Zoologists and wildlife biologists held about 17,100 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of zoologists and wildlife biologists were as follows:
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||43%|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||24|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||6|
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||5|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||4|
Zoologists and wildlife biologists work in offices, laboratories, and outdoors. Depending on their job and interests, they may spend considerable time in the field gathering data and studying animals in their natural habitats. Other zoologists and wildlife biologists may spend very little time in the field.
Fieldwork can require zoologists and wildlife biologists to travel to remote locations anywhere in the world. For example, cetologists studying whale populations may spend months at sea on a research ship. Other zoologists and wildlife biologists may spend significant amounts of time in deserts or remote mountainous and woodland regions. The ability to travel and study nature firsthand is often viewed as a benefit of working in these occupations, but few modern amenities may be available to those who travel in remote areas.
Fieldwork can be physically demanding, and zoologists and wildlife biologists work in both warm and cold climates and in all types of weather. For example, ornithologists who study penguins in Antarctica may need to spend significant amounts of time in cold weather and on ships, which may cause seasickness. In all environments, working as a zoologist or wildlife biologist can be emotionally demanding because interpersonal contact may be limited.
Injuries and Illnesses
Some zoologists and wildlife biologists handle wild animals or spend significant amounts of time outdoors in difficult terrain or in inclement weather. To avoid injury, they should use caution when handling wildlife or working in remote areas.
Most zoologists and wildlife biologists work full time. They may work long or irregular hours, especially when doing fieldwork. Zoologists and wildlife biologists who work with nocturnal animals may need to work at night at least some of the time.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically need a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions and may need a master’s degree for higher level jobs. A Ph.D. is typically needed for leading independent research and for university research positions.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. Students may pursue a degree in zoology, wildlife biology, or a related field, such as natural resources. Some students major in biology and take coursework in zoology and wildlife biology.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically need at least a master’s degree for higher level investigative or scientific work. A Ph.D. is necessary for most independent research and university research positions.
Coursework in life and physical sciences often includes academic, laboratory, and field work. In addition, students may need to take mathematics and statistics to learn data analysis.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically have an interest in the Building and Thinking interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking interest which might fit with a career as a zoologist and wildlife biologist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Zoologists and wildlife biologists should also possess the following specific qualities:
Communication skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists write scientific papers and give talks to the public, policy makers, and academics.
Critical-thinking skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists need sound reasoning and judgment to draw conclusions from experimental results and scientific observations.
Emotional stamina and stability. Zoologists and wildlife biologists may need to endure long periods of time with little human contact. As with other occupations that deal with animals, emotional stability is important when working with injured or sick animals.
Interpersonal skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically work on teams. They must be able to work effectively with others to achieve their goals or negotiate conflicting goals.
Observation skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists must be able to notice slight changes in an animal’s characteristics, such as their behavior or appearance.
Outdoor skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists may need to chop firewood, swim in cold water, navigate rough terrain in poor weather, or perform other activities associated with life in remote areas.
Problem-solving skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists try to find the best possible solutions to threats that affect wildlife, such as disease and habitat loss.
The median annual wage for zoologists and wildlife biologists was $64,650 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,420, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $103,900.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for zoologists and wildlife biologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||$81,890|
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||64,420|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||63,580|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||61,920|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||61,780|
Most zoologists and wildlife biologists work full time. They may work long or irregular hours, especially when doing fieldwork.
Employment of zoologists and wildlife biologists is projected to show little or no change from 2021 to 2031.
Despite limited employment growth, about 1,500 openings for zoologists and wildlife biologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Demand for zoologists and wildlife biologists may be limited by budgetary constraints, as jobs and funding for these workers often come from state, federal, and local governments. However, some zoologists and wildlife biologists are expected to be needed to help combat the loss of biodiversity caused by human activities, as well as to research climate-driven ecosystem changes. These workers also may be needed to develop and implement conservation plans to reduce threats to animals and protect natural resources.
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