Wildlife Management Careers
CAREERS WITH WILDLIFE
Job opportunities in wildlife education, and interpretation:
- Wildlife Education Officer
- Tour Guide
- Wildlife Keepers
- Show Presenters
- Veterinary Assistant
- Wildlife Carer
- Research Assistant
Where could you work?
- Zoos and Wildlife Parks and Sanctuaries
- Veterinary Surgery/Animal Hospital
- National Parks
- Animal Welfare Leagues or Refuges
- University or Government Research Centres
Remuneration and Advancement Opportunities
Remuneration as a Wildlife Education Officer or Wildlife Keeper/Interpretation Guide can vary but most full-time positions earn an average salary. Managers or specialised positions (i.e. Conservation Officers, Research Program Coordinator) within a wildlife team can earn a more comfortable salary but it may take some time and experience for advancement. NGOs and Wildlife Organizations may pay more or less, depending on funding capabilities. People who pursue these types of jobs are not in it to gain high salaried positions. Of course it would be a bonus but the main benefit is working with wildlife and ensuring their conservation and protection. Rates of pay can be below or at the minimum wage for people starting out (irrespective of whether they have a qualification or not), but those who have formal training and can demonstrate useful skills, are likely to advance faster than others.
How to distinguish yourself from the competition
There is always strong competition within this industry. In recent years more wildlife parks and reserves holding captive species have emerged out of the need to preserve the increasing number of endangered and threatened species. There are more opportunities but also more people wanting these jobs. A lot of the positions that do become available are filled internally or by people moving across parks (i.e. from London Zoo to Taronga Zoo). Hands-on experience goes a long way in gaining the role you seek and can put you ahead of other applicants. This may be from previous employment in a similar role, but most often volunteering and work experience. A lot of jobs tend to arise internally and if you are in contact with them or involved in volunteer work, you will find out about these roles first. Many people have started as volunteers or veterinary nurses in a Zoo or Wildlife Park and have moved on to become wildlife keepers, then supervisors, in the end leading threatened species programs or animal hospitals. There is a lot of scope for people with specialist skills to branch out into specific divisions. For example, someone with a history of experience handling birds of prey, whether it be from interaction as a young naturalist or from studies or work experience, will be able to work as a specialist with these species in aviaries or other captive facilities. Even becoming involved with research. There are huge opportunities for advancement once you are in the industry.
Most of the jobs mentioned above do not require any qualifications. However, more technical roles such as veterinary nursing and research assistants do require qualifications. Select a course that will give you practical skills and experience as well as theoretical knowledge. If you have a goal in mind then try to find a course that caters to your needs and aspirations and consider volunteering while you study. Employers look for employees with initiative and skills specific to the job, not just qualifications.
Stress Rating and risks
There are risks associated with every career, but some are particularly pertinent to wildlife handling and education, including the following:
- Some jobs require you to deal with hazardous materials (eg. toxic chemicals, animal faeces).
- The bureaucracy involved in Government funded institutions can be stressful and can limit what is achieved for conservation of species.
- Most jobs require animal handling and there is a risk of being bitten or the transfer of parasites and disease. This is also a risk to children and members of the public during presentations and tours.
- Another risk may involve working in remote areas collecting animals of releasing animals. This introduces a number of risks but is generally only undertaken by experienced individuals.
- People who work closely with wildlife often create a bond with particular animals. Death, injury, or removal of an animal may induce an emotional response from the career.
Dealing with the Risk of Erratic Work Opportunity:
People working with wildlife often maintain employment by diversifying their work. They may for example, teach, run education programs with schools or as an independent company, work as a casual tour guide, or work in a completely different area and volunteer until work becomes available.
Membership in relevant professional bodies is a great way to network, and does look impressive on your resume. It shows that you are serious and focused on a career in this industry and can also help you gain skills and knowledge in a different arena - participation in conferences and workshops, and seminars, and various field trips organised by wildlife groups. Some examples are listed below:
- Zoos have societies or groups of volunteers who organise various social events and activities.
- Herpetological Societies
- Mammal Societies
- Avian and Bird Watching groups or Organisations
- Zookeepers Association
Most of these simply require an annual fee. Usually included is a newsletter or publication, opportunities to attend and be involved in seminars and conferences, field excursions and practical activities (i.e. wildlife surveys, bird watching). You can gain a great deal of experience by being involved in some of these groups expanding your employment opportunities.
To work as a contractor in this field, you should consider personal indemnity insurance. A Professional Indemnity policy aims to shield the professional's assets in the event of a claim, therefore ensuring that he/she is able to carry on their business. Most of the roles mentioned above are not filled by contractors and are more commonly recruited as casual or permanent positions.
To minimise risk of liability, you must investigate and learn about the legal and professional requirements for practicing in this field.
To work with wildlife whether it be as an Education Officer, Zookeeper, Veterinary Nurse, Tour Guide or Interpretation Officer may not require a licence. Some of the work involved within this industry however may do. If you are working with crocodiles for example you do not need a licence but you will need proper training to handle these creatures. To obtain wild individuals of certain species requires a licence as does holding some reptiles in captivity. You will need to do some research if looking at undertaking some of these activities or if you are already employed with a wildlife park they will be able to advise.
In most employment situations the knowledge is far more important than the qualification. In practice however, most people who work in the industry do hold a formal qualification in captive husbandry, biological science, eco/nature tourism, veterinary nursing or education. ACS has some fantastic courses for people looking at becoming involved in wildlife handling or interpretation. These courses are fun, practical, and will provide you with the skills necessary to work in the area of wildlife care and education.
IF YOU ARE SERIOUS ABOUT A CAREER, an IDEAL STARTING POINT IS OUR CERTIFICATE IN WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT click here for details
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