How to Be a Wildlife Conservationist (With Duties and Skills)

Updated 23 October 2022

Wildlife conservationists preserve and protect the habitats of animals and plants. A career as a wildlife conservationist can offer people who care for animals and nature a rewarding career. Understanding how to be a wildlife conservationist can help you decide whether you wish to pursue this career and plan your path into the conservation field. In this article, we discuss what wildlife conservationists do, where they work and the skills and qualifications you may use to pursue a career in wildlife conservation.

How to become a wildlife conservationist

If you're interested in helping protect animals, you may wonder how to be a wildlife conservationist. A wildlife conservationist is an expert in environmental and animal sciences, who uses their time and knowledge to prevent the extinction of plants and animals. They study the plants and animals that live in different ecosystems, monitor population numbers and work to foster biodiversity. Pursuing higher education in wildlife-focused subjects and gaining relevant experience helps prospective conservationists begin their careers. The following steps outline how you can begin this career:

1. Complete your secondary education

The first step in becoming a wildlife conservationist is completing your formal education. As a bachelor's degree is essential for entry-level conservationist roles, obtaining a Year 12 Certificate of Education or equivalent vocational course is important.

Typically, universities ask candidates to submit a personal statement as part of their degree application. Show educational institutes that you're passionate about the industry by undertaking relevant volunteer work and extracurricular activities.

2. Study for a bachelor's degree

Completing a bachelor's program in a relevant subject provides prospective conservationists with the opportunity to develop technical skills essential to their work. A Bachelor of Science (Wildlife Conservation Biology) or a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation) can teach you how to study and care for native animals. You can also discover how to calculate and analyse wildlife statistics. Entry requirements for bachelor's degrees can vary depending on the institution, so be sure to check the requirements for your desired course.

Related: FAQ: What Is a Diploma?

3. Consider studying for a master's degree

If you want to pursue more senior positions or special projects, you can undertake a master's program after graduating with a bachelor's degree. A graduate degree in your desired specialism shows employers you're passionate about the subject and allows you to develop your technical skills and expertise in this field further.

Master's degrees that can support a wildlife conservation career include communication and public resource policy. Education in these areas can help foster a strong understanding of complex policy and legislative issues, which prepares conservationists to undertake public advocacy work.

4. Gain relevant work experience

Wildlife conservation can be highly competitive. Gaining relevant work experience can help your application stand out. Even if you're applying for your first entry-level position in conservation, highlight project work and the knowledge you've gained during your studies. For example, you may outline fieldwork projects you've contributed to during university or volunteer work you've undertaken working with animals or environmental organisations.

Roles in national park management, forest management and zoos are a great way to begin your career working with wildlife. These positions allow you to gain experience working with the habitats, plants and animals that organisations work to protect. You can also utilise your professional experiences to support non-profit and government agencies.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Volunteer Experience

5. Network and consider public advocacy

Wildlife conservation is an ever-changing industry. Networking with other conservationists and attending educational seminars helps you learn about new threats to wildlife. Public advocacy is another avenue that supports the work of wildlife conservationists. Consider connection with policymakers to develop preservation plans that can help protect animal and plant species. You can also help specialist groups increase public awareness of wildlife problems to encourage policy change.

Wildlife conservationists are usually eco-conscious individuals who want to make a difference in the world. Public advocates for wildlife conservation are at the forefront of their field. While conservationists' work behind the scenes is important, public advocacy can help encourage general change and inspire future generations to consider careers in wildlife conservation. For that reason, public advocacy can be a very rewarding aspect of wildlife conservation work.

Related: How to Become an Ecologist (With Skills and Average Salary)

What are the duties of a wildlife conservationist?

Wildlife conservationists are responsible for monitoring ecosystems, developing protection plans and educating the public. Their day-to-day duties may include:

  • studying different plant and animal species to establish their ideal living conditions

  • identifying threats to the continuation of species or habitats

  • developing plans to grow populations of species that are at risk of extinction

  • working with other environmental scientists to understand the effects climate change has on different species of plants and animals

  • educating the public on the importance of protecting wildlife

  • liaising with policymakers to propose laws against the hunting or destruction of certain species

  • protecting environments from disease, invasive species and wildfires

  • monitoring soil and water to ensure they're free from contamination

  • preparing applications for funding and grants

  • liaising with the media to publicise conservation sites or organisations

Alongside these duties, many wildlife conservationists also pursue public advocacy. As they have hands-on experience nurturing and protecting a variety of habitats, they're able to educate and advise businesses on how to avoid harming grasslands, forests and marine habitats. Some wildlife conservationists pursue public speaking to bring awareness to the importance of sustainability and biodiversity.

Related: How To Become an Environmental Scientist

What skills do you need to be a wildlife conservationist?

Conservationists have a passion for protecting both animals and nature and a broad skill set that enables them to excel in their careers. Wildlife conservationists often work over several years, so being enthusiastic and dedicated to projects is essential. Required skills include:

  • Research and analysis skills: to conduct field research and laboratory testing

  • Problem-solving and critical thinking: to identify solutions to complex threats facing animal and plant species

  • Interpersonal and communication skills: to collaborate with other specialists and liaise with government officials or policymakers

  • Public speaking: to support public advocacy work

  • Fundraising skills: to raise resources for conservation projects

  • Dexterity: to use hand and power tools when necessary during fieldwork

  • Adaptability: to learn new skills in an ever-changing environment

  • Awareness: to understand health and safety when undertaking practical work

  • Computer literate: to operate geographical information systems (GIS)

Related: How to Practise Adaptability in the Workplace

Frequently asked questions about wildlife conservationists

The following sections provide answers to commonly asked questions about this career:

Where do conservationists work?

Non-profit organisations and both local and federal government agencies often employ wildlife conservationists. These professionals help them develop plans for improving the sustainability of environments, protecting endangered species and rebuilding populations of species nearing extinction.

Wildlife conservationists can find work all over the world, as each type of environment presents unique challenges. Fieldwork is a significant aspect of wildlife conservationists' work as they travel to different geographical locations to assess the environment and collect samples. However, research and analysis work also takes place in laboratory or office settings. Common job titles for those working in wildlife conservation include:

  • parks and conservation worker

  • conservation scientist

  • ecological and environmental consultant

  • environmental educator

  • environmental science and protection technician

Related: 20 Jobs That Work With Animals (With Salaries and Job Duties)

Is wildlife conservation a good career?

For those with an interest in protecting animals and nature, wildlife conservation can be a rewarding career path. Job opportunities may be available in a wide variety of locations, as conservation work is important in helping to protect unique habitats all over the world. There are many organisations that require the skills of wildlife conservationists, so those wishing to pursue this career path can consider a range of different industries in which to work. Wildlife conservation is a highly competitive field so gaining the required qualifications, skills and relevant experience is essential for prospective conservationists to begin their careers.

How much do wildlife conservationists earn?

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a conservation officer is $24 per hour. Some aspiring wildlife conservationists participate in unpaid volunteer work to gain experience before applying for entry-level positions. Experienced conservationists may find opportunities to earn additional income through public speaking and hosting educational seminars.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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