Wildlife Protection Careers

Relative Skills and Interests: nature, wildlife biology and behavior, patience and flexibility, some skills in writing scientific papers and/or grants and research proposals, understanding of wildlife law and policy, (in some cases) physical fitness

Position: Wildlife Rehabilitator

Job Description: Many wildlife rehabilitators care for injured, ill, or orphaned local wildlife in the hopes that they can be reintroduced to their native environment. Others work with captive wild animals at zoos or aquariums or in wildlife refuges, developing programs to reduce their stress and better their overall health.

Opportunities: Zoos, aquariums, wildlife refuges, public or private wildlife rehabilitation centers

Education and Training Needed:  Ideally, wildlife rehabilitators have an educational background in animal science or ecology, and plenty of experience studying captive wild animals.  They should also participate in special training, apprenticeships, or workshops that teach the most appropriate and safe methods for handling and rehabilitating different species.


Position:  Animal Welfare Advocate

Job Description: Animal welfare advocates include lobbyists and lawyers who work to create or better laws that protect animals.  Lobbyists influence legislators to pass special interest bills by providing data and other information that supports their case.  Many (but not all) lobbyists are lawyers.  Lawyers can also be more involved in prosecuting individuals or corporations who break animal protection laws.

Opportunities: Private companies, animal protection organizations

Education and Training Needed:  To become a lawyer, an undergraduate degree plus three years of law school is required.  Lawyers must take and pass a comprehensive state exam (the bar) before practicing.  It is also important for those in this field to stay up-to-date on all current animal protection laws and proposed bills.


Position:  Park Ranger

Job Description: Park rangers work in national parks and other properties managed by the federal government.  Their responsibilities include working with and managing resources within the parks and areas of conservation.  This may include fire control, collecting scientific or historical data, enforcing laws within the parks, investigating accidents or violations, managing recreation areas, campgrounds, historical buildings, natural resources, wildlife, forests, and lakes, and providing education to visitors.

Opportunities: Park rangers mostly work outdoors, though some may have office tasks if they take on managerial duties.  Rangers can work in rural or urban areas, and more than half work in parks east of the Mississippi.  It’s not uncommon for a park ranger to work in different parts of the country during his/her career.

Education and Training Needed:  Many park rangers receive on-the-job training and participate in approved training programs hosted by different park service centers throughout the country.  Park rangers are continually evaluated by their supervisors, so it is critical that they maintain a high level of job performance throughout their entire career.  Having cousework or a secondary degree in natural resource management, earth science, park and recreation management, or law enforcement can give an edge to those seeking a position in this competitive field.


Position:  Zoologist

Job Description: Zoologists are scientists that study animal life; zoology is a branch of biology.  Some zoologists study particular species, or even just a particular aspect of a species, or they may study a variety of organisms living within a community. There are a variety of research projects a zoologist can undertake, whether in the field or in a laboratory setting.  In thinking about animal protection, zoologists can become very involved in wildlife management, protection of ecosystems, or the proper care and welfare of animals in a laboratory setting, zoo, or aquarium.  There is also great opportunity for zoologists to create positive change in the field of product and biomedical testing on animals, by creating alternative tests or ones that lessen or eliminate animal suffering.

Opportunities: Zoos, agricultural institutions, animal welfare organizations, universities, private companies and corporations

Education and Training Needed:  An undergraduate degree is the minimum requirement to become a zoologist, though a graduate or doctorate degree is preferred, particularly for those looking to teach or conduct research.


Position:  Conservation Scientist

Job Description: Conservation scientists manage and protect natural resources throughout the country.  They do this by advising farmers, ranchers, landowners, and governments how to responsibly use the land so as not to create soil erosion, pollute waterways or groundwater, or otherwise harm the environment.  Some conservationists (called range managers) focus primarily on protecting ecosystems, particularly wildlife habitats and grazing land for agricultural animals.  They and soil conservationists work to protect mineral resources, energy resources, and watersheds.  Together, range managers and soil conservationists inventory soils, plants, and animals in a particular region, and use information collected to help restore damages ecosystems.  They are often very involved in preventing invasive plant and animal species from being introduced to a new area, and work to re-vegetate compromised sites.

Opportunities: Almost 75% of conservationists in the US work for the federal, state, or local government.  Others work either independently, as part of a non-profit organization, or as part of a consulting firm.

Education and Training Needed:  Most positions require a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, natural resources management, or a similar field.  A graduate degree is required for those who conduct field research.  This is a very appealing field for many interested in environmental science, so it can be quite competitive. Having both plenty of field experience and a higher degree (graduate or PhD) is very helpful.


Position: Marine Animal Rescuer

Job Description: Marine animal rescuers help rehabilitate stranded, ill, injured, or orphaned marine animals (dolphins, seals, and turtles to name a few).  They frequently work with marine biologists to understand animal behavior, habitat requirements, and migratory habits.

Opportunities: Universities, animal protection organizations, marine animal advocacy groups

Education and Training Needed:  Marine biology is a very popular and competitive field, so it may be necessary to seek a doctorate degree to stand apart from the crowd.  Not all rescuers are marine biologists, however.  A great way to become involved in marine animal rescue is to enroll in a secondary degree in Biology, or to take coursework at the college level in marine animal science, then locate and volunteer for a marine animal rescue group.

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