Earning an undergraduate or advanced degree in ecology can be the start of an exciting and rewarding career in a growing field. An ecology degree opens up a wide range of career options in educational institutions, government departments, non-profit organizations, and private industry. It is excellent preparation for a job as a research technician, forester, wildlife biologist, environmental consultant, science teacher, or college professor.
Research technicians work both outdoors and inside laboratories. Their major responsibilities include testing samples of soil and water for contaminants and using special instruments to monitor the air for pollutants. They may conduct research to determine the source of ecological problems. They may work for waste management facilities or in such natural settings as wildlife refuges. Environmental research technicians with an ecology degree typically hold a B.S. Salaries range from $38,000-$55,000 annually.
Foresters have a wide range of responsibilities related to managing and protecting natural resources. A large portion of their time is spent outdoors supervising the removal of timber and placement of new trees, protecting plants from fire and disease, and determining the most resourceful uses for newly cleared land. They must negotiate with all levels of government officials and coordinate with firefighters, farmers, and other outdoor workers. Working as a forester requires a bachelor’s degree, and many foresters hold a master’s degree. Salaries range from $45,000-$80,000 annually.
Wildlife biologists research the natural history and health needs of wild animals in both nature and captivity. They collect specimens to analyze all aspects of an animal’s life cycle. They may study and report on the movement, habits, and diseases of a particular species. They assess the impact of humans on animal populations and advise both agencies and individual land owners about conservation. The minimum level of education is a bachelor’s. Many wildlife biologists hold more advanced degrees. Salaries range from $40,000-$80,000 annually.
Environmental consultants work as advisors in such industries as construction, agriculture, and waste management. As experts in environmental regulations, they ensure that companies are in compliance with laws governing the release of pollutants, toxins, or other environmental hazards. Depending on the industry and circumstances, a consultant’s duties might include assessing contaminated land, inspecting building foundations for safety, or suggesting ways for a company to reduce its carbon footprint. Having a B.S. degree in ecology along with industry experience is sometimes sufficient for working as a consultant, but many employers require master’s degree in ecology. Salaries range from $50,000-$80,000 annually.
School Science Teacher
Teachers that hold an ecology degree can instruct students in kindergarten through high school. They may teach general science or special courses in environmental science. Sometimes science teachers are hired to teach classes at nature centers or conduct special environmental programs within schools. Both a bachelor’s and a teaching credential are usually required for employment as a science teacher in public schools. Nature centers do not generally require a teaching credential. Salaries range from $25,000-$80,000 annually.
University professors prepare and conduct lectures for basic and advanced courses in environmental science. They research specialized ecological issues, participate in both field and laboratory studies, and publish academic papers. Professors at the community college level are primarily lecturers that prepare students for university studies or for vocations related to environmental science. Teaching at a university usually requires a Ph.D. although part-time lecturers may have master’s degrees. Salaries for professors are often dependent on the instructor’s education level and can range from $50,000-$80,000 annually.
Jobs in ecology are expected to increase as more businesses work to become environmentally compliant and interest in environmental education grows. Getting a degree in ecology will pave the way for a range of job opportunities.