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5 Best Bachelor’s Degrees in Wildlife Management 2021

Written by Liz Simmons

Students with a passion for animals, the environment, and conservation may consider earning a wildlife management degree. Wildlife degrees can open the door to a variety of careers with government agencies, nonprofits, and research organizations. Earning a bachelor's in wildlife management can launch students toward graduate studies in related subjects.>

Wildlife graduates often go on to work as conservation scientists and foresters, zoologists and wildlife biologists, and fish and game wardens. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that conservation scientists and foresters earn a median annual salary of $62,410, and the bureau projects faster-than-average job growth for the profession.>

Keep reading to learn more about the field of wildlife management, how to choose a wildlife conservation degree, and what to expect from a typical bachelor's program. We also discuss careers and salary potential for graduates.>

See Detailed Rankings

What Is Wildlife Management?

Wildlife management is the science of managing the environment in a way that benefits animals (including humans), the land, soil, and plants. Wildlife management professionals balance conservation with resource utilization.

The concept of wildlife management traces its origins to the passing of game laws. These laws limited the number of game birds or animals that could be legally taken, to manage game populations and the environment starting in the early 1800s. The wildlife management profession got its start in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s, when Aldo Leopold and others advocated for restoration and improvement of wildlife and wild areas.

Wildlife management professionals typically work for governments (local, state, and federal), social advocacy organizations, universities, and technical or consulting groups. They may work in laboratories, offices, and the outdoors doing fieldwork. Wildlife management jobs include conservation scientists and foresters, zoologists and wildlife biologists, and fish and game wardens.

These types of jobs are crucial to conservation efforts, which ensure that humans don't over-exploit animals, plants, and ecosystems and environments. Wildlife management professionals also plan for a sustainable, healthy future for animals, people, and the environment.

People drawn to this field care about environmentalism, preserving wild places and natural resources, and making sure wildlife can survive as humans meet their economic, social, and spiritual needs. Those who excel in wildlife management typically boast excellent speaking, critical-thinking, analytical, and management skills. They generally need bachelor's degrees at minimum, and many choose to earn graduate degrees to expand their career opportunities.

Top Wildlife Management Bachelor's Degree Rankings

The rankings below include some of the best wildlife degrees for students trying to choose a program. We developed these rankings using a rigorous methodology that incorporates a variety of key evaluation criteria that we describe in more detail below. This list is a great place to start for those weighing different considerations in order to choose the best wildlife management program for themselves. Of course, students still need to do their own additional research to find the right wildlife management program that considers their individual priorities.

Our Ranking Methodology

1. Auburn University

Public University in Auburn, AL, accredited by SACSCOC

Chartered in 1856 as East Alabama Male College, Auburn admitted its first female students in 1892. By 1960, the school had officially changed its name to Auburn University. Today, the school boasts almost 25,000 enrolled students.

Wildlife Enterprise Management Degree

A cross-disciplinary program through Auburn's School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences (SFWS), this degree offers students hands-on training in multiple areas. The curriculum balances training in wildlife management and conservation with training in hospitality and business skills. The SFWS boasts nine research facilities focused in areas like wildlife ecology, invasive species, and applied economics.

Classes include sporting firearms and archery, mammalian ecology and management, global and regional perspectives in fisheries, and forestry for small woodland owners.

Applying to Auburn

Applicants must provide high school transcripts and either standardized test scores or a graded writing assignment. Though a minimum is not listed, Auburn's middle 50% of admitted students earned scores of 25-31 ACT composite, scores of 1160-1300 SAT critical reading and math, and an average 3.9 high school GPA.

Program at a Glance

Tuition: $420/credit (in state); $1,260/credit (out of state)
Required Credits: 120 credits
Program Length: 4 years
Delivery Format: On campus


2. College of the Ozarks

Private college in Point Lookout, MO, accredited by HLC

Founded as a high school in 1906, C of O became a four-year, degree-granting institution in 1965. Changing to its current name in 1990, the college is now known for its work-study program, which allows students to earn a degree debt-free.

Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Wildlife Management Interdisciplinary Major

The undergraduate degree in conservation and wildlife management at College of the Ozarks offers an intersection of training in conservation, ecology, and biology. Learners also study basic agriculture to ensure a well-rounded formation. The program culminates in an internship in agriculture, biology, or conservation and wildlife.

Major courses include ornithology, fisheries and aquaculture, and introduction to forestry. The general curriculum also entails classes in scientific writing for natural resource conservation, organic chemistry, and introduction to criminal justice.

All students at College of the Ozarks participate in the campus work-study program, and students in this major specialize in projects under the environmental, health, and safety office. Learners also complete landscaping projects.

Applying to C of O

Applicants should demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA and be in the top half of their class. Standardized tests are required, with minimum 20 ACT or 1030 SAT scores. Students must also submit two references and participate in an interview.

Program at a Glance

Tuition: $19,500/year
Required Credits: 129-130 credit hours
Program Length: 4 years
Delivery Format: On campus


3. Eastern Kentucky University

Public University in Richmond, KY, accredited by SACSCOC

Founded in 1906, EKU became a four-year, degree-granting institution in 1922. By 1928, the school had gained accreditation, and it introduced its first master's program in 1935. By 1966, the school was sanctioned to grant degrees in non-education fields. Today, it enrolls over 15,000 learners.

Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Management

The Department of Biological Sciences offers a degree in wildlife management with two concentrations: conservation management and game management. The rigorous program ensures that graduates meet requirements to become associate wildlife biologists under The Wildlife Society (TWS). TWS features an active chapter at EKU, where majors can meet for support and networking through seminars and volunteer programs led by expert conservation professionals.

Through EKU's Cooperative Education Program, students complete a semester-long internship in their field of interest. Classes include ornithology, environmental land use planning, and urban wildlife management.

Applying to EKU

Standardized test scores are not required, but EKU encourages applicants to submit them. High school transcripts are mandatory, though a minimum GPA is not listed.

Program at a Glance

Tuition: $9,266/year (in state); $10,300/year (out of state)
Required Credits: 120 credits
Program Length: 4 years
Delivery Format: On campus


4. University of Nevada, Reno

Public university in Reno, NV, accredited by NWCCU

Founded in 1874 and Nevada's first university, UNR was recognized in 2019 by the Carnegie Foundation as one of the nation's top research universities.

Bachelor of Science in Forest Management and Ecology

UNR's forest management and ecology program offers an intersection of training in policy, wildlife ecology, and hydrology, ultimately delivering a well-rounded, pragmatic degree. Students may choose from two concentrations: forest management or forest ecology. Courses covered include natural resource ecology, soil genesis and morphology, and silviculture. Students complete their program of study with a capstone in forest management and restoration.

Applying to UNR

Applicants should demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA in their core academic courses (English, math, social sciences, and natural sciences). While test scores are not required, they are accepted.

Program at a Glance

Tuition: $7,470/year (in state); $23,562/year (out of state)
Required Credits: 120 credit hours
Program Length: 4 years
Delivery Format: On campus


5. Missouri State University

Public university in Springfield, MO, accredited by HLC

Founded in 1905 as the Fourth District Normal School, MSU gained its current name in 2005.

Wildlife Conservation and Management Undergraduate Program

MSU's wildlife conservation and management program integrates hands-on work and lab work, offering a well-rounded education in wildlife management. The program features internships and student groups to help with networking and bolster career readiness. Program participants combine studies in biology and agriculture and learn to educate on conservation.

Students may also apply for an accelerated master's program in their junior year. Admitted students may choose an accelerated master's degree in plant science or an accelerated master's in natural and applied science. If accepted, students can take up to 12 credit hours of dual undergraduate and graduate credits. These learners gain admission directly into the graduate program after graduation.

