What is a Wildlife Science and Management Degree?

Wildlife science and management is the science of managing the environment in ways that allow wild animals to exist within their habitats as humans meet their needs. It is the science of balancing the preservation of wild places and natural resources with resource utilization. Wildlife scientists and managers plan for a sustainable healthy future by ensuring that humans do not over-exploit animals, plants, and ecosystems and environments. They are, quite simply, custodians of nature.

The subject matter of degree programs in wildlife science and management spans biology, ecology, genetics, zoology, conservation, and management. This diverse content explains the variety of specific degrees that are offered under the wildlife science and management banner. At the undergraduate level, the Associate Degree in Wildlife Management and the Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Science are common nomenclatures. The Master’s Degree in Wildlife Conservation and the Doctoral Degree in Wildlife Biology are typical offerings at the graduate level.

Program Options

Associate Degree in Wildlife Science and Management – Two Year Duration
Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Science and Management – Four Year Duration
Wildlife science and management associate degree programs normally combine lecture classes in the major with some core courses in mathematics, English composition, communications, and the social sciences. General biology, chemistry, and physical geology courses are common components of both the associate and bachelor’s curriculum.

To provide students with hands-on experiences in the field, many bachelor’s and associate programs include an internship or practicum through partnerships with local and regional wildlife sanctuaries, state and national park authorities, or wildlife research institutes. At the bachelor’s level, the curriculum allows for coursework that is more in-depth and for fieldwork that is more frequent and more extensive.

Some graduates of a wildlife science and management associate or bachelor’s program go on to careers as park rangers and conservation law enforcement officers.

Learning outcomes for the wildlife science and management undergraduate include:

  • Basic concepts and principles of the management of wildlife resources
  • Ability to assess the impact of human activities on the survival and management of wildlife populations
  • Understanding of the regulations, policies, and politics that influence wildlife management in the United States
  • Ability to assess political, regulatory, and economic barriers to the preservation and restoration of species and populations

Here are sample courses offered in undergrad programs:

  • Orientation to Wildlife – introduction to professions in the wildlife sector
  • Field Skills – analysis methods used in wildlife management and research
  • Ecology – the relationship of the environment to organisms, principles of animal and plant ecology, populations, communities, ecosystems, and human ecology
  • Genetics – principles of both modern and classical genetics
  • Introduction to GIS – an introduction to the data management and analysis capabilities of Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Introduction to Wildlife and Fisheries – introduction to principles of habitat and population biology and management, human dimensions of wildlife management
  • Invertebrate Zoology – classification, development, and evolution of the invertebrates
  • Limnology – ecology of aquatic systems and their chemical, physical, and biological characteristics
  • Ichthyology and Herpetology – the identification, comparative anatomy, and evolution of fishes, amphibians, and reptiles, with emphasis on species common to the local area
  • Ornithology and Mammalogy – the identification, comparative anatomy, and evolution of birds and mammals, with emphasis on species common to the local area
  • Animal Diseases and Parasites – biological aspects of infectious diseases, parasites, and environmental contaminants in wild vertebrate animal populations
  • Evolutionary Biology – the mechanisms and processes of evolution of biological organisms, the evolutionary principles from Darwinism to molecular evolution
  • Ecological Analyses – introduction to the application of analytical methods for addressing common ecological problems, with emphasis on sampling design, formulating hypotheses, and statistical inference
  • Environmental Impact Assessment – introduction to the theory and practice of environmental impact assessment, including its history in the US and abroad; the methods used in environmental assessments; the legal framework for the environmental impact assessment process in the US and in other selected jurisdictions; how the environmental assessment process accounts for biophysical, socio-economic, and health issues
  • Plant Ecology – the ecology of terrestrial plants and ecosystems; the structure, function, classification, and analytical tools for describing the dynamic behavior of plant communities
  • Fish Ecology – the general life history, ecology, zoogeography (the geographical distribution of animals), and habitats of freshwater, migrating, and marine fishes
  • Conservation Biology – the theory and techniques necessary for understanding and preventing threats and declines to biological diversity
  • Wildlife Ecology – the general ecology and biology of wildlife species, including physiology, behavior, nutrition and endocrinology
  • Wildlife Management – concepts, techniques, and applications used in wildlife management; application of experimental design and the scientific method; challenges facing wildlife scientists and resource managers

Master’s Degree in Wildlife Science and Management – Two Year Duration
Doctoral Degree in Wildlife Science and Management – Three to Five Year Duration
At the graduate level, wildlife science and management students choose a specific focus area. Because of the breadth of the field, concentration options vary significantly from program to program. Master’s grads typically work in wildlife management and species conservation. The doctoral degree normally leads to roles in post-secondary education and research.

