Zoologist & Wildlife Biologist

Career Clusters: STEM

What you need to know


Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals and other wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems. They study the physical characteristics of animals, animal behaviors, and the impacts humans have on wildlife and natural habitats.

What is this career like?

Zoologists and wildlife biologists work in offices, laboratories, or outdoors. Depending on their job, they may spend considerable time in the field gathering data and studying animals in their natural habitats.

Some of the things zoologists and wildlife biologists might do:

  • Develop and conduct experimental studies with animals in controlled or natural surroundings
  • Collect biological data and specimens for analysis
  • Study the characteristics of animals, such as their interactions with other species, reproduction, population dynamics, diseases, and movement patterns
  • Analyze the influence that human activity has on wildlife and their natural habitats
  • Research, initiate, and maintain ways of improving breeding programs that support healthy game animals, endangered species, or other wild populations of land or aquatic life
  • Estimate, monitor, and manage wildlife populations and invasive plants and animals
  • Develop and implement programs to reduce risk to human activities from wildlife and invasive species, such as keeping wildlife from impacting airport operations or livestock and crop production
  • Write research papers, reports, and scholarly articles that explain their findings
  • Give presentations on research findings to academics and the general public
  • Develop conservation plans and make recommendations on wildlife conservation and management issues to policymakers and the general public
What skills are needed?
  • Communication skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists write scientific papers and give talks to the public, policymakers, and academics.
  • Critical-thinking skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists need sound reasoning and judgment to draw conclusions from experimental results and scientific observations.
  • Emotional stamina and stability. Zoologists and wildlife biologists may need to endure long periods with little human contact. As with other occupations that deal with animals, emotional stability is important in working with injured or sick animals.
  • Interpersonal skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically work on teams. They must be able to work effectively with others to achieve their goals or to negotiate conflicting goals.
  • Observation skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists must be able to notice slight changes in an animal’s behavior or appearance.
  • Outdoor skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists may need to chop firewood, swim in cold water, navigate rough terrain in poor weather, carry heavy packs or equipment long distances, or perform other activities associated with life in remote areas.
  • Problem-solving skills. Zoologists and wildlife biologists try to find the best possible solutions to threats that affect wildlife, such as disease and habitat loss.
What is the pay?

The average pay for zoologists and wildlife biologists in the United States was $70,600 in May 2023 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The pay for zoologists and wildlife biologists depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.

What is the career outlook?

Employment of zoologists and wildlife biologists is projected to grow 3 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

More zoologists and wildlife biologists will be needed to study human and wildlife interactions as the human population grows and development impacts wildlife and their natural habitats.

Zoologists and wildlife biologists will be needed to develop and implement conservation plans that combat threats to animals and protect our natural resources.

What education is required?

Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree. Many schools offer bachelor’s degree programs in zoology and wildlife biology or in a closely related field, such as ecology. An undergraduate degree in biology with coursework in zoology and wildlife biology also is good preparation for a career as a zoologist or wildlife biologist.

Zoologists and wildlife biologists typically need at least a master’s degree for higher level investigative or scientific work. A Ph.D. is necessary for the majority of independent research positions and for university research positions. Most Ph.D.-level researchers need to be familiar with computer programming and statistical software.

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