Ecology, which is very similar to biology, emphasizes living creatures and how they relate to the environment at large.
Under the ecologist umbrella are various jobs such as research scientist and conservation biologist, as well as in the university setting in the form of faculty.
For those who choose to become an ecologist, a strong background in biology, chemistry, physics, English, math, computer science and geography is necessary. An ecologist’s job description may include field work, such as assessing amphibians in their natural habitat, observing rare species in their habitat, giving nature talks, meeting with clients, and writing reports. Ecologists must also work well individually and in teams, as well as be able to communicate both orally and in writing.
Just as in biology, there are also concentrations/specializations within ecology, including animal behavior, population biology, conservation biology, and marine ecology. There are also new and existing fields, such as ecoinformatics specialists, or people who use technology to manage scientific information that’s gathered by someone else, a job that relies heavily on technical skills and knowledge in the form of computer programming. Additionally, ecotoxicologists study the effects of chemicals or environmental stresses on plants and animals, which in turn helps define acceptable environmental standards in communities and the world.
Ecologists may work in places such as the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, or nonprofit centers like The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
TIP: Visit the Outdoor Jobs section of JobMonkey, where you’ll find information about environmental jobs with nonprofits and government agencies.
Ecologists can also often find work in ecological restoration, ozone measurements and global climate change efforts. There are also jobs in ecosystem management and sustainable ecological systems and development.
While a bachelor’s degree in ecology will certainly open career doors for aspiring ecologists, a master’s degree is looked upon favorably, as well as certification from the Ecological Society of America.
Those wishing to obtain certification must possess a bachelor’s degree and the equivalent of at least 30 semester hours of biological science with at least nine semester hours of ecology, and at least 12 semester hours of physical and mathematical science. Graduate degrees must include an introduction to three major areas of ecological inquiry: populations, communities and ecosystems.
These degrees are not easy to get!