Fish & Wildlife Management Degree

Why a Fish & Wildlife Management Degree?

GrasshoperConservation has become such a broad discipline that it was inevitable sub-disciplines would form and diversify out of the traditions of ecology and conservation. Fish & Wildlife Management is important as it concerns stewardship of delicate ecologies from the perspective of animal populations. We need to maintain the right balance in any ecology and promote proper dynamics in order that plants and animals live in harmony. Graduates with a degree in Fish & Wildlife Management will have the background and the skills for a number of career options, particularly in conservation, ecology, biology, research and landscape management for the promotion of healthy animal diversity. These degree programs address such questions and issues as:

  • The environmental elements that threaten biodiversity of animal populations and what we can do to mitigate them
  • How to promote healthy ecology within a landscape and between landscapes
  • How to promote biodiversity by planting correct plant types that promote healthy animal populations
  • The necessity of an adequate food supply for carnivorous animal species. Where there is a lack of balance, animal species can starve
  • The necessity of predators for proper management of prey species. Where there is a lack of balance, herbivorous populations get out of control and damage the ecology
  • Monitoring and managing invasive animal species that could damage biodiversity

It is focused on animal life but plant ecology will make up a part of any study you take, but in each case it will be concerned with the effects that plants have on animal life. Examples include promoting flowering plants to protect native, threatened pollinating species such as bees, reforestation and to make sure we are planting the correct types of tree, shrub and plant for proper management of those plants.

Students of Fish & Wildlife Management degrees attract students who are concerned with ecology from the perspective of animal conservation and promoting ecology through healthy population numbers, balance and diversity.

Fish & Wildlife Management Degree Programs

Bachelor's Degrees in Fish & Wildlife Management

There are undergraduate options in Fish & Wildlife Management so students wishing to start their niche early on will not have to go through conventional environmental science pathways. Thanks to the strong tradition of National Parks here in the USA and the need for a dedicated National Park Service to promote and protect these natural landscapes, it means you have many ways to enter into a career in fieldwork based conservation.

The most common options in this field will come with a variety of different names but will allude to the wildlife and fisheries in one way or another. You might find undergraduate title options include Natural Resource Management, Environmental Protection, Conservation, Ecology & Wildlife, and Animal Ecology. Most of these will be relevant and will teach you the same skills and set you up for a relevant career.

Specific options to study this subject are limited at BS/BA level so instead of applying to one of these few programs, you may wish to choose an alternate route through more conventional and well-known programs. Other options you might consider are BS in Forestry, Environmental Science, in Biological Sciences and so on where you are encouraged to take minors and electives in such subjects as wildlife and conservation.

School Spotlight

University of Florida

UF has been operating since 1853 and today offers a number of options in fisheries and wildlife management at undergraduate and graduate level. With a long tradition of “hard sciences”, you will be in good standing to combine this degree with chemistry or biology, creating a solid education program to take you onto further study. BS options at UF include Forest Resource Conservation, Marine Sciences, and Natural Resource Conservation.

University of Georgia

There are three major focuses for this undergraduate degree from which students may choose - fisheries, wildlife, or pre-vet wildlife. With a strong emphasis on biology and ecology, students will be in good standing for a career in fieldwork. The course has been recognized as one of the best presently available in the country and some of their graduates have gone on to become influential wildlife biologists.

Graduate Certification

If you already have a degree in a relevant environmental disciple, you may wish to convert your academic degree to experience practical work to prepare you for a new career. Graduate certification is a flexible way to do this without having to take a new degree, and there are more options here than there are to take a specific undergraduate degree for this subject. Several universities now offer this type of program in wildlife and fisheries management and other practical courses. These can be used flexibility for teaching and researchers and for those who wish to get out into the field.

Master's Degrees in Fish & Wildlife Management

There are far more options available for students wishing to enter into this field at MS level; this is because of the intense and varied nature of practical work associated with most of the jobs in which you may be working throughout your career. Only a master's degree can instill the necessary skills and focus for developing the intense knowledge for your future career and prepare you for the project work you may be expected to take part in.

Applicants to any master's degree should already have an undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline. These include, but are not limited to, Environmental Science, Biology, Ecology, and Environmental Planning. The environmental sciences are a growing niche and we can expect a much greater need in coming years. We know that there is a shortage of STEM graduates so you should not experience too much difficulty entering into your career of choice, grades and opportunity permitting. With an advanced degree, you can expect a job with a lot more authority in the decision making process - you may work for government sector in ensuring compliance or the promotion of conservation law, in the private sector in landscape planning and research, in non-profit for conservation or in the public sector for education.

School Spotlight

UMass Amherst

In the heart of New England, UMass offers undergraduate, graduate and PhD programs in Wildlife, Fish & Conservation Biology and is designed for those wishing to get a broad scope of the scientific aspects of environmental biology, conservation and landscape ecology as it relates to the animal species that populate it. The school has a number of experts in the ecology of vertebrate animals, so the university proclaims itself one of the premier education establishments in the field anywhere in the Northwest.

