The Average Salary of Ethologists

Ethologist salaries should increase by about 7 percent by 2020.
i Hemera Technologies/ Images

Ethologists are zoologists who study how animals behave in their natural environments. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics includes ethologists in its broader category of zoologists and wildlife biologists. How much an ethologist earns depends on her experience and where she works. Women interested in becoming ethologists or zoologists will follow in the footsteps of Dian Fossey, who studied primates, and Terri Irwin, a naturalist and conservationist who starred in “The Crocodile Hunter.”

Average Salary

    Zoologists, including ethologists and wildlife biologists, earn an average of $57,430 a year, according to the BLS. Zoologists who work for the federal government earn an average of $71,110 a year, while those who primarily conduct research earn an average of $63,740 a year. Work for a state government and you can expect your yearly income to hover around $52,360, while consultants earn an average of $50,040 a year. Salary calculators at and find that zoologists earn between $37,000 and $57,000 a year, depending on their employer, where they work and their experience.

Regional Comparisons

    Employers in California, Washington, Florida, Oregon and Alaska hire more ethologists and other types of zoologists than employers elsewhere in the country. Employment rates in these states make sense, since you’ll find a range of natural habitats for animals in states with long coastlines and undeveloped areas, such as the Everglades in Florida and the Redwood Forests in California. However, you’ll earn more as an ethologist in Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., where many ethologists work for government agencies.

Contributing Factors

    Ethologists and other types of zoologists earn more in metropolitan areas, such as in Anchorage, Seattle, Portland and Barnstable Town, Mass., than in nonmetropolitan areas, like those in Southeast Alaska and Central Washington. Ethologists who work for local, state or federal government agencies also earn more than those with other types of employers. However, keep in mind that salaries for government employees largely depend on the budget at the agency where they work.

Job Outlook

    The number of jobs available for zoologists and wildlife biologists should grow by 7 percent, according to the BLS. Population growth and the development of undeveloped animal habitats, like forest and wetlands, will drive employment opportunities. Ethologists and other zoologists will need to study how this encroachment affects wildlife and may also need to spearhead conservation efforts.

the nest