Careers in Wildlife Conservation
If you’re wild about wildlife, you may have considered making it your career. You could become a veterinarian, veterinary technician or park ranger. But in the big picture, conservation efforts require a variety of skills and talents. There’s more than one path to a career in helping wildlife.
Here are just a few of the careers you might pursue:
A wildlife biologist studies animals and their environments. They can work in lots of different settings: in a lab, an office, or maybe out in nature for a close look at their subject. They might be employed by a state wildlife agency, a national park, a university or a nonprofit agency. A wildlife biologist might specialize in a particular species, or a particular geographical area. Whatever their job looks like from day to day, they will have learned a lot to get there: at a minimum, they’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a related field. To lead a scientific research project, they’ll need a doctoral degree.
All law enforcement officers are trained to fight crime and keep the peace, but a conservation law enforcement officer is focused on laws related to conservation and outdoor recreation. They monitor the land and waterways for compliance with fishing and game laws, and make sure people are enjoying the area in a way that doesn’t harm wild animals or their homes. There is some training specific to the job, but an associate’s degree in criminal justice, forestry, or another related field is a great place to start. The Department of Wildlife Resources has more details about pursuing this career in Virginia.
When you’re really passionate about a subject, the most fulfilling job might be teaching others what you know. Educators of all kinds can contribute to conservation efforts, whether they’re introducing rescued animals at a wildlife rehabilitation center, teaching biology lessons to local high schoolers, or helping visitors understand the great outdoors as a park ranger.
If your skills and talents are more on the creative side, you can still play a big part in wildlife conservation. Wildlife organizations and publications must produce material that educates the world about wildlife matters and inspires people to action, an effort that requires a variety of creative, curious professionals: photographers, journalists, designers and more.
What You Can Do!
Get involved! To get some experience in your chosen field, look into volunteer and internship opportunities. You’ll learn a lot, and might make some helpful connections for your eventual job search.
Be a good mentor. If you’re already on a solid career path, be supportive and encouraging to the newer professionals in your field. Your input and expertise can make a huge difference for someone who is still learning.
Be willing to try new things. Get out of your comfort zone--you never know where it will take you! It might lead to a totally new career interest and a path that suits you even better.
Check out the The Wildlife Center of Virginia to learn more about the wild animals around you, and how you can help keep them safe.