University of Idaho

Offering a Natural Resources MS, Idaho mixes policy with science in creating a great all-round option for students wishing to enter into a wildlife management or conservation career. They offer thesis and non-thesis programs tailored to whether you would prefer fieldwork or research based career, meaning that those with practical understanding and interest are not limited purely to an academic path.

PhD in Fish & Wildlife Management

Some of the country's top research institutions offer PhD programs in fish & wildlife management. We have had a tradition going back many years since the dawn of the understanding of the need to protect our natural landscapes from development and for future generations. Therefore, arguably the US has one of the world's greatest traditions of turning out environmental scientists at Doctorate level.

For many conservation careers, it is advisable rather than necessary to have a PhD as most of the concepts and practical work you will experience at Master's level. However, a PhD - as with any other subject - will allow you to develop your skills and knowledge to the highest degree which will always put you in good standing for jobs higher up the food chain. If you hope to go on to make a significant difference in your field and to engage in primary research for a university, then a PhD will certainly be required.

School Spotlight

Oregon State University

Oregon offers prospective Doctorate students the option to study fisheries, wildlife or both. The largely academic program will put graduates on a career path of academia and research, and in publishing peer review quality papers. Students can expect to engage in quantitative analyses of populations, conservation studies, genetics, ecology and anything else contributing to management.

Montana State University

Montana prides itself on having the oldest Fish & Wildlife Management program in the country - founded in 1936. Offering MS and PhD in the subject, students will learn from years of experience of the faculty and will work in the field around campus and in Yellowstone National Park just 90 miles away. Working with the world's most famous national park will put graduate students in good standing for land impact studies, ecology and environmental protection of Montana's landscape.

Coursework

Fish & Wildlife Management Degrees are applied science - this means you will be using the theory you study, the years of research from academics and applying it practically in the field. This is the sort of degree you would take if you prefer to work in the field and working with the types of animal and the ecologies on which you choose to focus your efforts. You can expect a mix of academic research and practical project work. Site visits will become the norm as you advance.

This means you will need to focus strongly on report writing as a skill; your dissertation or theses will become the most important project you will produce. If you choose to enter into a career in this field, you will likely spend most of your deskwork writing reports. This means you will need to develop your communication skills too. Presentations will feature in most programs as you will need to talk to other interested parties in employment - government agencies, private institutions, individuals, not for profit organizations both related and unrelated to your own field.

Employment

There are many options for graduates of this environmental based degree; though most students will go into conservation in the field, this is not the only option available. During the course of your undergraduate study, you will have the chance to develop your own area of interest and find your niche that should put you on course for a clear idea of your career options. The last few decades of research has shown just how important wildlife management is to ecology and the environment, so you may consider working in any of these fields as a career option:

  • Working as a Park Ranger for the National Park Service where you may be involved in such roles as monitoring and managing threatened species
  • Similar roles for State government agencies such as State Fisheries
  • Similar roles for Federal government agencies such as US Forestry Service or the EPA
  • Private hunting or fishing organizations, aiding their efforts in effective management and promoting wildlife
  • National or global conservation organizations
  • Education - this is a great way to work in schools or universities, or at summer schools that teach young people about nature
  • Desk based research in a university department
  • Nature consultancy
  • In the field monitoring and report writing
  • In construction, ensuring that any building or development complies with environmental laws or that rare animals are not threatened by the development

These are the most common, but by no means the only options. Your degree will largely be relevant to anything related to animal conservation and some areas not immediately concerned with that area (soil conservation and plant management for all the reasons mentioned previously). You can expect to contribute to ecological conservation, monitoring, education and species promotion should you choose a career option relevant to your degree.

Core Skills You Will Develop While Studying Fish & Wildlife Management

Most degrees will teach students a wealth of core skills including research and analysis, critical thinking, problem solving and others, but the Fish & Wildlife Management degree will have a strong emphasis on these following core skills.

  • An understanding that environmental protection requires a holistic approach - that each element of the environment of an individual ecology does not exist in isolation. You will learn that animal populations affect each other and also affect and are affected by plant species.
  • Report writing - thanks to the fieldwork you are likely to take part in you will be expected to produce reports for stakeholders and decision makers so they can see the full picture of the scenario.
  • Communication skills - the reports you produce will need to be tailored to different audiences. You will develop an understanding that young children, decision makers, adult learners and government agencies will each have different expectations from you.
  • Investigation skills - you will learn effectively how to be a detective, to research a problem, to test theories and come to a conclusion based on the evidence.

Research - as a science, and an applied science at that, you will spend a lot of time in libraries and records offices. You will understand how to find a source and how to critically evaluate it.

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