Wildlife Biologist Career Profile

Wildlife biologists have some of the most interesting, exciting jobs in the world. These are highly qualified biologists with multiple degrees in most cases. They're in the front line of conservation and environmental studies. They spend a lot of time in the field, working in some cases with new science, and often with new discoveries. 

Work Environment

The wildlife biologist's work environment is actually two work environments, the lab/clinical environment and the field. This can be tough, demanding work. Field work can be anywhere from the Sahara to the Antarctic. Much of the work often involves considerable movement around wildernesses and uninhabited areas. Wildlife studies involve:

  • Long hours of observation
  • Recording observations visually
  • Researching and studying habitats
  • Collecting specimens and biological data
  • Care of specimens
  • Animal fitting with tracking devices
  • Use of tranquilizers to sedate large animals

Field Skills 

Wildlife biologists have to be able to deal with situations, problems, and emergencies as they arise. These can be an assortment of situations which require expert responses. The wildlife biologist's field skill set reads like a survivalist's manual:

  • Good operational understanding of all safety procedures and communications equipment: Most study groups aren't allowed into the field without this sort of fundamental training. It's too dangerous to permit inexperienced people into potentially risky situations. 
  • Good organizational skills including making provision for emergencies: This is absolutely basic to any field work. Injuries, particularly animal bites, are much more dangerous in remote areas because of the time lag between incidence and treatment. The wildlife biologist needs to know all the possibilities in advance, and prepare for them.
  • Excellent knowledge of emergency procedures in the event of injuries or disease: First aid, evacuation procedures, identifying dangerous medical conditions, correct procedural responses to these situations.
  • The ability to improvise effectively and quickly in emergencies: Anything can happen in the wild, and when it does, someone has to be ready to deal with situations immediately. 
  • "Expedition skills": The ability to manage long field studies, supply and equip them properly, and ensure their viability. Problems are instantly created by any deficiencies in preparation. Experienced wildlife biologists are very careful to ensure adequate provisioning.
  • Good knowledge of local risks in field work: Every area has its risks and hazards, including the study animals. It is necessary to prepare well in advance of any field work.

Hours and Wages

Lab hours and field work of varying periods are required. Depending on funding, contracts, commissions, and in some cases university pay scales can differ for qualified people. Additional income is generated by publications, media work and speaking engagements.

Career Outlook

Wildlife biologists are highly dedicated, strongly motivated people with very clear professional ethical standards. This is a scientific career, but the "careerism" element is quite different to other academic-based careers. Wildlife biology isn't a particularly competitive career idiom, although sheer enthusiasm for jobs can make it look that way. 

There's a strongly international element in wildlife biology, which makes travel and variable career paths inevitable. Career progression may be based on opportunities or a considered career strategy based on qualifications and related experience.