Trainer

Marine mammal trainers condition marine species to perform specific behaviors on command. They are also responsible for supervising daily care and providing behavioral enrichment activities. Most marine mammal trainers have at least a two-year degree, and salary ranges from $30,000 to $40,000.

4. Herpetologist

Herpetologists are biologists who study reptiles and amphibians. They may be involved in a variety of areas including research, education, or collection management. Herpetologists must have a four-year degree at minimum, and graduate level degrees are preferred.

The average yearly salary is about $40,000, though educators and top researchers may earn double that amount.

5. Wildlife Biologist

Wildlife biologists study a variety of wildlife species and may be involved in research, education, or managing local wildlife. Wildlife biologists must have at least a four-year degree, and most positions give preference to those with graduate degrees.

The average salary for wildlife biologists in 2011 was $61,660.

6. Ichthyologist

Ichthyologists are biologists that study fish, sharks, and rays. They may be involved with a variety of duties depending on whether they are involved in research, education, or collection management. A four-year degree is required, with most ichthyologists holding graduate level degrees. The salary for this position averages $61,660.

7. Zoo Curator

Zoo curators oversee the acquisition and management of animals in a zoo’s collection. They are also involved in management and hiring of staff members. Curators usually have a four-year degree, and an advanced degree is preferred. Salary averaged $48,800 per year in 2011.

8. Aquarist

Aquarists care for marine mammals and fish kept at aquariums. Aquarists are responsible for general care, habitat maintenance, feeding, and assisting with veterinary procedures. They must have a four-year degree and scuba diving certification to enter the field, and they can expect to earn a salary in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.

9. Entomologist

Entomologists are biologists who study insects. They are usually involved in research, education, or a combination of both. Entomologists must have a four-year degree, and advanced degrees are often required for teaching and research roles.

The salary for entomologists usually is in the $50,000 to $60,000 range.

10. Zoo Educator

Zoo educators teach visitors about the zoo’s collection of animals in an effort to promote conservation. They may be involved in giving tours, presenting formal seminars, and circulating throughout the park to answer questions. Most zoo educators have at least a four-year degree, and they can expect to earn a salary in the $30,000 to $40,000 range.

11. Primatologist

Primatologists are biologists that study primates such as gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees. They are most frequently involved in research, education, or conservation. Primatologists must have at least a four-year degree, and graduate level degrees are preferable. The average salary for this position is about $50,000.

12. Fish and Game Warden

Fish and game wardens enforce laws and regulations relating to wildlife in a designated area.

They may be involved with issuing hunting licenses, conducting surveys of local game, and assisting injured wildlife. Two to four years of education in wildlife management or law enforcement are desirable. The annual mean wage for this position is $56,540.

13. Zoologist

Zoologists are biologists who study a variety of wildlife species. They may work in education, research, or collection management. A four-year degree is required for this position, and graduate degrees are preferred. The salary for this position usually ranges from $40,000 to $70,000.

14. Marine Biologist

Marine biologists study a wide variety of aquatic animals. They may work in research, private industry, or education. A four-year degree is required, and most marine biologists have an M.S. or Ph.D. Salary averages about $70,000.

15. Beekeeper

Beekeepers (apiarists) manage bee colonies that produce honey or other products like beeswax. Beekeepers divide colonies, replace combs, and construct new hives. No degree is required to enter this profession though many beekeepers do hold degrees. A full-time beekeeper can make $50,000; part-time keepers can expect to make about $20,000.