How To Become an Ecologist

If you ever had an interest in the environment or wildlife, and also love science, then a career as an ecologist might be for you.  Ecology studies how all of the plant and animal life in the world interacts with each other and with the environment.  As concerns about global warming and pollution and their effect on the environment increase, there is expected to be a continued need for ecologists to study various aspects of the ecological system.  This article offers an outline of some steps you can take to embark on a career in Ecology.

  1. In high school be sure to take a large number of science courses in areas such as biology, chemistry and mathematics.  You can also gain real world practical experience by volunteering with a wildlife conservation group, through the 4H club, or even asking a local ecologist if you could work on a volunteer project with them.  Because Ecology is such a broad field, any experience working on a project related to the biology of animals will be helpful.  If you want to pursue formal training in Ecology, then consider obtaining a four year college degree.
  2. In college you can obtain a degree in Ecology, or a related biological field such as evolutionary biology, zoology, or general biology. Any of these options would allow you take upper division course work in Ecology at the college level and would position you for an entry level position working in the Ecology field.  If you want to conduct your own research, then consider obtaining a Master's degree or Doctoral degree in Ecology.  While in college it is a good idea to work on a research project, either in a biological laboratory, or in the field.  Depending on the size of the college, you should be able to interact with a good number of ecologists. The research experience is important when seeking a job either as a laboratory technician, or if you plan on graduate studies.
  3. Complete a Master's or Doctoral degree in Ecology.  It is often said that graduate work in the biological sciences prepares your mind to think through problems analytically.  You can use this skill if you plan on staying in academics, or if you want to pursue a career in the private or governmental sector.  During your graduate studies you will select a specific sub-field of Ecology to become specialized in, such as conservation Ecology, or ecosystem Ecology or even political Ecology.  Because the field of Ecology is so vast, there are a number of different areas for sub-specialization, and an even greater number of career opportunities available after you finish graduate studies.


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