Wildlife Technician - Career Profile
Wildlife technicians assist biologists and game officers with wildlife management and research.
Wildlife technicians assist with the management of wildlife species and the preservation of habitats. They often assist with the research projects designed by wildlife biologists: collecting biological specimens, surveying animal populations, compiling data for evaluation, maintaining and calibrating scientific equipment, and writing detailed reports. They may also be involved with trapping and tagging animals to monitor their movements within a designated area and providing care for animals that have been captured for observation in a laboratory setting.
Additional duties may involve preserving animal habitats, maintaining roads and trails to keep the wildlife areas accessible, interacting with hunters or others that use public lands, and supervising volunteers or interns. Maintenance of vehicles, fences, and tools may also be a part of the job.
Wildlife technicians often have to travel to complete their duties. They may be required to walk long distances, ride horses, bike, or use boats. It is not uncommon for technicians to have to work some night, weekend, and holiday hours depending on the specific needs of their department. Technicians tend to spend a significant amount of time working outdoors in varying temperatures and weather conditions, so it is important that those interested in this career path are comfortable working in inclement weather when necessary.
Wildlife technicians can work in many environments but 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 increases as a tech advances up the scale. Supervisory and managerial roles are possible after progressing through the levels of field work. Technicians can also transition into other related roles such as wildlife inspector.
Education & Training
For most wildlife technician positions, an Associates degree is the minimum educational requirement. Bachelor’s degrees are preferred and give a candidate the best chance at finding a desirable position. (A few positions may be available for those with a high school diploma or GED equivalent).
A degree in wildlife biology, ecology, zoology, animal science, or a closely related field is preferable for those seeking positions as wildlife technicians. A good working knowledge of computer-based technology, practical animal handling skills, a knowledge of animal taxonomy, and excellent communications skills will also prove useful to a candidate seeking this career path.
Completing wildlife internships can also help give a candidate practical skills that will help position them for a career in this field. A wide variety of opportunities are available in wildlife rehabilitation, zoology, marine science, and more.
Certification is not required for wildlife technicians, but a certification program is offered by The Wildlife Society. Certified Wildlife Technicians (CWT) must meet both educational and experiential requirements. Associate Wildlife Technicians (AWT) must meet educational requirements but may still be working on obtaining the necessary practical experience. Eighty continuing education hours must be completed each five year period to maintain a technician’s certification, and fees must also be paid ($60 for CWT and $45 for AWT).
The salary for a wildlife technician usually ranges from about $20,000 per year for new technicians to about $45,000 per year for the most experienced top level technicians. Those with advanced education or desirable specialty skills will tend to earn top dollar in this field. As with most positions, salary is commensurate with a candidate’s qualifications.
Salary information from many states is readily available through fish and game departments. For example, Louisiana offered an average salary range of $18,756 to $37,044 per year for its wildlife technicians in 2013, with the highest paid individuals earning up to $48,568 annually. Tennessee offered a salary range of $20,568 to $38,100 per year for wildlife technicians in 2012. California offered a salary range of $33,350 to $43,300 per year for wildlife technicians in 2013.
Some positions offer free housing to technicians as a part of their compensation package. A vehicle may also be available for a tech’s use during the work day. Additional perks on top of the basic salary may include paid vacation days, sick days, federal holidays, retirement plan options, and health insurance.
Interest in wildlife careers is quite high despite the relatively low starting salary for entry level positions. Employers generally receive many applications for any open positions in this field. Those with a degree in an applicable field combined with practical hands-on experience will enjoy the best prospects for finding a position as a wildlife technician.