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Factors to Consider When Selecting a Wildlife Biology School

Higher Education Articles April 29, 2015

The study of the environments, ecosystems, and habitats that wild animals occupy is called wildlife biology. The most common graduate programs offered are the Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

Selecting a Wildlife Biology School

Four-year colleges and universities offer master’s and doctoral degree programs in wildlife biology through their conservation departments as well as their fisheries and wildlife departments. In this article, we take a look at some of the important factors to consider when you select a wildlife biology school.

Location of the School

You must consider the location of the school as different ecosystems, environments, and climates are available at different schools. A school near an ocean would suit a student that likes marine life, while schools located near a wildlife conservation organization would be preferable for students interested in plains and forest animals.

Specializations and Degree Levels Offered

Graduate programs based on their available concentrations are best chosen by students interested in a particular discipline of wildlife biology. Schools commonly offer master’s degree programs in combination with other areas of study, such as conservation and fisheries, but not always.

A standard curriculum is offered at some schools for graduate students while others offer a broad variety of concentration areas, such as aquatic toxicology, endangered species biology, nutrition and ecology.

Schools may also offer Ph.D. programs in areas of concentration such as fisheries biology, although they are less common. Students at some schools are allowed to integrate areas of study beyond the official concentration areas; these include environmental sciences and math.

Hands-on Experiences

The relative emphasis of the program on research, coursework, and fieldwork is an important factor that students must consider depending on whether they seek to become research scientists or hands-on conservationists.

In order to complete a master’s degree in wildlife biology, students must complete a thesis, pass a written and an oral exam, and participate in faculty-reviewed field experience. However, only one or two of these may need to be fulfilled by students enrolled in some programs.

Non-thesis options are available through some programs for professionals currently employed in the field, such as supervisors and wildlife administrators who wish to continue their education to boost their credentials.

Master’s Programs in Wildlife Biology

While schools commonly offer an M.S. in Wildlife Biology, they typically offer master’s degree programs in combination with another area of study, such as conservation or fisheries. Schools don’t insist on internships, but may mandate some form of real-world experience. A thesis is compulsory, in addition to the passage of oral or written exams. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Wildlife laws and ethical issues

Ph.D. Programs in Wildlife Biology

Schools offer a Ph.D. in Wildlife Biology as a research-based degree program devised to train students for careers in academia and research. They require students to complete a dissertation and may also require them to pass oral and written exams. Such specialization areas may be available through some schools as the study of a biology or fisheries concentration, but they typically offer specializations that are specific to the degree program and integrate them into the coursework.

A master’s degree is not always compulsory for applying for the Ph.D. program, and in some instances, select prerequisite classes and field experience could be accorded greater importance than academic study. Schools prefer prospective students with experience in the field prior to joining graduate school. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Marine wildlife
•Tracking techniques
•Wildlife management
•Habitat assessment

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