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Ecologist Job Description, Career as a Ecologist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Undergraduate degree

Salary Median: $38,250 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Ecologists are scientists who study the close ties between the environment and all living creatures. They examine the effects of industrialization, temperature shifts, pollution, and rainfall. Using knowledge of a variety of scientific disciplines, ecologists may collect, examine, and report information on the quality of soil, food, air, and water.

Some typical tasks of ecologists include conducting field research, which comprises rigorous scientific processes to collect soil, plant, water, or animal samples; protect ecosystems and native wildlife; examine animals over a long period of time and observe characteristics such as the animals’ life history patterns, population numbers, diet, behavior, and habitat use; analyze laboratory data; prepare written reports; monitor animal population; supervise work of technicians and technologists; and advise councils and governments on environmental management.

Ecologists generally specialize in areas such as marine biology, botany, soil science, microbiology, zoology, or toxicology. They conduct research into mining; dam construction; management of wildlife, fish, and forestry resources; expansion of biological control policies to fight weeds and pest insects; and the effects of pollutants released into the atmosphere on wildlife and vegetation.

Education and Training Requirements

Ecologists must have a bachelor’s degree with knowledge in organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, computer science, mathematics, physics, statistics, and calculus. Depending on the area of specialization, an ecologist may have an educational background in subjects as diverse as economics, climatology, mathematical modeling, geology, oceanography, meteorology, or science sociology. The majority of jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree, and a PhD is necessary for those who wish to teach in colleges and universities and often for those who conduct research.

Getting the Job

The placement office at a medical school or university can provide information regarding suitable job openings in ecology. Professional journals often offer employment news for ecologists. Candidates also can directly approach government agencies, private companies, and research centers that hire ecologists. Apart from this, information about employment opportunities is readily available on job sites on the Internet.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Ecologists with only a bachelor’s degree have limited advancement opportunities. A doctorate is generally required for independent research and university positions. Those ecologists with suitable academic qualifications may advance to senior management positions as they gain experience.

The job market for ecologists is expected to experience a significant growth between now and 2016. Professional scientists in this field should be prepared to face tough competition in the coming years. Since ecologists are engaged in long-term projects, they are less likely to be laid off during temporarily tough economic times. An economic downturn can have an influence on the amount of funding allocated to new ecology efforts, especially in innovative or risky research areas.

Working Conditions

Ecologists work for federal and state government, as well as local organizations, universities, nongovernmental conservation associations, environmental consulting firms, and various other entities. Apart from field work, often in remote areas, ecologists also work in laboratories analyzing collected samples. Many ecologists involve themselves in environmental consulting, habitat restoration, and biological monitoring.

Ecologists travel a lot to conduct field research. Those environmental scientists working as government officials, lecturers, and professors need not travel as much. At the research site, work can stretch for long hours and be mentally and physically demanding. But on an average, ecologists have 40-hour work weeks.

Where to Go for More Information

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
USEPA Ariel Rios Building (AR)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20004

Sino-Ecologists Association Overseas

The Ecological Society of America
1990 M St. NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036

Asia-Pacific Association of Chemical Ecologists
Tropical Plant Pests Research Unit
Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center
PO Box 4459
Hilo, HI 96720

Salary, Earnings and Benefits

The average annual salary of ecologists in the United States ranges between $33,000 and $43,500. According to the data published, the average salary of ecologists working in the federal government is $66,000. Ecologists working in scientific, management, and technical consulting services; architecture; engineering; and state and local governments can earn about $45,000 every year. Entrepreneurs having their own ecology consulting agencies can earn considerably more.

Ecologists who are salaried employees enjoy regular benefits like pension plans, health insurance, vacations, and paid leaves.

Additional topics

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