Applying to MSU

Applicants should know that if they rank in the top 64th percentile of their high school class (or have a minimum 3.25 GPA), test scores are optional. Otherwise, students must submit at least one standardized test score.

Program at a Glance

Tuition:$4,147/semester (in state); $8,249/semester (out of state)
Required Credits: 125-126 credit hours
Program Length: 4 years
Delivery Format: On campus

What to Expect From Wildlife Degree Programs

Most bachelor's in wildlife degrees take four years of full-time study to complete, but program length varies by school. Factors impacting how long it takes to graduate include required credits, academic calendar, course availability, and elective options. Full-time students pursuing bachelor's degrees in wildlife management typically take 15 semester credits per term.

Wildlife management programs fall under a variety of labels, including wildlife conservation, natural resources, fisheries and wildlife, and wildlife. Typical concentrations include conservation biology, water sciences, wildlife biology and management, and fisheries biology and management. Wildlife conservation degrees typically require courses like ecology, population analysis and management, ecological problem-solving, and human dimensions of wildlife management.

Applicants to bachelor's in wildlife management programs usually must meet general university admission requirements. Typical admissions criteria include a high school diploma or GED certificate, letters of recommendation, and ACT or SAT scores.

Wildlife Bachelor's Degree Options

Bachelor's programs within wildlife management may go by a variety of names, taking on different emphases or perspectives. Below, we describe some wildlife management degree options.

    • BS in Wildlife and Forestry Conservation: A BS in wildlife and forestry conservation teaches students to protect animals and their habitats while balancing human needs. Courses explore topics like population management, plant identification, and human aspects of wildlife conservation. This degree prepares learners to become conservation scientists and wildlife biologists, or to pursue graduate study.

 

    • BS in Fish and Wildlife Management: A BS in fish and wildlife management focuses on managing and protecting wildlife and fish, preventing damage to their ecosystems. Students explore policies, science, and regulations relevant to managing fish and wildlife. Graduates qualify to work as wildlife biologists and fish and game wardens.

 

  • BS in Wildlife Biology: A wildlife biology BS prepares graduates for careers as wildlife biologists, researchers, and conservation scientists, or to continue their education at the graduate level. This type of degree emphasizes the protection and conservation of wildlife, focusing on biology classes. Students learn how humans impact wildlife and its ecosystems.

 

Popular Bachelor's in Wildlife Management Courses

The type, variety, and amount of wildlife management courses available varies by school. Most bachelor's in wildlife management programs include core, elective, and general education classes. Some programs require a special project, internship, or capstone course prior to graduation. Some typical courses include wildlife ecology and management, wildlife policy and animal welfare, and ecology of wildlife populations. Below, we explain what to expect from some common wildlife management classes.

    • Wildlife Ecology and Management: This class focuses on the plants and animals of major wildlife habitats. It explores topics like ecology of important species, identification, and life histories. Students learn to understand and use scientific principles of wildlife ecology and management.

 

    • Ecology of Wildlife Populations: Learners receive an introduction to the factors impacting growth, structure, regulation, and fluctuations of wildlife populations. The class focuses on topics like competition, population growth, and predator/prey models.

 

    • Case Studies in Environmental Ethics: This course analyzes a variety of case studies from around the world as a way to explore environmental ethics. Students investigate how human influence impacts the distribution of the world's plants and animals.

 

    • Ornithology: This class provides an introduction to the study of birds. Students explore the behavior, classification, ecology, and special adaptations of birds. They learn to identify a variety of birds and conduct field work and lab study.

 

  • Wildlife Policy and Animal Welfare: Students learn about how ethics, policy, animal welfare in research, and values impact and influence wildlife management. The course emphasizes the Animal Welfare Act and how it applies to wildlife policy.

 

What Jobs Can Wildlife Management Degrees Get You?

