If you have an interest in animals, plants, and the natural environment, a wildlife management career might be right for you. The wildlife management umbrella encompasses jobs with government agencies, research centers, and advocacy groups interested in maintaining balanced natural habitats. Depending on your career choice, your commitment to this balance might be connected to conservation or financial considerations. A common path for wildlife specialists is a career as a fish and game warden. Wardens are hired by the county and state natural resource departments to enforce regulations on fishing, hunting, and land use. This career path requires knowledge of conservation laws, interest in protecting public lands, and familiarity with local plants and animals.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics details several research-focused careers in wildlife management. Foresters and conservation scientists work with conservancy groups as well as governments to study savannahs, forests, and green spaces. These studies are used to create policies and action plans to protect public lands for future generations. While a bachelor's degree is a good entry into this field, wildlife biologists and zoologists typically require advanced degrees to conduct their research. These experts research the characteristics of wildlife to determine how they survive in nature and interact with human communities. Wildlife biologists and zoologists tend to oversee field studies while teaching courses at universities.
Successful wildlife management professionals are committed to accurate scientific research and good research processes. Curiosity and a desire to dive deep into the natural world are essential skills in this field. Wildlife specialists understand the changing state of public policy, research, and regulations that define humane interactions with nature. Depending on your career, you may also need patience and diplomatic skills to work with property owners, farmers, government agencies, and other stakeholders. Your interest in a wildlife management career will lead you to explore the benefits of this professional path.
Why Become a Wildlife Manager?
A career in wildlife management can mean a comfortable life thanks to good average salaries. Fish and game wardens earned an average salary of $57,710 in 2018, according to the BLS. Conservation scientists and foresters made $61,340 on average in the same year. Wildlife biologists earned a median salary of $63,420 due in part to advanced degrees and professional experience. The BLS found an average salary of $45,448 among all professionals in the United States for 2018, which shows the value placed on wildlife management career paths by employers. Above-average salaries are strong pulls for students enrolling in wildlife management programs due to the costs of undergraduate degrees.
The consistent demand for wildlife management professionals is another reason to pursue this career path. The BLS estimated an 8% increase in available for wildlife biologist positions from 2016 to 2026. Conservation scientists and forester positions will see a projected 6% growth in available jobs during the same period. Fish and Game warden applicants are also in demand due to high turnover in the field and regulatory requirements for the number of wardens in each state. Advocacy groups dealing with everything from endangered species to forestry conservation look for wildlife management professionals to support their work. Corporations also employ wildlife specialists to comply with internal and external conservation policies.
Wildlife management degrees also open doors to a broad spectrum of job opportunities. With additional education, a wildlife specialist can move into environmental science research. Some colleges provide overlap between wildlife management and veterinary programs that could lead to veterinary school. There are also connections between wildlife and agricultural degree programs that can shift students toward careers on the farm. Graduate students in fisheries, wildlife, and agricultural programs can focus on teaching or administrative positions at the university level. No matter what path you choose, you should consider the best wildlife management programs in the country for your education.
Top Management Degrees uses seven data points to rank college programs. Here they are in order of importance:
- A Reputation Aggregate Score from other rankings
- Graduate Average Salary
- Alumni Reviews
- Percentage of Admitted Students Who Graduate
- Admitted Students' Test Scores
- Acceptance Rate
#5. University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Tennessee
Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Science
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville provides a steady progression from its Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Science to graduate programs. The university houses a Master of Science in the same discipline along with a Ph.D. in Natural Resources. First-year students who want to meet colleagues in the field can reside in the Agricultural Science and Natural Resources Living Learning Community. BS students use electives like Amphibian Ecology, Wildlife Techniques, and Fire Management to build marketable skills. Every student completes a professional development course in their final semester to prepare for post-graduate pursuits. The Herbert College of Agriculture's Scholars Program provides funding each summer to exceptional students to conduct field research and network with professionals.
The Knoxville area contains ample opportunities to explore regional flora and fauna with proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains and the Great Appalachian Valley. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville has evolved from its founding as Blount College in 1794 to an internationally known university in 2019. Niche's 2019 grades for the school included a No. 36 rank in Best Colleges for Agricultural Sciences in America. Forbes pointed to the university's return on investment for graduates with a No. 145 rank in America's Best Value Colleges for 2019. The Volunteers athletics programs have attracted national followings including multiple titles for the women's basketball and men's football.
