How to Become a Field Biologist

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Biology is a complex field and requires a great deal of research in laboratory and field environments. Field biology focuses on the level of the organism, environment, and ecosystem. Field biologists are highly trained biological scientists that studies living organisms within their environments.


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What does a field biologist do?

Field biologists examine living things in their natural environments. They pay particular attention to how organisms interact with their habitats. They conduct basic research to obtain information about organisms and they carry out applied research to solve a variety of environmental problems. Field biologists often use computers and other technical equipment to record and evaluate their data. Many field biologists work for county, state, and federal wildlife agencies. Some field biologists work as instructors at colleges and universities and others work for private organizations.

What kind of training does a field biologist need?

Field biologists typically need at least a bachelor degree in biology, environmental biology, botany, or other related field. Many employers prefer applicants with a master or doctorate degree. Prospective field biologists often complete courses in principles of biology, ecology, microbiology, biology of animals, and biology of plants. They also usually take courses in mathematics and chemistry. Many aspiring field biologists complete internships or volunteer opportunities to gain practical experience in the field. New field biologists often shadow experienced professionals to learn the necessary skills and required procedures. Field biologists often complete continuing education and additional training throughout their careers to keep their skills up to date and stay abreast with advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as a field biologist?

Employment of field biologists is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 21% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The constantly changing environment and increased need for sophisticated field research will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be good with some competition for basic research positions. Field biologists with advanced training and extensive experience will have the best job opportunities.

How much do field biologists make?

As of April 2010, the average annual salary for field biologists is $51,000; average annual field biologist salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a field biologist is a great choice for people with a strong interest in field biology and completing a variety of research tasks. Field biologists must have a solid understanding of the concepts and policies of field biology, as well as the knowledge of a variety of research methods. Patience, perseverance, detail orientation, and good problem solving skills are necessary characteristics. Field biologists must have good communication and interpersonal skills and ability to share their research findings with a variety of professionals. They must be able to work independently as well as part of team. They must also be capable of spending a great deal of time outdoors in a variety of environments and weather conditions.

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