Students who earn wildlife degrees may qualify for a variety of careers related to environmentalism, natural resources, and wild animals, including conservation scientists and foresters, zoologists and wildlife biologists, and fish and game wardens. Other potential occupations include environmental scientists and specialists and high school teachers. Most of these careers make over $60,000 per year.

Earning a graduate degree in this or a related field can create additional career opportunities and increase salary potential, particularly for those who want to work in academia as researchers or professors, or at high levels in government agencies or social advocacy organizations.

  • Conservation Scientists and Foresters: Conservation scientists and foresters manage forests, rangelands, parks, and other natural resources. They create management plans, supervise conservation technicians and other works, oversee conservation activities, and monitor lands. Conservation scientists and foresters need a bachelor's degree.
    • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
    • Job Outlook: 5%
    • Median Annual Salary: $62,410

     

  • Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists: Zoologists and wildlife biologists study how wild animals interact with their ecosystems. Typical job duties may include conducting animal studies, collecting specimens to analyze, creating programs to minimize risk from human activity to animals, and giving presentations on their research. Many positions require master's or doctoral degrees.
    • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
    • Job Outlook: 4%
    • Median Annual Salary: $63,270

     

  • Fish and Game Wardens: Fish and game wardens enforce rules and regulations related to taking fish and game. Typical job activities include collecting biological data and investigating reports of damage. They typically work for state and local governments.
    • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
    • Median Annual Salary: $57,690

     

  • Environmental Scientists and Specialists: Environmental scientists and specialists may receive better career opportunities by earning graduate degrees. They protect the environment and human health by giving advice to policymakers, collecting environmental data, developing plans to help with environmental problems, and writing technical reports.
    • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
    • Job Outlook: 8%
    • Median Annual Salary: $71,360

     

  • High School Teacher: High school teachers provide instruction to students in high school. They develop lesson plans, evaluate student progress, and prepare learners for life after high school. Teachers with graduate degrees typically earn more than those with just their bachelor's.
    • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
    • Job Outlook: 4%
    • Median Annual Salary: $61,660

     

Choosing Between Wildlife Conservation Degrees

Choosing the right wildlife conservation program requires students to consider a variety of factors, and the right school for one person may not make the best choice for someone else. Students should consider the following factors when making their decision:

    • Does the school hold regional accreditation? Students who want to qualify for financial aid, transfer credits to other schools, and/or move on to graduate school should prioritize wildlife management degrees from regionally accredited universities.

 

    • How long will it take to earn the degree? Program length varies by college, credits required, and the option to pursue an accelerated path.

 

    • Does the school offer relevant future education opportunities? Those who plan to pursue master's degrees in the field might benefit from attending schools offering both undergraduate and graduate wildlife management programs.

 

    • How competitive is the program? Look at admission statistics and consider your chances of getting into the school.

 

    • Does the university offer robust student services? Look for libraries, writing centers, tutoring, and career services. Online learners should make sure the school provides enough support services for distance education programs.

 

  • How prestigious is the program? Has it won awards, or does it boast well-known faculty? Does the program's reputation in the field matter to you?

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I major in for wildlife conservation?

Students pursuing careers in wildlife conservation should seek majors in wildlife and forestry conservation, fish and wildlife management, and wildlife biology. These programs each emphasize different aspects of wildlife conservation, but they are all relevant to the field.

How long does it take to get a bachelor's degree in wildlife management?

The amount of time it takes to earn a bachelor's in wildlife management degree varies by program, number of required credits, and the school's class offerings each term. Most wildlife degrees take four full-time years to complete.

What can I do with a degree in wildlife management?

Wildlife management degrees can lead to a variety of careers. Graduates may become conservation scientists and foresters, zoologists and wildlife biologists, or fish and game wardens. Other possibilities include environmental scientists and specialists and high school teachers.

Is a wildlife biologist a good career?

Earning a wildlife biology degree equips graduates with the knowledge and skills to make a difference as wildlife biologists. Individuals in this well-paying career earn a median annual salary of $63,270 and face average projected job growth rates for 2019-2029.

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