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Conservation Science Careers

Career Description

Conservation Scientists manage, improve, and protect natural resources to maximize their use without damaging the environment. May conduct soil surveys and develop plans to eliminate soil erosion or to protect rangelands from fire and rodent damage. May instruct farmers, agricultural production managers, or ranchers in best ways to use crop rotation, contour plowing, or terracing to conserve soil and water; in the number and kind of livestock and forage plants best suited to particular ranges; and in range and farm improvements, such as fencing and reservoirs for stock watering.

Common Work Tasks

  • Manage, improve, and protect the country’s natural resources
  • Work with landowners and Federal, State, and local governments to devise ways to use and improve the land while safeguarding the environment
  • Advise farmers, farm managers, and ranchers on how they can improve their land for agricultural purposes and to control erosion
  • Study, manage, improve, and protect rangelands to maximize their use without damaging the environment
  • Inventory soils, plants, and animals; develop resource management plans; help to restore degraded ecosystems; or assist in managing a ranch
  • Help ranchers attain optimum livestock production by determining the number and kind of animals to graze, the grazing system to use, and the best season for grazing
  • Provide technical assistance to farmers,  ranchers, forest managers, State and local agencies, and others concerned with the conservation of soil, water, and related natural resources
  • Assist private landowners and Federal, State,  and local governments by advising on water quality, preserving water supplies,  groundwater contamination, and management and conservation of water resources

Other Job Titles

Conservation Scientists are also known by other titles,  including:

  • Soil Conservationists
  • Range Scientists
  • Water Conservationists
  • Foresters

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Conservation scientists generally have at least a bachelor’s degree in fields such as ecology, natural resource management, agriculture, biology,  or environmental science. A master’s degree or Ph.D. is usually required for teaching and research positions.

Many colleges require students to complete a field session either in a camp operated by the college or in a cooperative work-study program with a Federal or State agency or with private industry. All schools encourage students to take summer jobs that provide experience in forestry or conservation work.

Conservation scientists usually enjoy working outdoors, are able to tolerate extensive walking and other types of physical exertion, and are willing to relocate to find work. They also must work well with people and have good communication skills.


The median annual salary of a Conservation Scientist is $56,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $82,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $32,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of conservation scientists are:

  • Federal Executive Branch - $66,840
  • Local Government- N/A
  • State Government - N/A
  • Social Advocacy Organizations  - $53,990
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services - $44,730

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  5%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 1,100
  • Employment 2006 : 20,000
  • Employment 2016:  21,000
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