Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree. Many schools offer bachelor’s degree programs in zoology and wildlife biology or in a closely related field, such as ecology. An undergraduate degree in biology with coursework in zoology and wildlife biology also is good preparation for a career as a zoologist or wildlife biologist.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 8% (As fast as average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Advancement
Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically receive greater responsibility and independence in their work as they gain experience. More education also can lead to greater responsibility. Zoologists and wildlife biologists with a Ph.D. usually lead independent research and control the direction and content of projects. In addition, they may be responsible for finding much of their own funding.
Median pay: How much do Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists make?
$60,520 Annual Salary
$29.10 per hour

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals and other wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems. They study the physical characteristics of animals, animal behaviors, and the impacts humans have on wildlife and natural habitats.

What do Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists do?

Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically do the following:

  • Develop and conduct experimental studies with animals in controlled or natural surroundings
  • Collect biological data and specimens for analysis
  • Study the characteristics of animals, such as their interactions with other species, reproduction, population dynamics, diseases, and movement patterns
  • Analyze the influence that human activity has on wildlife and their natural habitats
  • Research, initiate, and maintain ways of improving breeding programs that support healthy game animals, endangered species, or other wild populations of land or aquatic life
  • Estimate, monitor, and manage wildlife populations and invasive plants and animals
  • Develop and implement programs to reduce risk to human activities from wildlife and invasive species, such as keeping wildlife from impacting airport operations or livestock and crop production
  • Write research papers, reports, and scholarly articles that explain their findings
  • Give presentations on research findings to academics and the general public
  • Develop conservation plans and make recommendations on wildlife conservation and management issues to policymakers and the general public

Zoologists and wildlife biologists perform a variety of scientific tests and experiments. For example, they take blood samples from animals to assess their nutrition levels, check animals for disease and parasites, and tag animals in order to track them. Although the roles and abilities of zoologists and wildlife biologists often overlap, zoologists typically conduct scientific investigations and basic research on particular types of animals, such as birds or amphibians, whereas wildlife biologists are more likely to study specific ecosystems or animal populations, such as a particular at-risk species. Wildlife biologists also do applied work, such as the conservation and management of wildlife populations.

Zoologists and wildlife biologists use geographic information systems (GIS), modeling software, and other computer programs to estimate wildlife populations and track the movements of animals. They also use these computer programs to forecast the spread of invasive species or diseases, project changes in the availability of habitat, and assess other potential threats to wildlife.

Zoologists and wildlife biologists conduct research for a variety of purposes. For example, many zoologists and wildlife biologists work to increase our knowledge and understanding of wildlife species. Traditionally, many wildlife biologists researched ways to encourage abundant game animal populations to support recreational hunting and tourism. Today, many also work with public officials in conservation efforts that protect species from threats and help animal populations return to and remain at sustainable levels.

Most zoologists and wildlife biologists work on research teams with other scientists and technicians. For example, zoologists and wildlife biologists may work with environmental scientists and hydrologists to monitor water pollution and its effects on fish populations.

Zoologists generally specialize first in either vertebrates or invertebrates and then in specific species. Following are some examples of specialization by species:

  • Cetologists study marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins.
  • Entomologists study insects, such as beetles and butterflies.
  • Herpetologists study reptiles and amphibians, such as snakes and frogs.
  • Ichthyologists study wild fish, such as sharks and lungfish.
  • Malacologists study mollusks, such as snails and clams.
  • Mammalogists study mammals, such as monkeys and bears.
  • Ornithologists study birds, such as hawks and penguins.
  • Teuthologists study cephalopods, such as octopuses and cuttlefish.

Other zoologists and wildlife biologists are identified by the aspects of zoology and wildlife biology they study, such as evolution and animal behavior. Following are some examples:

  • Anatomy is the study of structure of organisms and their parts.
  • Embryology is the study of the development of embryos and fetuses.
  • Ethology, sometimes called behavioral ecology, is the study of animal behaviors as natural or adaptive traits.
  • Histology, or microscopic anatomy, is the study of cells and tissues in plants and animals.
  • Physiology is the study of the normal function of living systems.
  • Soil zoology is the study of animals which live fully or partially in the soil.
  • Teratology is the study of abnormal physiological development.
  • Zoography is the study of descriptive zoology, and describes plants and animals.

Many people with a zoology and wildlife biology background become high school teachers or college or university professors. For more information, see the profiles on high school teachers and postsecondary teachers.

Careers for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

  • Aquatic biologists
  • Botanists
  • Cetologists
  • Entomologists
  • Evolutionary biologists
  • Fish culturists
  • Fishery biologists
  • Herpetologists
  • Ichthyologists
  • Lepidopterists
  • Limnologists
  • Malacologists
  • Mammalogists
  • Marine biologists
  • Migratory game bird biologists
  • Ornithologists
  • Protistologists
  • Protozoologists
  • Terrestrial biologists
  • Teuthologists
  • Wildlife biologists
  • Zoologists

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