If you are committed to conserving wildlife, explore academic paths and careers that will put you in the center of that cause:


Love research? You might become an expert who researches land parcels’ natural and cultural significance before recommending acquisition strategies. Conservationists work for nonprofits or governments and interact regularly with wildlife biologists, land owners and real estate professionals.

The Wildlife Society offers a directory of the many U.S. colleges offering degrees in wildlife conservation.

Wildlife biologist

Skilled in science? Consider studying to be a wildlife biologist. You would learn all about animals, from their physical characteristics to their interactions with other species and their habitats. Wildlife biologists work outdoors, in laboratories and in offices.

Start your search for an academic program at the National Association of University Fisheries and Wildlife Programs, a consortium of colleges and nonprofits dedicated to wildlife conservation.

A wildlife biologist plucks external parasites from a rainbow trout. (USFWS)

Health professional

If you have the therapeutic touch, consider a career as a wildlife veterinarian or rehabilitator. Licensed vets sedate, examine and vaccinate wild animals, among other responsibilities. They work with wildlife rehabilitators, who care for injured, sick or orphaned animals with the hope of returning them to the wild. Vets and rehabilitators work for game reserves, livestock farms and national parks.

The American Association of Zoo Keepers lists veterinary schools with exotic-animal programs.

Law enforcement professional

Just because you are interested in law doesn’t mean you can’t work outside. Game wardens enforce rules relating to hunting or poaching in game parks. Wildlife law enforcement officers help wardens understand and enforce national laws and international agreements.

Learn about the Association of National Park Rangers’ Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program and look for comparable programs where you live.

Park ranger

Rangers protect parks, greet visitors and ensure their safety. They teach about a park’s natural and cultural history. They manage wildlife, restore vegetation and conserve water. They report on everything from entrance fees collected to game spotted.

The National Recreation and Park Association lists academic programs accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions.

A park ranger works on wildlife sketches with park visitors. (NPS/flickr)

Exhibit curator

Adept at storytelling? Exhibit curators tell stories of wildlife and habitats in pamphlets, magazines, videos and interactive museum displays. Curators collaborate with writers, designers, biologists and other experts.

The Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex, offers a state-by-state guide to museum studies programs.

Wildlife photographer

Do you have a strong visual bent? As a wildlife photographer, you would take shots to be used in databases for species identification, in appeals for conservation action and in news stories.

Photo.net, a website maintained by photographers, discusses several U.S. photography schools. To test the waters, consider taking Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s online course Introduction to Photography or National Geographic’s more advanced Masters of Photography.

Policy advocate

Policy advocates push for laws that conserve wildlife. They might work with game-park managers to establish what is best for the park and its wildlife and then convince legislators to act. Often called lobbyists, advocates may have an interest in science or significant experience with animals, but many hold degrees in political science or public relations.

The Public Relations Society of America offers information on U.S. colleges with public relations degrees.

Members of a U.S.-Chinese delegation release a baby alligator into the water as part of a reintroduction program. (USFWS/flickr)


Conservationists’ work would be lost if not for the fundraiser, who seeks donations from private individuals to help wildlife thrive. Fundraisers build and maintain relationships with donors. They are creative, always dreaming up new ways their organizations can raise money.

Fundraisers come from a variety of backgrounds, but most have degrees in business or communications. Bloomberg Business, an independent news organization, ranks U.S. colleges’ business programs.

Next steps

Once you’ve found the career that interests you, research schools that offer degrees in that field. Find out their application and financial-aid deadlines as well as any standardized tests required for admission. Get started at your nearest EducationUSA Center.