I get lots of emails from wildlife biologists and ecologists-to-be asking for advice on what they need to do to get into those careers. If you’ve read “7 Beginner’s Tips for a Wildlife Biology Career,” you’ll know that my first tip is to “Choose the Job You Want Right Now.”
Here, I’ve gathered the best job websites for wildlife biology and ecology to help you choose the job you want and show you a strategy to help you figure out the skills you need to get that job.
Why do I need to search job websites for wildlife biology and ecology now? I’m not looking for a job now!
What I’ve learned after receiving my Ph.D. in 2012 and being on the job market for awhile as a postdoc, is that the market is pretty saturated (there are lots of Ph.D.s in my case), which means that most jobs will be competitive.
I thought getting a Ph.D. automatically qualified me for lots of jobs because I was told my skills of problem-solving (through asking and answering research questions) would transfer, and to apply for jobs where I met 70% of the qualifications because this was just an employer’s “wish list”.
I think this may have been true years ago, but in my experience (and others – I have lots of Ph.D. friends telling me the same thing), employers choose candidates that meet and even exceed all of the qualifications they ask for.
Also, graduate school (in my experience) did not fully prepare me for these other skills I needed. I never once said I wanted to go into academia; I said I always wanted to work in conservation.
Again, I thought a Ph.D. would qualify me for lots of jobs in conservation, but after getting my Ph.D. and looking for and applying for jobs, I’ve been surprised by how few research-based jobs there are within conservation organizations (especially those located within the United States) and that most jobs within conservation are not science-based (e.g. marketing, communication, fundraising).
If I had known this in graduate school, I would have taken classes that could help me in these areas to make me more competitive (or even able to apply for a job!). For example, I was told I was strong candidate for one position I interviewed for, but I didn’t get it because I didn’t have fundraising experience.
Jobs in the federal government are particularly strict about qualifications and to apply for them you typically have a certain number of credits in certain courses to qualify even if you have a Ph.D. As an example, I do not qualify for some jobs simply because I never took a botany class. Again, if I had known this during graduate school, I would have taken this class even though I missed out on it during undergrad.
Therefore, what I really wished I had done before I went to graduate school, is to have a clear vision on where I wanted to go and what I wanted to be so I could make sure I received the skills I needed to get that job.
That’s why I recommend you search for the job that you want right now. I created a job tracking tool to help you.
Here’s how: First use the list below to find jobs that you want. Note that some of these websites allow you to sign up for job alerts. Do this and tailor it to your desires.
Best Job Websites for Wildlife Biology and Ecology
- Texas A&M Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Job Board
- Society for Conservation Biology Job board
- Ecolog: a listserve, you sign up for to receive emails about jobs and other opportunities
- Government jobs: Federal jobs (USFWS, NPS, USGS). For government jobs at the state level (e.g. wildlife biologist at the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission), you will have to likely search at that state’s government jobs website. If you visit the state agency you are interested in, it will probably take you to a redirect page. Example here for North Carolina). I was also told you can find state jobs on governmentjobs.com, but I personally have not used this site before. Check out this link for more advice on getting into government jobs.
- Conservation Careers: Note that there is a pay wall to view most positions
- Association of Zoos and Aquariums: Heavily focused on zookeeper-type positions, however, they do have research positions too.
- Conservation Job Board: Jobs in conservation, ecology, forestry, wildlife, and fisheries.
- Step(h) Into Nature (new!): This blogger recently added nature jobs to her site.
I’ve also had alerts on Indeed for wildlife biology and relevant positions do appear, but you have to sort through at lot of duds.
Best Organization Websites to Regularly Check
In my experience, a lot positions seem to be advertised on the organization’s website, although they may be promoted on social media. Here are some organizations that are worth regularly looking into:
- The Nature Conservancy
- Wildlife Conservation Society (lots of international opportunities)
- World Wildlife Fund (lots of international opportunities)
- Conservation International
- Rainforest Alliance
- Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Defenders of Wildlife
- American Association of Zookeepers
- Marci’s Wildlife Job Search
- Cool Works
- Backdoor Jobs
- Eco Jobs
Websites Recommended by Others
I personally have not used these websites, but they came recommended by others on the Internet.
- Ecophys job board
- Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography job board
- Ornithology Exchange
- Ape Alliance
- Cambridge Conservation Forum
- Chronicle of Higher Education
- EvolDir listserve
- Yellowstone to Yukon
- BioOne Career Center
- Wildlife Society
- Environmental Career
- The Student Conservation Association
- Good Work
- Occupation Wild
- Gigantic list of resources organized by Marci Johnson
- List of AZA zoos and aquariums across the US
- List of Contacts for Wildlife Rehabilitators
- List of Nature Centers in the US
- Conservation District Directory
- Land Trust Alliance
- Nova Conservation – The world’s leading database for conservation organization reviews, a transparent database before you travel, volunteer, or give.
