Conservation Scientist Job Description
Conservation scientists are responsible for improving and protecting our natural resources. It might sound like a big job (and it is), but each scientist in this field is able to make a small difference. As a group, the impact they’re able to make is huge.
Conservation scientists often work with government agencies and landowners to help them find ways that they can increase the use of their land without negatively impacting the environment. For instance, they may work with farmers to develop plans that will help them decrease erosion while increasing the amount of food they’re able to grow.
In many parts of the country, erosion is a huge problem that negatively impacts many businesses and environments. Conservation scientists are in a unique position to be able to help the businesses while benefiting nature.
In national parks, conservation scientists are often responsible for assessing the damage caused by storms or fires, and develop plans for helping the environment recover.
Work Environment and Schedule
Most conservation scientists are employed by local, state, and federal government agencies, but there are opportunities for employment in the scientific and social advocacy areas as well.
Conservation scientists normally split their time between their office and the field. Since they are often employed in large national parks, they may need to frequently work in remote locations.
Navigating large parks can be physically challenging, and walking long distances on foot may be required when sites aren’t accessible by vehicles.
Because they spend so much time outside and may not have a quick retreat when a storm is coming, conservation scientists can be required to work outside in many types of weather. This can add a level of difficulty to what can already be a demanding occupation.
The majority of conservation scientists work full time, and are able to maintain a regular working schedule. Overtime is normally required only in the event of a natural disaster.
How to Become a Conservation Scientist
To become a conservation scientist, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in forestry or a related field. Programs in forestry cover biology, ecology, and natural resource management.
Before you enroll in forestry program, you should make sure that it’s accredited. The Society of American Foresters maintains a list of accredited programs (PDF file). With one accredited program in every state, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a good school near you — though the admissions process can be very competitive.
Few employers require a graduate degree, but many conservation scientists pursue a master’s or Ph.D. to continue learning more about the field. In some cases, these degrees can lead to more advanced positions than would be available to those with only a bachelor’s degree. If you want to work in advanced research or impact government policies, you will most likely need to earn a graduate degree.
There are currently 23,400 conservation scientists in the United States, with 400 new conservation scientist job openings created each year.
Conservation Scientist jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Conservation Scientist salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most conservation scientists make between $46,000 – $74,600 per year, or $22.12 – $35.88 per hour.