Wildlife biologists study the behavior, characteristics, habitats and conservation of animals in the wild. The Wildlife Society suggests that job competition in this field can be fierce, and serious preparation, including a higher education degree, is required. Some schools offer degrees specifically in wildlife biology or science. However, other majors, such as biology, zoology and ecology, provide the appropriate background for a career as a wildlife biologist.
Wildlife Biology Major
The National Center for Education Statistics lists 19 schools offering programs specifically in wildlife biology or wildlife science, most leading to a bachelor of science degree. Many of these programs are designed to prepare students for state and federal positions dealing with resource management or conservation and to provide the basic skills needed for certification by the American Fisheries Society or the Wildlife Society. Although programs focus strongly on biology and ecology, students take math and other science courses, including chemistry and physics. Course in wildlife management are also typically included.
Various biology degrees are offered by major colleges and universities. Some are more general, while others focus on an area such as animal physiology or conservation and ecology. Students interested in wildlife biology may want to look for a program that includes a focus, or at least some coursework, on animal science and ecology. Coursework may include physics, chemistry, calculus and statistics in addition to biology courses.
Zoology is the branch of biology dealing specifically with animals. Coursework will include non-biology-related classes such as chemistry, calculus and physics. The bulk of the coursework will center on biological sciences and will include courses in the areas of molecular biology, physiology, ecology, evolution and conservation.
Ecology focuses more on the physical environment and the impact of both living and non-living things on that environment. A foundation in chemistry, physics and calculus will be required in addition to courses such as resource management, animal behavior and philosophy of ecology. Ecology courses may include fish ecology, wildlife ecology, forest ecology and microbial ecology.