Careers in wildlife conservation go beyond caring for animals, and often involve keeping habitats and environs safe from the potentially harmful influence of humans. For people interested in protecting nature, there are several career paths in this area ranging from science-heavy to media-oriented, and many avenues in between.
Zoos and Aquariums
When people think of jobs involving wild animals, they likely think of zoos and aquariums. There are in fact many jobs within these facilities including wildlife biologists and veterinarians. These positions require an advanced degree in zoology, marine biology or veterinary medicine. Support jobs such as veterinary technician, zookeeper, aquarist and wildlife technician require a college education, but don't demand advanced degrees. Internships that provide exposure to wild animals are strongly recommended.
Field researchers study habitats and animals in the wild, rather than in zoos or aquariums. They seek to understand the relationships between animals and environs, and how habitats respond to changes. Field researchers also study behavior and look for signs of human activity that's illegal or potentially dangerous. Many wildlife field researchers work with their state's wildlife and game departments to help manage and maintain ecosystems. Some field researchers collect samples of animals, plants, soil or water for academic research.
Effective wildlife management relies on laws and people to enforce the laws. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is the nation's top environmental law enforcement agency. Members of the FWS track major threats to wildlife and ecosystems, such as illegal trade, smuggling, exploitation of animals or habitats, habitat destruction and environmental contamination. Federal officers work closely with state and international agencies, and often lend resources and forensics expertise to their state-level counterparts.
Numerous colleges and universities offer programs in wildlife management, zoology, marine biology and veterinary science. These programs need people to teach the next generation of conservationists and wildlife professionals. If academia is not your calling, there are numerous nonprofit organizations whose mission is to educate the public and win support for stricter conservation laws and laws enforcing humane treatment of animals. Within these agencies are jobs for writers, photographers, fundraisers and lobbyists who can help spread the word to the public.