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Top 5 Bachelor’s Degrees in Wildlife Management

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.

Top 5 Wildlife Management Bachelor's Programs

1. Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
2. Humboldt State University Arcata, CA
3. University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
4. Texas A&M University – Kingsville Kingsville, TX
5. University of Tennessee Knoxville, TN

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 Wildlife Management Degree Methodology

All applicants arrange their priorities in unique ways, and they select prospective wildlife management degree programs according to different criteria. Our ranking methodology incorporates the following metrics:

  • A reputation aggregate score from other rankings
  • Graduate average salary
  • Alumni reviews
  • Percentage of admitted students who graduate
  • Price
  • Admitted students' test scores
  • Acceptance rate

1. Michigan State University

Public University in East Lansing, Michigan, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

A public research university founded in 1855 in East Lansing, Michigan, MSU serves more than 49,000 students. The school features more than 200 academic programs and more than 900 student groups.

Fisheries and Wildlife BS

MSU's fisheries and wildlife BS provides a foundation in natural resource management. Notable classes include nature and environmental writing, statistics for scientists, and ecological problem-solving. Students must complete at least three credits of experiential learning, and they can choose from concentrations like conservation biology, pre-veterinary, or fish and wildlife disease ecology and management.

The 120-credit bachelor's degree takes four years to complete. The department of fisheries and wildlife offers classes online, plus a variety of study abroad opportunities. The department's competitive scholarship program includes special funding for incoming freshmen and current students. Fisheries and wildlife majors can also join the MSU Fisheries and Wildlife Club or the MSU Fishing Club.

Applying to MSU

  • Submit high school transcripts demonstrating a strong academic record and completion of a college preparatory curriculum.
  • Show your talents, leadership, conduct, and diversity of experience.
  • Submit ACT or SAT scores.


2. Humboldt State University

Public university in Arcata, California, accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Located near the redwoods, beaches, and mountains, HSU's beautiful campus was founded in 1913. The university offers small classes and 46 majors from which to choose.

Wildlife BS

The nationally recognized wildlife BS degree from HSU focuses on conservation and management of wildlife and ecosystems. The curriculum explores issues like population ecology, conservation biology, wildlife diseases, and advanced ornithology. Learners take classes like urban wildlife ecology, wildlife conclave, wildlife ethology, and wildlife techniques. Students can choose from concentrations in wildlife management and conservation, or conservation biology/applied vertebrate ecology.

The program combines classroom learning with fieldwork opportunities in local habitats like Six Rivers National Forest and Redwood National and State Parks. HSU offers a related master's degree in natural resources for those who want to continue their education after graduation.

Applying to HSU

  • Submit transcripts that show completed college preparatory coursework.
  • California residents must hold a minimum 2.0 GPA; nonresidents need a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Demonstrate participation in after-school activities.


3. University of Arizona

Public university in Tucson, Arizona, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

A top land grant university, UA generates $687 million in annual research expenditures. Founded in 1885, the university got its start before Arizona formally became state.

Conservation Biology BS

The conservation biology BS from UA's school of natural resources and the environment incorporates multiple disciplines, including genetics, ecology, policy, and economics. The four-year program requires classes like management and restoration of wildland vegetation, Galapagos marine ecology, teaching biology, and ethnobotany. Students can minor in marine sciences or pursue undergraduate certificates in rangeland management, zoo and aquarium conservation, or geographic information systems.

The program also offers internships, independent studies, and summer undergraduate research opportunities with a variety of Arizona organizations. Potential careers for graduates include conservation biologist, environmental educator, resource manager, and conservation planner. UA also offers related master's degrees, including an MS in natural resources and an MS in water, society, and policy.

Applying to UA

  • Complete an application.
  • Pay application fee.
  • Submit official high school transcripts that show completion of required college preparatory coursework.
  • Submit official ACT/SAT scores.
  • Applicants must rank in the top 25% of their graduating high school class or earn a minimum 3.0 GPA (unweighted).


4. Texas A&M University – Kingsville

Public university in Kingsville, Texas, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Texas A&M University – Kingsville started as a teacher's college, which opened in 1925. The school's 8,300 students come from South Texas, primarily, but also from more than 35 other states.

Agriculture – Range and Wildlife Management BS

Texas A&M's agriculture – range and wildlife management BS emphasizes communication skills and creative thinking while providing a foundation in applied range and wildlife management. The curriculum combines classroom learning with hands-on fieldwork at the University Teaching and Research Farm and the South Pasture Wildlife Research Area, south of Kingsville. Students gain experience in beef, swine, and goat management and wildlife research.

Notable classes include introduction to digital wildlife photography, methods in rangeland ecology, prescribed burning, and wildlife research and scientific communication. The program also offers an internship and wildlife capstone seminar. The 120-credit degree takes four years to complete.

Applying to Texas A&M

  • Complete an application.
  • Submit nonrefundable fee.
  • Submit official high school and college transcripts.
  • Submit official SAT/ACT scores.
  • Submit the FAFSA .
  • Students in the top 10% of their high school class or who achieve minimum SAT/ACT test scores receive guaranteed admission.


5. University of Tennessee

Public university in Knoxville, Tennessee, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Tennessee's flagship university founded in 1794, UT serves nearly 30,000 students annually. The school offers more than 900 programs of study across 11 colleges and generates $1.7 billion for the state's economy each year.

Wildlife and Fisheries BS

The 120-credit wildlife and fisheries BS from UT takes four years to complete and offers two concentrations: wildlife and fisheries management, and wildlife health. Both wildlife and fisheries degrees hold special accreditation from the American Foresters under the Forestry Standards. Students take classes like dendrology and silvics of North American trees, introduction to geographic information systems for natural resources, and upland habitat management.

Wildlife and fisheries management majors can graduate with up to three minors in forestry, watershed, and/or international agriculture and natural resources. Wildlife health majors qualify to receive their associate wildlife biologist certification from the Wildlife Society, an international professional organization for wildlife professionals. UT also offers a master's program in wildlife and fisheries science.

Applying to UT

  • Complete an application.
  • Complete a self-reported academic record.
  • Submit an application fee.
  • Write the required essay.
  • Submit optional standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and a supporting statement.


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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