Use these job websites for wildlife biology and ecology now to search for positions you ideally want. In other words, look for your dream jobs. Save those positions by organizing them in the job tracker spreadsheet. This will force you to pay attention to the key skills and experiences you will need…
Your next step is to look at the jobs that you’ve saved and start looking for common skills and/or requirements. This will then be your guide. You won’t be surprised by any qualifications.
While you are going through graduate school, make sure you get these skills. It may be awkward and you may have to take classes outside of your degree, but if you really want these jobs, you will ultimately have to demonstrate that you have these qualifications.
You may even surprise yourself! You may realize that the job you thought you wanted isn’t really what you want to do. Try this out and let me know in the comments below how this worked for you!
Want more advice? I’m wrote a book! Get “Getting a Job in Wildlife Biology: What It’s Like and What You Need to Know.”
Stephanie Schuttler is a wildlife biologist with 17 years of experience in mammal ecology and conservation, education, and outreach. Read her inspirational story, “My Unexpected Journey Into Science” to find out how she went from the daughter of a jeweler to a Ph.D. in wildlife biology. Feel free to contact Stephanie here.
Is there any advice you can give me? I live in East Tennessee, I’m 45 and I’m passionate about wildlife and wanting to have a career in what I would love doing. What are the minimum requirements I would need to have? I haven’t been to college. Is there any lower levels, that will offer on the job training and help with school, to climb the latter? Any classes I could take to get me through the door for some of these jobs? Maybe just for an assistant level so I wouldn’t have to go to school for years?
Hi Ronda! Thank you for your comment! To be honest, I am not sure, but I think it will be difficult to find a permanent job without a college degree. I only looked for jobs after college, and even then, I think it can be hard to find a permanent job. A lot of jobs at this level are temporary (an internship or technician positions). If you love wildlife though, you can still volunteer! Volunteering is really important and is a major contribution to science.
Hi, I finish my master in Biology and I want to continie PhD in wildlife or biology conservation, I have write to profesors from.dofferent universities, but they all say that they jave a lot of stidents, dont have findomg, sabatical year or they are retiring. Do have tips for me about how to make a great email, in order that the professor will consider me in the PhD program? Thank you
Hi Dimaris! I do have tips and I plan on writing about them in the book I am writing. I recommend keeping it short, to the point, and very professional. Include a reason why you are interested in their research and your CV. That being said, many professors truly cannot accept students for many reasons and funding is a really big reason. Getting lots of “no” responses is very normal and you just have to keep trying. I also recommend looking for advertisements on the Texas A & M Job website: https://wfscjobs.tamu.edu/?job_category=graduate-assistantships
Excellent information and advice, Stephanie, I’m glad you shared your story. I changed careers in my late-40s to get into wildlife biology and I faced very similar situations after graduating. The wildlife field is one of the most competitive professions I have seen. Succeeding at building a career is indeed possible but would have been less difficult if I had known the very topics you address here (which I too have learned the hard way). I only went as far as earning a Master’s degree, and although I am currently working as a wildlife professional, my education decisions still limit the range of jobs I am able to apply for as I try to grow professionally.
It sounds like your book will be a “must-read” for all wildlife and natural resource majors.
Thank you so much for your comment! It’s good to hear that it is not just me 😉
Hi, I am a freshman college student currently studying Metropolitan Studies but am dancing around with the idea of switching my major to something in the biological science field as I have always been interested in conservation work and wildlife in general. Specifically I would really like to get into primatology, but I do know this is a highly competitive field, and was wondering what you might recommend as a major and what might need to be done to get towards this goal? Thank you
Hi Nathan – I don’t think your major matters as much as your experience does. So if you want to work in primatology, I would try to get experience working with someone or some institution that does this. All of my degrees are in Biological Sciences, but all of my research was specific to wildlife biology/animal behavior. Have you read my book? It will give you detailed advice on how to get the job you want for all types of niches: https://stephanieschuttler.com/getting-a-job-in-wildlife-biology-book/
I really appreciate your efforts to teach others how one can get wildlife opportunities. I did my degree in wildlife management back in 2019 from Pakistan. I would like to share my cv with you. Please review my resume and suggest something worthy for my future. Please share your email account. Thanks in anticipation.