What Does a Wildlife Technician Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Wildlife technicians assist biologists and game officers with wildlife management and research. They work in many environments, but they most frequently work in wildlife management areas, fisheries, hatcheries, and other related locations. Most are employed by state departments of fish and wildlife.
Most states offer multiple levels of wildlife technician positions, with duties and compensation increasing as techs advance up the scale. Supervisory and managerial roles are possible after progressing through various levels of fieldwork. Technicians can also transition into other related roles such as wildlife inspector.
Wildlife Technician Duties & Responsibilities
Wildlife technicians assist with the management of wildlife species and the preservation of habitats. This job generally requires the ability to do the following work:
- Assist with research projects designed by wildlife biologists.
- Collect biological specimens.
- Survey animal populations.
- Compile data for evaluation.
- Maintain and calibrate scientific equipment.
- Write detailed reports.
- Trap and tag animals to monitor their movements within a designated area.
- Care for animals that have been captured for observation in a laboratory setting.
Additional duties of a wildlife technician can involve preserving animal habitats, maintaining roads and trails to keep the wildlife areas accessible, interacting with hunters or others who use public lands, and supervising volunteers or interns. Maintenance of vehicles, fences, and tools can also be a part of the job.
These technicians are a key component of wildlife preservation, particularly in the preservation of natural habitats and ongoing surveillance and observation for potential and emerging threats and issues. Some technicians also play a role in educating the public and manage databases integral to information dissemination to others working in the field.
Wildlife Technician Salary
As with most positions, salary depends on a candidate’s qualifications. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies wildlife technicians as biological technicians and cites the following salaries:
- Median Annual Salary: $44,500 ($21.39/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $71,440 ($34.35/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $29,330 ($14.10/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Some positions offer free housing to technicians as a part of their compensation packages, but those who don't receive this benefit might have to pay for their own accommodations. Likewise, a vehicle might be available for use during the workday, but in other cases, they might have to provide their own and cover associated costs.
Education, Training & Certification
Those looking for a career as a wildlife technician should have some level of a college education.
- Education: An associate degree is the minimum educational requirement. Bachelor’s degrees are preferred and give a candidate the best chance to find a desirable position. A few positions might be available for those with high school diplomas or GED equivalents, but a degree in wildlife biology, ecology, zoology, animal science, or a closely related field is preferable.
- Internship: Completing a wildlife internship gives candidates practical skills that will help position them for careers in this field. A wide variety of opportunities are available in wildlife rehabilitation, zoology, and marine science.
- Certification: Certification isn't required for wildlife technicians, but a certification program is offered by The Wildlife Society. Certified Wildlife Technicians (CWT) must meet education and experience requirements. Associate Wildlife Technicians (AWT) must meet the education requirements, but they may work on obtaining the necessary practical experience.
- Continuing Education: Eighty continuing education hours must be completed each five-year period to maintain a technician’s certification.
Wildlife Technician Skills & Competencies
You should have several essential qualities to succeed at becoming a wildlife technician:
- Technical skills: This occupation requires operating technologically advanced equipment and instruments.
- Communication skills: Wildlife technicians must accurately understand both written and oral communications from scientists, as well as convey their findings.
- Observational skills: Wildlife technicians maintain accurate logs of their work without overlooking any details.
- Critical-thinking skills: Wildlife technicians must accurately deduce the importance of various testing results.
- Computer skills: A good working knowledge of computer-based technology is useful to candidates seeking this career path.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates job growth for biological technicians in general in the area of 10% through 2026. This is above average for all occupations.
Interest in wildlife careers is high despite the relatively low starting salary for entry-level positions. Employers generally receive many applications for open positions in this field. Those with a degree in an applicable field combined with practical hands-on experience have the best prospects for finding a position as a wildlife technician.
Wildlife technicians often travel to meet their responsibilities. They might be required to walk long distances, ride horses, bike, or navigate boats. Technicians spend a significant amount of time working outdoors in varying temperatures and weather conditions.
This is typically a full-time job and it conforms to normal business hours, but it's not uncommon for technicians to work some nights, weekends, and holidays. It can depend on the specific needs of their departments.
Comparing Similar Jobs
Some similar jobs and their median annual pay include:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018