Careers in Wildlife Protection

Nearly every job you can think of has some sort of impact on wildlife and the environment. This means that there are more environmental jobs being created every day. It also means that the field is very complex, and you need to do so research and thinking to figure out what might be the best profession for you.

First, a Word of Caution

Some jobs that sound "natural" or "environmental" may not be what you think. For example:

  • Some "environmental lawyers" work for corporations, helping them get around environmental regulations.
  • Some "conservationists" may be responsible for managing deer hunts, stocking nonnative fish, and other activities to manipulate populations rather than preserve wild animals.

*The mission of The HSUS is to create a humane and sustainable world for all animals-a world that will also benefit people. We seek to forge a lasting and comprehensive change in human consciousness of and behavior toward all animals in order to prevent animal cruelty, exploitation, and neglect, and to protect wild habitats and the entire community of life.

*HSUS policy statement on wild animals.

But with so many job possibilities helping wildlife, you can find plenty of employment choices that are humane. Before you pursue a job...

With federal, state, or local governments, make sure you understand the policies of the current administration toward wildlife and the environment. Will you need to look for a new job if  policies change after a new election?

With nonprofit organizations, be certain you understand the basic philosophy that guides the group's actions.  Also, does the group focus on issues that are important to you?  If you have different priorities, you may want to work elsewhere.  Start by understanding major environmental problems.

Troubling Trends

  • 25% of mammal, 20% of reptile, and 25% of fish species are now threatened with extinction.
  • Over one acre of tropical rainforest is lost per second.
  • Desertification claims an area the size of Maine each year.
  • 75% of marine fisheries are at or over capacity.
  • 50% of wetlands and mangroves have already been lost.
  • Current extinction rates of plants and animals are believed to be 100 to 1000 times faster than the natural rate.

Data are from Red Sky at Morning, by James Gustave Speth (Island Press, 2004).

People working for wildlife and nature have the chance to help reverse these trends.

People working in environmental fields today can be on the leading edge of new ideas that will reshape our society and planet.  Traditional wildlife-related jobs still exist, such as park rangers, but jobs are growing fast in nontraditional, high tech, and eco-design-related areas.

Learn more about careers helping wildlife and nature.

Suggested readings:

Sirch, Willow Ann.  2000.  Careers with Animals.  Fulcrum.  (Part Four:  Careers Working with Wildlife).

Miller, Louise.  2001.  Careers for Animal Lovers & Other Zoological Types.  VGM Career Books. (Chapter 8: Conserving Wildlife).

  • Visit the Environmental Careers Organization.  What internships, networking options, and other resources can you find to get you started?
  • Study local maps and visitors' guidebooks. Find nature centers, parks, museums, botanical gardens, historical sites, wildlife refuges, and other places where you can go to learn more about nearby wildlife.  Are there volunteer or paid positions there? Apply!
  • Subscribe to Wild Neighbors News - the quarterly newsletter of The Humane Society of the United States' Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Program

Get to know the diversity of nature protection organizations.

The Wildlife Land Trust
Defenders of Wildlife
Greenpeace International
National Audubon Society
National Parks Conservation Association
The Orion Society

What are some differences between these groups? Which other groups can you find? And which groups are closest to your own interests?