Zoo Director to Marine Biologist Salaries: Wildlife Careers

Follow your passion while making a good income

Scientist revives Tiger Shark
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If you're following your passion and plan to work with animals, you may not expect to make much money. But there are many positions in wildlife-related fields that offer an average compensation of $50,000 per year or more. Here are a few popular options for those interested in pursuing a top paying wildlife career path:

Wildlife Forensic Scientist

Wildlife forensic scientists are responsible for evaluating biological samples that have been collected in cases involving wildlife species. They may also be routinely called to testify in court as expert witnesses during legal proceedings. Wildlife forensic scientists may work in laboratories for federal, state and local government agencies. A B.S. degree is required for entry to the field, and professional certification is available for those with the requisite education and experience.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a wildlife forensic scientist is $56,320.

Zoo Director

Zoo directors oversee the management of the entire zoo facility, including its collection of animals and staff. They may find employment at zoos, aquariums, animal parks, marine facilities and other animal-related operations. Most zoo directors have advanced degrees in an applicable field, combined with extensive experience in relevant areas such as management, communications, and financial planning.

While salaries can vary widely from zoo to zoo, many zoo directors make salaries in the six figures.

Marine Biologist or Marine Mammalogist

Marine biologists study a wide variety of aquatic species, while marine mammalogists focus on marine mammals exclusively. They may find employment in research, academia, or private industry. Most positions in research and academia require advanced degrees and training.

Salary in the fields of marine biology and marine mammalogy can range from $40,000 per year for entry-level positions to more than $100,000 per year for top-level roles. Compensation can vary greatly based on an individual’s education, level of professional experience, and particular area of expertise.

Wildlife Biologist

Wildlife biologists conduct research on animal populations in the wild. They are involved in monitoring population dynamics, tracking animal movements, and developing strategic plans for habitat maintenance. They may find employment in research, education or governmental agencies.

Wildlife biologists typically command salaries in the range of $60,000 to $70,000.


Zoologists are biologists that study a variety of animal species. The usual employers for zoologists include zoos, aquariums, marine parks, governmental agencies and educational institutions. Roles dealing with research, academia, and animal management are the most common for zoologists. A bachelor's degree is required for entry to the field, and advanced degrees are usually necessary to be qualified to pursue employment in senior positions and most research roles.

Zoologists can earn salaries between $60,000 and $70,000.

Fish and Game Warden

Fish and game wardens patrol a designated area to ensure that rules associated with wildlife species are observed and enforced. They have the authority to arrest individuals found violating wildlife laws and seize their weapons. They may also assist wildlife biologists and others with research projects and data collection or assist in investigations of damage believed to have been caused by wild animals. A two-year degree is generally necessary for entry to this profession, and prior law enforcement experience is considered to be a big plus.

Positions in this field can be found with local, state and federal governmental agencies.

Salaries can vary widely depending on the area, but most are between $30,000 and $50,000. Higher level wardens can earn up to $80,000.