TMD Ranking Score: 93.65
#4. Texas A&M University Kingsville – Kingsville, Texas
Bachelor of Science in Range and Wildlife Management
The Bachelor of Science in Range and Wildlife Management at Texas A&M University Kingsville offers on-site research opportunities along with varied course options. The university's South Pasture Wildlife Research Area houses 254 acres of wild plants and local wildlife available for study by students and faculty. Juniors and seniors in the program take courses on subjects like wildlife photographic technology, grazing management, as well as waterfowl and wetlands. The wildlife capstone seminar is a required course for seniors to demonstrate their understanding of necessary skills prior to graduation. Throughout their time in the program, students can learn about future careers and pursue related activities through the TAMUK Wildlife Society.
Texas A&M University Kingsville houses programs like a Master of Science in Range and Wildlife Management and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Science appropriate for BS graduates. The university evolved from a teacher's college in 1917 to a public liberal arts school with a national profile with the change to its current name in 1993. U.S. News & World Report placed the school at No. 195 in High School Counselor Rankings for 2019. Niche ranked the university No. 436 in Colleges with the Best Professors in America for 2019. Texas A&M University Kingsville is known as a football powerhouse at the Division II level with seven national championships between 1959 and 1979 and frequent conference championships.
TMD Ranking Score: 93.96
#3. University of Arizona – Tucson, Arizona
Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources
The University of Arizona's Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources has produced graduates who work for the National Park Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department. This BS program includes five areas of concentration including Global Change Ecology and Watershed Management. Students select from courses ranging from Insect Biology to U.S. Environmental History for a well-rounded education. Upper-level electives like wildlife conservation behavior and fire ecology move students toward practical concerns in the field. The School of Natural Resources and the Environment encourage students to pair this BS with certificates in rangeland management or zoo and aquarium conservation to augment their studies. The University of Arizona offers study abroad courses in natural resource havens like Ecuador and Namibia.
Graduates of the BS program can transition into the Master of Science in Natural Resources or Water, Society, and Policy. The Tucson area provides opportunities for natural resources research at nearby locations like Saguaro National Park. The University of Arizona has grown from a territorial school in 1865 to a well-regarded university with students from around the world. In 2019, Forbes showed the university's national reputation with a No. 200 rank in Top Colleges. U.S. News & World Report placed the school No. 106 in National Universities and No. 68 in Best Colleges for Veterans for 2019. The publication also touted the university's affordability with a No. 97 rank in Best Value Schools.
TMD Ranking Score: 95.58
#2. Humboldt State University – Arcata, California
Bachelor of Science in Wildlife
Students in Humboldt State University's Bachelor of Science in Wildlife are located close to natural habitats like Six Rivers National Forest and Humboldt Bay. The BS program offers concentrations in wildlife management and conservation biology to concentrate student research. Classes in population ecology, upland habitats, and wildlife diseases present the latest research throughout a student's course of study. Every senior in the program also present original research to faculty members to meet the thesis requirement. Humboldt State University also features a Master of Science in Natural Resources with four specializations to train future leaders in the discipline. The university's Department of Wildlife touts its record of producing graduates in positions from conservation biologists to wildlife refuge managers.
Humboldt State University is based along the Pacific Ocean in northern California, offering beautiful views for students and faculty. In addition to wildlife research facilities, the school offers centers like the Schatz Energy Research Center and the California Center for Rural Policy. U.S. News & World Report placed the university among regional leaders with a No. 54 rank in Regional Universities West and a No. 14 rank in Top Public Schools for 2019. The publication also ranked the school No. 54 in Best Value Schools. Niche's 2019 rankings for Humboldt University included a No. 292 place in Colleges with the Best Professors in America.
TMD Ranking Score: 97.66
#1. Michigan State University – East Lansing, Michigan
Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife
Michigan State University's Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife helps students build skills for future careers with specializations. Concentration areas like Conservation Biology, Water Sciences, and Pre-Veterinary Sciences can be combined depending on student interests. The program's core courses include ecological problem solving and an undergraduate seminar in the discipline. BS students are asked to complete at least one experiential learning requirement, which can take the form of an internship, thesis, or independent study. The College of Agriculture & Natural Resources also offers study abroad opportunities for wildlife studies Fiji, Madagascar, and South Africa. In addition to traditional classes, Michigan State University features select courses each semester that are completed entirely online.
Michigan State University represents good value for fisheries and wildlife students based on rankings from Forbes and Money. Forbes ranked the university No. 160 in America's Best Value Colleges and No. 35 in Public Colleges for 2019. The school achieved a No. 41 place in Best Colleges For Your Money 2018 by Money. Fisheries and wildlife students benefit from program-specific scholarships like the Glassen Wildlife Conservation and Stewardship Scholarship. Continued support for agricultural and natural sciences research at this school stems from its origins as an agricultural school in 1857. Michigan State University is also known for successful athletics programs including championships in men's ice hockey and men's basketball in the 21st century.
TMD Ranking Score: 100.00