Career as a Conservationist
Those interested in the conservationist field have two main options for a career path depending on the type of education they wish to pursue. General conservation workers perform manual labor tasks while conservation scientists can specialize in many fields, including soil and water conservation, range management, and forestry specialists.
Conservationist Career Profile
Conservationists may perform general tasks as conservation workers or they may work in research and development as conservation scientists. Depending on their specialty, conservationists may work in forests, farming areas, or urban laboratories.
These professionals may assist private land owners in making the land more profitable or work with state and federal governments to conserve resources and wildlife. Other duties may include operating heavy equipment, clearing excess trees and brush or assisting with wildfire protection protocols.
Conservation scientists perform investigations involving natural disasters and health risks. Scientists may work as park naturalists or soil and water conservationist among other occupations. Besides working outdoors, they may spend significant time in a laboratory conducting research.
Conservationist Career Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( BLS ), employment for conservation workers was expected to increase by nine percent from 2008 – 2018, while jobs for conservation scientists was expected to grow by 12% during the same period ( www.bls.gov ). These jobs will increase as more land is set aside for preservation and public awareness of pollution grows.
Conservation scientists may have opportunities in cities that put an emphasis on urban renewal. Some growth may be hampered by lack of funds; additionally, conservation workers may only find seasonal employment.
As of May 2010, the BLS reports that median annual earnings for conservation workers were $23,900, while the median salary for conservation scientists were $59,310. Of the major employers, government organizations had the highest annual salary for workers and scientists. Social advocacy groups were another major employer of conservation scientists.
Education Requirements for Conservationist
Conservation workers may find work with just a high school diploma. Some junior colleges offer relevant programs in natural resources conservation or wildlife management. These programs include coursework in topics, such as botany, soil, wildlife and environmental chemistry. Some programs have field experience requirements in which students collect samples and perform research in preserves and habitats.
Conservation scientists will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, natural resource management or a related major. Prospective scientists who want to teach at the university-level or perform research may need a graduate degree. These curricula include courses in ecology, environmental science, environmental law and various natural resources. Requirements outside the core curricula can include natural science and calculus.
The BLS also notes that conservationists working as foresters may be required to be licensed by their state. Licensure typically includes a 4-year degree and work experience. Prospective foresters may consult their state boards for more information.