An official website of the United States government

Nine Careers in Wildlife Conservation

A baby hyena rests in South Africa.
A baby hyena rests in South Africa.

Whether it is raising awareness among family and friends or volunteering at a local sanctuary, everyone can be an advocate for wildlife conservation. If you want to elevate your advocacy into a career, consider one of these nine options:

1. Wildlife Biologist

If you are passionate about wildlife and skilled in science, a career as a biologist might be for you. Wildlife biologists study animals and their habitats. They observe their physical characteristics and behaviors. They watch how they interact with each other and their ecosystem. They use this information to prepare reports on wildlife management, conservation, habitat restoration and natural resource management, among other topics. They can work outdoors, in laboratories or offices, and often collaborate with other professionals on this list.

2. Conservationist

Conservationists identify lands worthy of conservation. Whether working for a nonprofit organization or a national government, conservationists research the natural and cultural significance of certain lands, then develop recommendations and, if necessary, acquisition strategies. This requires that conservationists work with wildlife biologists, land owners and real estate professionals on a regular basis.

Wildlife biologists, veterinarians and rehabilitators can work with exotic animals, domestic animals or livestock, such as the cows above.
Wildlife biologists, veterinarians and rehabilitators can work with exotic animals, domestic animals or livestock, such as the cows above.

3. Health Professional

Both wildlife veterinarians and rehabilitators look after the health of animals. Wildlife veterinarians are licensed to sedate, examine and vaccinate wild animals, among other responsibilities. These veterinarians often work closely with wildlife rehabilitators, who provide medical support to injured, sick or orphaned animals with the hope of returning these animals to the wild. Both veterinarians and rehabilitators can work for commercial and private game reserves as well as livestock farms and national parks.

4. Park Ranger

Whether serving a national park or a private facility, park rangers protect the parks and ensure the safety of visitors. Park rangers greet visitors, explain the facilities available for public use and inform them of the park’s natural and cultural history. Park rangers help implement plans aimed at managing wildlife, restoring vegetation and conserving water. To keep others informed of the park’s daily activities, park rangers also prepare reports on everything from the amount of fees collected to the type of game spotted.

Man stares at elephants.
Park rangers, safari guides, game wardens and wildlife law enforcement officers all have a role to play in conserving local wildlife.


5. Law Enforcement Professional

If you have an interest in law enforcement and wildlife, you have several options. Game wardens, for example, are responsible for enforcing the rules of their game park. This includes rules related to hunting and poaching. Wildlife law enforcement officers, on the other hand, have a broader perspective. They are responsible for enforcing national laws and international agreements. They often work with game wardens to provide guidance on implementing national and international rules.

6. Policy Advocate

Policy advocates seek to influence local, national and international legislators to pass laws that promote wildlife conservation. A policy advocate working for a game park, for example, might work with game park management to establish consensus on what is best for the park and its wildlife. With this consensus established, the policy advocate would then work with legislators to ensure that the laws they pass align with this consensus.

Curators and photographers play an important role in conservation by raising awareness and inspiring action among people who may never see these animals in the wild.


7. Exhibit Curator

Exhibit curators tell the story of wildlife and the community it lives in. To do so, they develop everything from pamphlets and magazines to short videos and interactive plays. Each piece is designed to educate the public and raise awareness about the wildlife and its environment. This job requires collaborating with writers and designers to create these pieces while working with biologists and other experts to ensure the information is accurate and accessible.

8. Wildlife Photographer

If you enjoy travel, wildlife and photography, this might be the career for you. As the name implies, wildlife photographers capture photographs and videos of wild animals. Their work can be scientific, promotional or educational. For example, they can help create a photographic database of nearby wildlife for identification purposes. They can place their photography in promotional materials to generate buzz for a local wildlife sanctuary. Or, perhaps most well known, they can submit their photography to major publications to raise awareness of local wildlife and the need to conserve it.

9. Fundraiser

The good work of the wildlife biologist and the exhibit curator would be lost if it were not for the fundraiser. Fundraisers secure financial support from private donors to ensure game parks, wildlife sanctuaries and other wildlife habitats can prosper. Their work includes maintaining relationships with existing donors, developing relationships with potential donors and finding new ways their organizations can raise money.

YALI4Wildlife is committed to raising awareness and encouraging positive action against illegal wildlife poaching. Visit https://yali.state.gov/wildlife/ for additional resources.