Careers in fisheries, wildlife, and conservation sciences
With a degree from our undergraduate and/or graduate programs, there are many paths to careers that conserve fish, wildlife, and habitat. Some are field or research-based, while others involve public education, policy, social science, animal husbandry, or law enforcement. Depending on your interests, and no matter your background, you can find a path that will match your strengths and passions. Do you enjoy:
- Practical, hands-on activities outdoors and solving problems? Then being a field wildlife. fisheries, or marine biologist might be for you.
- Collaborating across disciplines to solve environmental problems? Consider work as a conservation scientist.
- Learning how living systems work or why animals behave the way they do? Then being a research biologist might be for you.
- Teaching adults or kids and like being in a camp, nature center or park? Then a naturalist or outreach path may be a good fit for you.
- Protecting and conserving fish and wildlife through law enforcement? Consider serving as a game warden or federal law enforcement officer.
- Taking care of animals and are concerned with animal wellbeing? Perhaps a keeper, trainer, or aquarist career is for you.
- Raising fish or shellfish for commercial use or conservation? Consider a career in hatchery management or aquaculture.
Employers & Wages
Our students go on to work with a broad range of employers across the U.S. and the globe, including federal agencies, state agencies, and non-governmental organizations. Federal careers abound with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Tribal governments host many wildlife-focused positions as well. Many of our graduates work with state management agencies such as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Non-governmental organizations include conservation and restoration non-profits, environmental consulting firms, zoos/aquaria, nature centers, universities, and land trusts. Want to know more about various career paths related to your interests in fisheries, wildlife, and conservation? Check out these career profiles from EcoCanada.
Think math and science aren’t your strength? Know that there are countless career pathways – especially with non-profits and zoos – where you can support conservation efforts through education, grant and outreach writing, fundraising, management, administration, art, and event coordination.
Wages for positions in fisheries, wildlife, and conservation vary by location but correlate with experience. For example, most seasonal technician and outreach positions start out above minimum wage, whereas permanent positions tend to pay professional salaries for the location with benefits. Obtaining a graduate degree such as a master’s or certificate will strongly increase your salary range, as well as your promotional pathways. Check out this decision tree to help you think if graduate school is important on your career pathway.
Finding a job or internship in fisheries, wildlife, and conservation sciences
Finding a job or internship requires planning and preparation, as many employers interview six months before the position starts. This field values experience and relationships, and so we’ve designed our degree programs to encourage experiential learning and networking. There are many additional steps you can take right now to increase your marketability for jobs and internships.
Check the FWCS Opportunities List database
You can explore current job and internship openings by checking the FWCS Opportunity List, an OSU-internal database of new postings from the prominent job boards in our field. We collate this job board as a service to our undergraduate and graduate students. In that database, you can review postings from positions that interest you and understand patterns in what they’re looking for in terms of qualifications. You can also access this database through the listserv emails (if you’re an undergraduate), or through the FWCS newsletter (if you’re a graduate student). If you're not an OSU student, check out our guide, Search Strategies to Find FWCS jobs.
Improve your FWCS Resume and Cover Letter with these resources. Practice your interviewing skills and the STAR method. Gain exposure to new skills by attending workshops or training sessions – even just a day’s experience in bird banding, for example, can help you get a bird-related position in the future, as it shows employers that you are engaged and proactive in learning the skills of this career path.
Plan out your degree program with an understanding of which knowledge, skills, and abilities are desired in your career of interest. You can learn this by examining the qualifications sections of current job postings that interest you. For example, if you wish to work as a federal wildlife biologist, you may be surprised to learn that knowledge of vegetation and botany is a common qualification.
When brainstorming possible internships, explore your options with employers who you’d be interested in working with after graduation. Conduct informational interviews with potential employers and interesting professionals, and request brief job shadows to learn about new job types and meet professionals.
Professional societies and conferences
Review this list of Professional Societies in FWCS and consider joining a society that is relevant to you and your career goals. Joining a professional society or association and noting this on your resume shows employers that you’re engaged and connected to your profession. There are societies for nearly every area of interest in our profession and many have national, state, and regional chapters. Most societies offer reduced membership fees for students and access to professional development events and conferences, scholarships, and journals.
Review the FWCS Conference Guide to learn about popular conferences in our field and their upcoming dates. Attending a conference in your discipline is an essential component of your career development. It can help you meet potential employers, build relationships with peers, find a local mentor, and stay abreast of trends and changes in your discipline. If you are an undergraduate in FWCS, this can count for of your Exploratory Internship Requirement. If you are a graduate student, you can earn credit in FW 514 by attending a suitable conference.
When in doubt, keep your head high and apply!
While these fields can indeed be competitive, students and recent graduates often find the most success when they apply to many jobs at once - making sure to tailor their application to each job - and put in the time to build relationships and connections in new networks by calling and emailing professionals to introduce themselves. With persistence, effort, and time, you can find the job you want in fisheries, wildlife, and conservation sciences!