What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Conservation Scientist?

If you have a passion for the natural world and hate to see the environment threatened, a rewarding career as a conservation scientist could give you precisely the opportunity you’re looking for to make a difference. Conservation is among the top 10 degrees for green industries, industries that are friendly toward the environment. As a conservation scientist, you could maintain and improve the quality of important natural land resources, including parks, forests and rangelands, as well as resources like soil and water. The path to becoming a conservation scientist begins with a college education.

Choosing a Major: Conservation Science and Related Studies

Conservation scientists collaborate with landowners and government entities to negotiate land use, improve agriculture, limit erosion, evaluate land damage and devise plans for protecting natural resources. In their daily work, they use tools and technology like global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, bark gauges, clinometers, increment borers and diameter tapes. A college education at the bachelor’s degree level is essential to learn all that conservation scientists need to know.

Aspiring conservation scientists can choose from several relevant majors to develop their knowledge and skills. In addition to conservation science, popular programs of undergraduate study for aspiring conservation scientists include forestry, environmental science, agricultural science and rangeland management, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Regardless of the precise title of their conservation technology degree program, students should make sure that the program is accredited by the Society of American Foresters.

The Conservation Technology Curriculum

What should you expect from your degree program? For one thing, your studies will combine conservation theory with practical skills like the use of computer modeling and GPS and GIS technology, according to the BLS. You should expect to study natural science courses such as ecology, forest resource management, geology, chemistry, physics and biology, and to complete laboratory work as well as classroom work.

Beyond the Degree

Earning a degree from an accredited program is the most important step to a career in conservation science, but the degree isn’t the only qualification. The candidate’s personal characteristics are also important. Conservation scientists should have strong analytical, critical-thinking and decision-making skills, according to the BLS. They should have the physical stamina to work in a demanding outdoor environment in all kinds of weather and the management and speaking skills to interact with, and lead, others.

For those with a true passion for the natural world, a career in conservation science is rewarding in many ways. These professionals earn a good living, making a median salary of $61,100 per year, the BLS reported. The federal government, which employs one-third of all conservation scientists, pays an even higher median annual salary of $71,110, according to the BLS. Of course, for the most devoted conservation scientists, the knowledge that they are helping protect the environment and improve the quality of natural resources is the most fulfilling aspect of the job.

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