Here is a snapshot of possible graduate-level concentrations:

  • Conservation Biology
  • Animal Welfare and Conservation
  • Biodiversity, Wildlife, and Ecosystem Health
  • Conservation Project Management
  • Ecological Management and Conservation Biology
  • Global Wildlife Health and Conservation
  • Endangered Species Recovery and Conservation
  • Primate Conservation
  • Wild Animal Biology
  • Aquatic Conservation, Ecology, and Restoration
  • Zoo Conservation Biology
  • Animal Welfare, Science, Ethics, and Law
  • Animal Behavior
  • Species Identification and Survey Skills
  • Ecology and Population Genetics
  • Statistical Ecology

Degrees Similar to Wildlife Science and Management

Aquaculture is about the breeding, raising, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants for environmentally responsible production of healthy food. In other words, it’s farming in water or ‘aquafarming.’ There are two main types of aquaculture. Marine aquaculture refers to farming species that live in the ocean and estuaries. Freshwater aquaculture refers to farming species that live in ponds, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, and other inland waterways.

Botany is the study of the physiology, structure, genetics, ecology, distribution, classification, and economic importance of plants. Degree programs in the field include courses in biochemistry, microbiology, photosynthesis, and plant evolution.

Students who pursue a degree in ecology study how organisms interact with the natural environments that they live in and how these environments can be protected. In other words, the focus of ecology is to understand ecosystems as well as the social and political interests and policies that threaten them. An ecology curriculum, therefore, starts with courses in both the natural sciences – like biology, chemistry, physics, and geology – and the social sciences.

Fisheries Sciences and Management
Fisheries sciences and management degree programs focus on the biology and ecology of fish and shellfish. Students of the field learn about fisheries protection, production, and management. In short, the objective of these programs is to provide students with the knowledge and skills required to maintain long-term sustainable harvesting.

Forestry degree programs teach students how to conserve and manage forests through sustainable practices. This means the curriculum covers both preserving biodiversity, as well as producing wood products in ecologically responsible ways. Classes also address contemporary issues like climate change, carbon management, and how to plan and manage urban forests or green spaces in metropolitan areas.

Natural Resource Management
Natural resource management is about finding ways to sustain the Earth’s resources in the face of the growing human population. Majors in this discipline are typically passionate about clean water, clean energy, and clean environments. They study in the classroom, in the computer lab, and in the field and learn how to apply scientific and ecological knowledge, as well as economic and social awareness to find solutions to preserving our natural world.

Zoology students learn about animals, their evolution, anatomy, physiology, and natural habitats. Graduates may be employed by zoos, veterinary clinics, or labs. Their work may involve monitoring and writing reports on animal behavior, analyzing specimens to test for diseases, and/or working in the areas of ecology and conservation.

Skills You’ll Learn

  • Ability to communicate findings and results using models, graphs, and charts
  • Ability to consider problems with a scientific approach
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Analysis, evaluation, and problem solving
  • Attention to detail / accuracy
  • Capacity to work in physically demanding environments and conduct fieldwork
  • Computer literacy
  • Ethics
  • GIS (geographic information systems) and GPS (global positioning system) software
  • Logical thinking
  • Observation, research, and data collection and interpretation
  • Operations planning and project management
  • Oral and written communication
  • Patience
  • Technical report writing

What Can You Do with a Wildlife Science and Management Degree?

Graduates with a degree in wildlife science and management apply their knowledge and skills in various settings. Here are some examples:

  • State fish and wildlife management agencies
  • State parks agencies
  • Federal fish or wildlife management agencies (examples: US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service)
  • Federal land management agencies (examples: US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service)
  • Conservation organizations (examples: World Wildlife Fund, National Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife)
  • Land trust organizations (examples: Nature Conservancy)
  • International non-profit organizations (examples: The Cheetah Conservation Fund, Elephant Nature Foundation)
  • Outdoor education /nature centers
  • Zoos / aquariums
  • Fish or wildlife consulting firms
  • Environmental agencies (examples: Department of Environmental Conservation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
  • Hunting or fishing organizations (examples: Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Trout Unlimited)
  • Soil and water conservation districts
  • Watershed or other citizen councils
  • Universities or other academic settings

These are some specific positions and titles held by wildlife scientists and managers:

  • Aquacultural Manager
  • Endangered Species Biologist
  • Environmental Educator
  • Extension Agent
  • Fish and Game Warden
  • Fishery Officer](https://www.careerexplorer.com/careers/fishery-officer/)
  • Fisheries Biologist
  • Game Warden
  • Habitat Restoration Biologist
  • Hatchery Manager
  • Hatchery Technician
  • International / Exotic Wildlife Specialist
  • Marine Biologist
  • Park Ranger
  • Public Educator / Outreach Specialist
  • Researcher
  • Species Conservation Specialist
  • Watershed Council Coordinator
  • Wildlife / Fish Manager
  • Wildlife Rehabilitator
  • Wildlife Enforcement Officer
  • Wildlife Biologist
  • Wildlife Educator
  • Wildlife Habitats GIS Specialist
  • Wildlife Inspector and Forensics Specialist
  • Wildlife Interpreter / Field Guide
  • Wildlife Policy Analyst
  • Wildlife Technician
  • Zoo / Aquarist


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